How to Work Hard at Photography and Still Suck

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Designer Dale, Mar 17, 2011.

  1. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Location:
    Folding space
    #1
    In response to all the "Recommend Me a Camera/Lens/Editor etc" threads, I offer this. Comments or additions?

    Never Show Your Work To Anyone

    Read Only "Expert Photographer" Blogs, Articles, and Books

    Leave Your Camera On Auto...:eek:...

    Buy A New and More Expensive Camera Because It'll Make Better Pictures

    Spend Too Much Time Mastering Photoshop

    Mine is this: Fixate on one style of photography or subject.


    Original stolen from PIXIQ...

    Dale
     
  2. Keleko macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2008
    #2
    I have read that you should find a type of photography that you're good at and stick with it rather than try to be a jack of all trades type. Trying to do sports, weddings and landscape all at once may not be the best idea, for example. They all require different equipment and style of photography. Now, I am barely out of the novice stage (about 7 months into taking photography seriously) so I am hardly able to give expert advice. I haven't figured out what kind of photography I am best at or like doing most. I have noticed I feel a bit intimidated by portrait type photography. I don't have the right equipment for it (flashes, strobes, backdrops, studio...), and I'm not sure I want to go that route. I also don't care for sports in general, so that's not a likely path for me, either.

    At least I mostly haven't suffered from the things you listed above. I kind of did buy an expensive camera to take "better" pictures, but then my P&S was pretty limiting in the kind of pictures I could take with it. It didn't do well with the kind of pictures I wanted to take. I recognize I got it to make the technical aspects better and for the versatility of different lenses. I know it doesn't mean what I take pictures of will necessarily be better.

    I think I'm sucking less than when I started my 365 project. People tell me they like my pictures, so I must be doing something right at least sometimes. This means I'm achieving my goal for my project, which was to be more interested and better at photography. I can't even look at the pictures I took prior to starting it. :) I moved them all off to iPhoto and use Aperture for everything since.

    If anyone wants to comment on how I'm doing so far, and they're bored enough to go through it all, my project set on flickr is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/sets/72157624631747093/

    I'll also add one to the list above - Always copy what other photographers do instead of establishing your own style.
     
  3. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    Location:
    Isla Nublar
    #3
    The one in bold is what I see the most. I've done photography for years and see new people get into the game and worry about the wrong things. Photoshop being one of them. Photoshop shouldn't even come to someones mind.

    Learn the camera, learn composition, learn lighting, learn photographic techniques to get what you want such as second curtain sync, hyperfocal distancing, etc. Once you can get it done right in camera then you can take it to the next level in photoshop (skin smoothing, removing hair wisps, correcting lens distortion, etc.).

    Too many people want to be a pro right out of the gate, they buy photoshop, get a NAPP membership, a fancy computer (that is 99% of the time overkill), raid storage when they've only shot 500 pictures, etc but never bother to learn the fundamentals.

    I'm all for learning on Digital, I think it helps someone learn better, but focus on learning the most important and fundamental things first, then learn about the post processing. A picture can still look fantastic without running it through photoshop.
     
  4. jackerin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Location:
    Finland
    #4
    Agreed. I couldn't see myself doing stuff like wedding photography or school photography; some things aren't for you and if you force yourself to do it you'll end up miserable. Rather, I think a more appropriate way is to think of it in terms of comfort zones. I'm mostly doing indoors portraits right now, I've got the gear down and I know roughly how to get what I want in terms of lighting. That's my comfort zone. I could continue doing just that and take good pictures, but I also want to challenge myself. How can I bring lighting outside? How should I deal with harsh sunlight? These are areas outside of my comfort zone, and only by exploring them can I grow.

    My own addition to the list: "don't think, just shoot".
     
  5. snberk103, Mar 17, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2011

    snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #5
    This can be expanded to include buying gear in general, like strobes and backdrops, etc...

    I think you need to read that bit above again.

