Now, more that ever, digital cameras have reduced the technical limits to producing high-quality images. Almost everyone who has a camera and a small amount of training can make satisfactory photographs. Yet, despite the ever-growing popularity of the medium, and the billions of photographs created all over the world on a daily basis, very few images reveal the unique personal style of the photographer. Finding your own voice and identity in the photographs that you make is possibly the most challenging aspect of your photographic journey, and remains one of the most difficult tasks even to the very experienced photographer.
I believe that photography is a language, and if you want to be able to express yourself in this language you must learn its rules. You cannot say that your B&W print that came out gray is a style unless you know how to produce the perfect B&W print. You need to know the rules to break the rules. Learning the rules is important in your formative years, and often helps to create very pleasing photographs. Nevertheless, you will never create anything new if you always do what is expected of you.
Ten photo tips that can change the way you shoot
I have discussed the three sources of knowledge in a previous post and I will try to enhance on this theme in this post, and give a few tips that will help you explore your own creative process.
I have been a student of photography for more than twenty years and these are tips that worked for me. Some are quick to implement while others will take more time to develop and learn from. Some will have immediate results and others will have a slow and accumulating effect on your style of work.
1. Start working on a long term project. I think that every photographer must be engaged in a long term personal project. When you work on a long term project the subject stays the same and you can slowly start noticing how your style changes around it.
2. Choose a subject that is close to your heart. Concentrate on something that you like and is accessible. If you are not a volcanologist don’t start a project about volcanoes. Your family can be a great subject to start with. Decide what you want to say and start shooting regularly, at least once week. Keep your mind open to see how the project develops beyond your initial ideas. A personal project could be a three-month-long project that will result in a series of 8-12 images, or a much longer one that might even become a book.
3. Study the work of other artists. Watch movies about the masters of photography and how they work. Study the history of photography and the techniques that were used before the digital age. Study Ansel Adam’s zone system. Start going to book stores and sit with books to get inspiration.
4. Try shooting with both eyes open. this will give you the ability to see beyond your frame and be prepared for changes. This might prove a bit strange at first but you will get used to it very fast.
5. Shoot from the hip / shoot without looking. Break the way you see the frame and let yourself be surprised by what you shoot. This will also enable you to shoot people form up close without making them look into the lens. Don’t be afraid to get bad results. If you don’t take risks you will never get great images.
6. Pattern plus. Look for patterns and break them. This is a simple exercise but will help you open your eyes to patters around you. A mountain of green apples and one is red is a simple example. Try to find others.
7. A+B=C. is a technique of using an ironic juxtaposition of two elements in the composition (A+B) and the relations between them to tell a story and lead the viewer to understand the subtle statement (C).
8. Frame inside a frame. Create frames inside your composition and position your subject inside it. Open a window into another world that lies beyond the two dimension of the photograph and emphasize your statement.
9. Change the settings in your camera menu to use two separate buttons for the AF and shutter release so that you focus with your thumb and release the shutter with your shooting finger. This is a simple trick that will help you frame better and prevent your focus from changing when you shoot.
10. Use rear-curtain flash sync
11. I know, I said ten 🙂 Smile and have fun. A smile will get you out of almost any tight spot, especially while shooting in foreign countries where you do not speak the local language.
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