Friday, June 19

Photography-Things I Learned

I am tenacious, in the same way that I can be a drifter, yet learning my way through photography is something that I can proudly say of as my own. Scouring the web for anything that might prove useful in getting the whole concept of "a picture", I had gone to so many websites where I study beautiful photos, to forums where others share their tips and tricks in editing, while some others are just too uppity to express their mild aversion to post-processing.

However, some of the best photographers I have come to admire admit that they process and proof a hundred percent of their photos before these even get to see the light outside of their digital darkroom, and on to their sites. So, that's probably saying a lot. I have tried many fancy stuff myself in Photoshop, and hell, I even get to keep a small notebook with me where I chronicle my constantly evolving workflow, hoping that one day I can shout my eureka to the world, and settle on the very most perfect kick-ass workflow ever, and be the next Annie Leibovitz of the 21st century. But well, one has to be grounded and wake up to the real world. As always, I would go into my lengthy and tedious mini-speech before I even get to my main beef.

So, anyway, this entry is a sort of amalgamation of all photography-type things I have learned, technically on my own, but with the aid of many sites where people are just too happy to share what they know. Even if I sort of sound like one of those counter-productive asses who complain about things but shamelessly filch company work hours to do personal stuff, seriously, this is something I'd also like to share with whoever is interested, in keeping with my pay-it-forward project:

* Nothing beats learning your camera first before you even get out there and expect for it to do the work for you. Too often, we start out with wrong settings, or without understanding the basic functions of our camera, and blame it for our blah photos. Of course it helps if you own a first-rate gadget, but it's only as good as you know it.

* Proper exposure equals great colors, shadows and highlights right on. If you made a mistake firsthand, there is still hope, a way to salvage a photograph. When post processing, always look at the histogram of your photo before you do anything else. Correct levels is synonymous to appropriate exposure, which almost eliminates the need to sharpen images after post-processing. If your camera is capable of RAW, so much the better. But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that you are using a middle range point and shoot or dslr, and that you were just too eager beaver to take your shots. Then don't fret.Your next best bet: editing.

*ISO-I always wonder how others achieve those creamy photographs. The secret: use the lowest possible ISO setting you can get, and never bump it up unless necessary.

*Composition-something I am still working on, even as I speak, but this is probably the key to all beautiful photographs you see and drool on. You just have to try and try, until you get the hang of it. It doesn't matter if you get one good shot out of a hundred crappy ones. Everyone starts there. I am still there. Try all techniques in the book, and then through your own eyes or perspective, until you learn that creative approach, such that you are able to bring images into a unique visual form, something that will differentiate a photo from your usual snapshot.

*Much as I appreciate originality, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong about admiring other artists, whose work inspire you to try out their techniques until you are able to fetch ideas of your own. If at all, it is a serious form of flattery. The more fickle you are with your style, the more likely you will be able to understand what you really finally want. And, remember there is no rule that says you can't change your style. I wouldn't want to get stuck in one, and realize too late that I could have done better. There are two photographers that I really admire so much, Wynona for her very clean, evocative images, and Beth Jansen for her amazing colors and unique, bold style (links coming up). Both photographers are mothers like me, who also started when they had their first child, and who were self-taught. It's a fact that gives me quite a headstart, that one is never too old, or obscure to learn things. Copying blatantly or stealing images from these people who worked so hard on their images, however, is another thing. As the beautiful Anna Scott said, "Rufus, you belong in jail"..... Eeek.

*I found that to get tack-sharp images, you have to tinker with your camera's f-stops. Sometimes we misunderstand, because it's not necessarily the lowest (widest aperture) in our camera that gives us the most pointed photos. For instance, my kit lens give me very good results at f5.6 or f8. Or, I heard, that a lens with 1.8 max aperture is in its sharpest at 2.0 or 2.2. So, it's all relative. Maybe, we should all get a pair bionic eyes to determine that.

* 85% of the time, my subjects are my children. The 15% are self-portraits, my other family members, and things in my surroundings. You know how children can be uncooperative when you take photos of them sometimes, I mean most times? Yes. The more your force them into your frame, the more disinclined they will be at posing for you. But although, they are some of the most difficult subjects to photograph, they can also give you some of the most delightful photos you'll ever have. You'll just have to be very patient with them. And then of course it helps if you're always ready to aim at those special moments when they're not really looking, but they are there. For me, that is a lot of hard work, but there is where I find my joy.

That's it for now. I'll try to give this topic another whirl when I find myself here again. These are my observations as a beginner though, and I'm sure a lot of seasoned photographers who happen to get lost here would find themselves raising a hairy brow at some things I said. This is no bible truth, totally, and one is welcome to challenge or even correct me, but let me be the first to say I am a perennial work in progress, so next time, I might just possibly disown my words here.
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