    You don't need much gear at all to get started doing great photography - you just need to be good with people and have reasonable photo skills. If you are have that, then all you need is a reasonably sharp and long-ish lense and a window. See Lloyd Erlick for example. I don't think he is still active, but he was shooting 4x5 BW portraits by window light. I think some of his portraits are the best I have seen. I've learned from him to try and keep my portraits simple. I tell my students that doing portraiture is both the easiest and the most difficult kind of photography there is. Easy because you can make great portraits with window light, and one good lense on a camera. If you want to get fancy you can add a reflector :) . Difficult, because you need to work with people.

    Good decision. If you don't love the stuff you shoot, it shows.

    One of the best rock-n-roll photographers you will not have heard of in North America (if not the world), is Dee Lippingwell. She had a daytime job, but loved music. So she approached an entertainment weekly and offered to take photos, in order to get the press passes into the events. She then quit the daytime job to do the photography full time. Still loves the music and the music biz.

    I've sat through a couple of seminars she has done (short on technical advice, but huge on rock-n-roll stories!

    Don't let the website fool you. She doesn't actually need to advertize much. She was one of less than a dozen photographers that Mick Jagger personally invited to shoot the big SARS concert in Toronto a few years ago. I have the honour of calling her a friend, and in one of her band shots on the website you can see my former studio reflected in the subject's sunglasses.

    She loves what she does, it shows, and her clients know that.

    So keep banging away. It gets easier, then more difficult, then it plateaus into sort of easy again. Well, not really - but you love what you do so much you don't notice that it's difficult.

    ... of the above are imho, of course....

    PS: Thanks Dale for the OP!
     
  6. The Mad Kiwi macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2006
    Location:
    In Hell
    #6

    One of the things I love about photography is that there's as many approaches to photography as there are photographers. I could never shoot portraits like that.

    I love punchy dymanic light with heavy stylisation and lots of retouching, think multiple grided strobes, silver gridded beauty dishes etc, really hard light.

    I suppose it depends on if you view photography as documentation like Lloyd Erlick or as way to create an image of somebody that's impossible in real life. I never let portrait clients see the images straight out of the camera, the lighting I use is way to harsh and makes people look awful because it highlights wrinkles, underlying tonal differences and facial hair, but it provides a great base shot for super softening and styling later in photoshop.
     
  7. Ish macrumors 68000

    Ish

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    Nov 30, 2004
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    UK
    #7
    I like this, Dale! The first one, Never show your work to anyone, you could take the opposite way. If you never showed your work to anyone you could think you're among the best! Okay, maybe you still suck but you could go through life in blissful ignorance!! :)

    I wouldn't necessarily call concentrating on one thing a fixation, and even if it is, who cares? If you're constantly photographing what you enjoy, eventually you see more and more details to express through your photographs. Just enjoy! And share!
     
  8. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    Dec 30, 2006
    Location:
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    #8
    Get lost in the world of gear. Spend your time reading about the specs of forthcoming cameras and lenses, instead of actually taking pics. Denigrate the gear you have; fantasise about a fancier camera. That would make you a better photographer, surely? ;)
     
  9. TheReef, Mar 18, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2011

    TheReef macrumors 68000

    TheReef

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2007
    Location:
    NSW, Australia.
    #9
    I agree, I think staying focused on a concept enables you see your progression and improvement - and you're enjoying yourself.
    After that branch onto another concept, or combine concepts to form something new and different.

    Surely the sheer fright from the sound of a machine-gun with oversize barrel (and a red ring of course ;) ) is enough to worry even the most veteran of photographers ;) :p


    All in good fun :)
     
  10. mlblacy macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2006
    Location:
    the REAL Jersey Shore
    #10
    actually, I disagree...

    These days much of the craftsmanship that used to take place in the darkroom coaxing a master print from a negative now takes place digitally. A technically well exposed frame can still produce a crappy print at the end of a less skilled artist. Conversely, technical perfection (second curtain sync, hyperfocal distancing gobbledygook) has very little to do with art, or even creativity. Great "art" these days is even being shot on a cellphone.

    Both camps (the technical-crats & the ones who are blissfully unaware of the minutiae) can produce "great" work.

