Developing the Photographer Within
(The only true rule of photography is there are no rules)
By: Tim Bowling
I began my adventure in photography like most of us. I went out and bought every photography magazine I could get my hands on, looking for that 'Silver Bullet' that would turn me into a great photographer overnight. But, as most of us find out, there are no silver bullets. And while tips like 'be sure to remove the lens cap' are invaluable, I have discovered that, by and large, most 'photo tips' are about as useful and practical as spaghetti shoe laces.
With that in mind, I'd like to offer this: 'How to' develop the photographer within. Good photographs just don't happen during holidays, or special occasions, or during vacation. Good photos are all around us right now; the trick is to develop the eye to see them. So, instead of telling you useless things like 'be sure to center your subject' or 'make good use of background lighting', let's do something constructive. I'd like to give you a few exercises; something that will truly help you develop your photographic skills.
There is one 'tip' that I am going to offer. One that is indespensable; keep a photo diary. Every time you try something new, or different, or have a subject you think will make a remarkable photo, take a moment and record information about it in your diary. Write down things like the time of day, the light conditions, type of film, any settings you may have made to override automatic, etc. Experience is a great teacher; and a diary can maximize the lessons.
Like physical exercise, these will do you little good if you do them once or twice, then forget about them. The idea here is to devote some time to these regularly; to get into a routine. Soon, you will see a noticable improvement in your photos, and more importantly, you'll have more fun doing it.
Exercise 1: Find something unique in your yard or neighborhood and photograph it.
The idea here is to get you used to looking for subjects that would make a good photo. To develop that 'eye'. When I'm out in the mountains, I sometimes feel that good photos find me. What I mean is, that something will often catch my eye; something unique, or beautiful, or just different. It doesn't have to be anything extremely noticable, perhaps nothing more than an interesting moss formation growing on a rock. But when something like that catches my eye, before I even push the shutter button, I know it's going to be good.
Photo Copyright 2002: Tim Bowling
Exercise 2: Tell a story with a photograph.
They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. I say, rubbish. Photos are priceless. I could easily spend one thousand words attempting to describe the sunrise atop the Smoky mountains, a new snowfall in the early light of dawn, or the first time a baby laughs out loud. But in the end, I haven't done the image justice.
While at first, this may seem a daunting task. How does one tell a story with a photo anyway? That's for you to decide. But if you will give it some consideration, the answer will come easily. A few examples might be: A street musician playing for a small crowd, a young couple running hand in hand through a park to escape the rain, an older couple sitting close together on a bench.
Find a story, and instead of telling it, photograph it.
Exercise 3: Photograph colors as your subject.
Any good photographer knows how colors and contrasts can make or break a good photo. For example, a field of wildflowers in bloom may look nice if you are standing in them, but attempting to capture that on film may be tougher than you think. How exactly would you capture the beauty of each flower on film, or digital?
The idea here is to make use of color and contrasts to enhance the beauty of something. Look at the sample photo: To make this flower stand out, I waited until nearly dark: But, not to bleach out the photo, I put a piece of black electrical tape over part of the flash, to subdue it a bit. The dark background highlights the color of the flower, while at the same time focusing your attention on it.
e-mail: Tim Bowling
web site: Tug Valley Outdoors
editor's note: "Visit Tug Valley Outdoors to see more of Tim's work, download free desktop themes and sign up for a free monthly photo letter"
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