I’ve had a ton of questions about “do I need a fancy camera in order to take good photos?” I’m going to be honest, it doesn’t hurt. But, and this is a big BUT (bigger than mine was in college) it doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with a $40,000 Hasselblad or a $5.00 disposable. If you take blurry pictures with a cheap camera, chances are you will with an expensive one. Now, the only advantage with the expensive camera is you’ll be able to enlarge them to life size just to see how blurry they really are..;) Trust me. I know. I’ve been there. My point is simply this: get to know the camera you own. You should know your current camera inside and out. Next, get to a point where you’re shooting good images on a regular basis with that camera. I never upgrade until I feel that I’ve maxed out my current camera’s ability, and trust me, it’s tempting to upgrade. I think to myself….hmmm it’s not me…it’s the camera. Well, truth be told in many cases it’s me. But with that said, when I reach a point with my current camera that I feel like I’m doing good work on a regular basis then, you guessed it ….I’m the first guy in line looking to upgrade. So borrowing a line from President Obama “let me be perfectly clear” it doesn’t matter if you’re shooting with a less expensive digital camera. What matters is are you getting the images you want? To prove my point, today’s photo is from my daughter who is eight. She shot this photo with a $75.00 digital. I’ll let you guys be the judge.
Yesterday I spoke a little about “visualization” and today I want to talk about artistic flow, or simply put, getting into the zone. Now, when I’m shooting I need my comfort zone and I don’t get there immediately…not many photographers do. It takes me time to warm up to get the “mojo” going if you will. Finding that artistic zone can be difficult, but once found it can be very rewarding. I have found doing three simple tasks can really help you get into the zone a little quicker. 1. A large coffee is a must..;) 2. Remember we’re here to shoot photographs – so shoot. There’s nothing worse than paralysis of analysis. You’re never going to get the shot if you’re constantly thinking how you’re going to get the shot. Especially nowadays with digitals that can fire off six frames in a second. Hold the trigger down…get giddy and have some fun….you might surprise yourself with the results. Ok, now we’ve had some fun and we’ve experimented a bit and you’ve shot your memory card full. 3. Time to really think about your work. This is the point I download my photos and look at them on my computer and say to myself this shot’s not bad, this shot stinks, this shot is solid and this shot is GOLD! It’s like watching a video tape of your first date and making note of all the things you did right, all the things you could have done better and not to mention all the things you shouldn’t have done at all. And, the best part of this process is we get to go out and do it all over again. I have a pretty good idea of what worked and what didn’t so I’m more relaxed and I’m having fun. Being relaxed, having a better idea of what I’m looking for and having fun has helped me in becoming a better photographer. Remember Ansel Adams didn’t build his portfolio over night and nor will any of us…so my point is we have time…so relax, have fun and keep those artistic juices flowing.
Throughout the years I’ve been asked how did I “see” a particular shot? Meaning how did I know to compose a shot in a particular way? Lots of artists and photographers will talk to you about balance, colors, lines…etc. And, for the most part, they are right – a pleasing photo has to have many different elements to make it work. I’m a strong believer in training the eye. When I walk down the street I have a tendency to look at everything around me and imagine how it would look in a photo. I ask myself how would I take that shot? What crop would I use? What would make this shot unique? What treatment would I use when printing? I look at people, faces, buildings, shapes, etc. Keep in mind I’m doing all of this without my camera in tow….I do this when I’m walking to get a cup of coffee or to the grocery store. Who knows, if you’ve been to Chicago I might have been that dude who was staring at you (but not in a creepy way). Visualization is a key element in honing your skills. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about flow. Artistic flow is every bit as important as visualization. In fact, artistic flow is probably more important to me than visualization in much of my photography (more on that tomorrow). Until then give your “photographic eye” a few challenges…ask yourself what about this shot? Or what if I cropped in tighter? What if I laid on the ground? You get the picture. Have fun! John
I’m happy to announce I’ll be offering a Digital Photography for Beginners online class this June. Here’s how this four week class will work: Class enrollment will be limited to six individuals, so sign up quickly to secure a spot by emailing me at email@example.com. Each student must have a digital camera with a basic understanding of how to use it. What I mean by basic is simply the ability to turn the camera on, point and shoot it. If you can manage those three things then you’ve met all the prerequisites for this program. So, you’re thinking it sounds cool, but what else do I need? You should have internet access, a willingness to experiment, a good sense of humor and a little patience. What if I don’t have a camera? No worries, I can point you in the right direction based upon your needs. So, I have a camera, a basic working knowledge of how it works and a killer attitude so what’s next? Each week I will assign a little homework (for instance, take a portrait) then each student will email me their assignment for critique. I will in turn email back my thoughts, impressions, and suggestions. The basic idea is to take beginning photographers to the next level. I will be available via email to each student throughout the duration of the program (no worries about emailing too much). The cost of the program is a reasonable $70.00 and payable via PayPal. Like I said, this class if very limited and I’ve had many inquires, so if you’re serious I encourage you to sign up now or drop me a line with any questions.
Take care, John
On occasion it has been said I wear too many hats. But what's a mult-tasker to do, right? It's hard to stop doing all things you love, so I've decided this weekend I'm going to focus on the one thing I need to improve – my street photography. I mean Chicago is a big city. It has a few streets. I should be able to stumble upon a few candid shots if I put my mind to it…or so I would hope. The bottom line is I don't shoot a lot of Chicago people, probably because I live here and I take it for granted. So this weekend I'm making an effort because, as Stuart Smalley use to say, “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”) So, my point is don't worry about what kind of photographer you need to be, or want to be right now, and instead focus on the things you know you need to improve upon….at some point in your career it will all intersect.
My plan is simple. I want to begin a dialogue with other photography enthusiasts and to help guide some of you along the way. My love of photography began many years ago as a child using a Kodak instamatic. I shot photos of everything…our dogs, family, friends, icicle's hanging from the roof of our house. You name it. I shot it. Technology has obviously changed a lot in the last 30 years but the foundation of a solid photo remains the same. I'm not claiming to know it all, nor am I claiming my photography is loved by all. What I do know is this: There is a large segment of enthusiasts that have never had any formal training in photography. Many of you, like myself when I began, are seeking feedback in order to grow and become better at your craft. My goal is to provide a sounding board for your thoughts and in the process grow along with you. I look forward to your feedback and some healthy discussions in the near future. Please don't hesitate to participate and let's learn together…..John