    Many beginners suffer from the same bad pshop skills (hey, look... I can make grass grow on his head, no make that two heads) and mistakes that beginning designers can (hey look, I can make EACH letter a different color, and a different font).

    All that being said, if I was teaching beginning photographers I would remove almost everything to start (camera, lens, etc.) and go primitive and start with building pinhole cameras. Then I would progress to the end point which would be post-processing. Post-processing is huge though...
    cheers,
    michael
     
  11. carlgo macrumors 68000

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    Dec 29, 2006
    #11
    Its funny that film and film cameras were so difficult to get right, but there was almost no post-processing. Now we shoot computers with lenses attached, get great technical results, yet post-process our photos to death.
     
  12. Designer Dale thread starter macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Location:
    Folding space
    #12
    When I learned film photography in the '70s, we were not allowed to use our SLR cameras. The college provided 4x5 view cameras. That put all of us on the same level for the first year. By the time I was finishing up my senior work using my Nikon the school had beginning students building pin hole cameras. This helped a lot. When I showed up for my first classes, some of the other students had Hasselbad cameras. Forgetting about gear forced us to think about the frame and what was going on in there.

    Dale
     
  13. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #13
    Most years I teach at 2nd year composition course, at a small commercial photography college. I grew up with film, and while I love how digital has freed me from some of the boundaries of film (endless undo!) I still think, mostly, like a film shooter.

    The college allows the students to use whatever equipment they own. The wet darkroom was removed a couple of years ago, but in that last year we had an interesting student who used the darkroom. First day of my class, the there were mostly Nikons and Canons in the room, but David arrived with his homemade pinhole camera. He was determined to try and do as many of my assignments as possible with it as a challenge (and I accommodated his equipment when I could). And when he wasn't shooting the pinhole he was shooting a Hasselblad Xpan (the 35mm panoramic camera). Again, just so he could a challenge working in that aspect ratio.

    He was a very good photographer, and he did really well in my class. But he didn't care about the marks (I think that's another sign of "How to Work Hard, But Still Suck" - spend all your time taking classes. And trying to get good marks.) He just wanted to absorb information, could afford the course, and was going to go and do his own thing as soon as a photojournalist as soon as he could. School was just a way to get up the learning curve quickly.

    I forget why I started this post now, but soon as remember his last name I'm going to Google him and get caught up.

    I think I was going to say that I've noticed that today's photo students like to 'assemble' their images in PS. We (the faculty) keep telling them that it's still easier to spend the extra few minutes at the time of shooting to fix that thing, than to try to 'Shop it out later. Or to add that extra fill light than to go back and reshoot the assignment because they can't fix it at all later.

    Sigh.

    I sound like an old fart.
     
  14. MoreBS macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    #14
    I do still suck.

    My problem is leaving my camera on Auto. I just don't know which setting to use. The more I read and the more opinions I see, the more confused I get. Plus when I see a good subject I don't want to mess it up with my ill informed selections...

    I did just buy the Bryan Peterson Understanding Exposure book, so hopefully that will help set me off in the right direction!
     
  15. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #15
    I think sometimes people can be intimidated by all the choices. The trick, when learning, is simplify things, imo. So... read up on controlling Depth of Field using the aperture (f/stop). Ignore everything else. Set your camera on Aperture priority (usually Av) and let the camera do the work maintaining exposure. Then play with that for a while, just concentrating on the DoF. Find scenes where there is a series of objects from close to far, and focus on one of those objects, and then take 3 photos at the biggest/smallest f/stop # and then the middle. Don't move. Focus on an object at a different distance, and do the same thing.

    Do this over and over again, with different subjects, until you get a feel for DoF. Don't sweat the other stuff, and don't even worry about perfect exposures at this point. Just get "good enough" exposures.

    Now do the same thing for Shutter Priority. Except in this case, you find things that are moving. Fast, slow, close, far. Shoot the same type of motion with different shutter speeds - as different as possible, and then something in the middle. Don't worry about the other settings.

    Copy and paste this post somewhere, and don't read anymore until you have done parts one and two above.

