Get together with other photography enthusiasts and what will most often be the topic of discussion? Cameras. My camera is the latest, my camera isn’t fancy enough, my camera has this gadget, and so on and so on.
Yes, the right camera for the job is a big help in getting the kind of photos you want. But the camera is only a tool and not knowing how to properly use it is a major reason there are so many ho-hum photos being taken everyday.
Improve the way you SEE
Photography is simply a way of seeing. The camera lets you record what you see, and if you really know how to use your camera you can do a better job of recording accurately what you see…. but if you don’t SEE great photos, no camera will magically produce a great photo.
So improving your photography begins by improving your ability to SEE. As you learn to see better photos, you also need to practice using your camera to record what you see. As you improve your seeing and improve your ability to record it for others to see it too, then and only then will the camera you use begin to really matter.
Let’s look at an analogy. As a teen you probably couldn’t wait to get a driver’s license. Why? Because you wanted to become a NASCAR driver? Maybe, but not likely. No, you wanted the independence that a license to drive would bring you.
No more depending on parents or friends to get you where you wanted to go. Imagine just jumping in your car and going. Independence at last. But just having a car would not give you that independence… first you needed to get a license, and that meant learning to drive which took effort, training and practice.
At that stage, any car was a dream car… just so it would start and run so you could learn and qualify for that license. Sure you might have wanted a hot set of wheels, but most important was having any car that would lead to being able to drive legally.
So back to photography. Why do you want to take pictures? Answer that first. Do you just enjoy the creative fun of making images? Or do you think one day it might be a great profession? Or is it just a way to record those special times and special people in your life?
Knowing why you enjoy photography and knowing the kinds of photographs you like to take is a major step in determining what you need to learn and practice. It may also help in deciding what camera you should use, but that is really secondary. Until you learn to see the kinds of photos you would enjoy recording even the simplest camera will likely serve you well.
Use light and composition creatively
Learning to see how light changes a subject, creates mood, accents or plays down details, defines shape and texture… these are the factors that will begin to transform your ho-hum snapshots into exciting photos.
And seeing ordinary everyday subjects in a different way, from a different angle, in an unusal place, arranged in a uncommon way… this is how you begin to use composition to see and ultimately show subjects in unique and interesting ways. Again, even the simplest of cameras will produce better results as you begin seeing more interesting compositions.
So take your attention off the need to have a better camera for now, and learn to see better photos first. Then learn through constant practice to use the camera you have to capture images the way you see them. The mechanics of taking a photo… exposure, focus, framing and so forth should be practiced until it becomes intuitive.
If you really work on seeing better photos and practice turning what you see into what the camera records you’ll soon be way ahead of those who spend all their time searching for a better camera.
Here’s to better photography,