    Now that you are comfortable with Apertures and Shutters ... concentrate on exposure control. The challenge is to get really good exposures, while at the same time getting the DoF and shutter speeds into an acceptable range. Read up on ISOs. One of the huge advantages of digital cameras is being able to change the ISO as you shoot. Use it. Also know that photography is often about compromises. In order to get the DoF you want, you may need to use a shutter speed that is not quite right, and/or an ISO that leaves noise, etc etc But that is just part of the game, and as you gain more experience you will find ways to mitigate these issues.

    Also, there are two more ways to control DoF (lense focal length, and camera to subject distance.) But if you are reading this only after you did your homework, it won't be intimidating. It will be fun to figure it out. And if you read right through you are thinking " Aaaccckkk!!!" (I warned you, though... :) )

    imho, of course
     
  16. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    Jun 9, 2009
    #16
    I don't think this is entirely true. There was plenty of post processing back in the film days, just look at the works of Ansel Adams. It's just that the typical hobby photographer wasn't the one doing it- he sent his film off to a processing lab where it got developed and "post processed" by the lab technicians. Nowadays, with digital, the hobby photographer does almost all of the post processing himself.

    The fundamentals of the process have not changed all that much, just who does them, and where/how.

    Ruahrc
     
  17. MoreBS macrumors newbie

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    Apr 29, 2008
    #17
    You know that is an excellent suggestion and I am going to do exactly that. Brilliant!

    Thank you very much.
     
  18. Winni macrumors 68030

    Winni

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2008
    Location:
    Germany.
    #18

    I somehow agree, at least as long as those others have nothing to show that they did that you clearly find impressive. The comments of others rarely help you improve your own work.


    That certainly is better than reading Macrumors or other non-photographer blogs when photography is what you're interested in.


    Actually, you should buy a camera that does not even have an "auto" switch. I strongly recommend something like an old (analog!) Pentax K-1000 as the first camera. There was a time when photography schools did not accept cameras with automatic features. With K-1000, you have to do EVERYTHING manually - and that is the best way to actually learn how to take photos.


    Better gear does not make anyone a better photographer. HOWEVER, it can drastically improve the TECHNICAL aspects/results. If you want to make large posters of your pictures, then there are natural limits to what you can do with, let's say, a 6 MP camera.


    Photoshop is a tool for graphics designers and the print business. For almost all photography needs, Aperture or Lightroom provide as much features as one will probably ever need. But none of those digital toys make you a better photographer.



    I agree. And you probably shouldn't start with taking photos of models/people -- it's demanding and can easily become frustrating. Try mastering your camera and training your eye(!) first. Get a feel for what a photo will look like before you even begin processing/developing it. There's usually a big difference between what you see and what your camera sees; try to get your tool in sync with your eye and imagination. It requires a lot of practice, so shoot a lot. The beauty of digital photography is that you can shoot as much as like without depleting your bank account - analog photography was more expensive to learn.
     
  19. jackerin macrumors 6502a

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    Finland
    #19
    Just to clarify, you know that this list was a things of not to do..?
     
  20. mlblacy macrumors 6502

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    Sep 23, 2006
    Location:
    the REAL Jersey Shore
    #20
    one more thing to do...

    read all you want... but nothing beats looking and seeing what work is being done. Try to get a sense of quick fads and trends, and ignore them.

    One of my favorite haunts is Flickr's Hive mind...

    http://fiveprime.org/flickr_hvmnd.cgi

    I am always amazed by the stellar talent, a lot of it amateur...

    A picture is sometime worth a thousand words...
    cheers,
    michael
     
  21. Buck987, Mar 18, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2011

    Buck987 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2010
    #21
    Great info here for a novice, which I certainly am.

    I just picked up a nikon d3100 today after several weeks of reading here and other sites.

    Hope to at least become decent over time.

    Thanks for all the tips. Keep them coming.
     
  22. Designer Dale thread starter macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2009
    Location:
    Folding space
    #22
    More from me.

    Believing that there is an actual difference in output between low cost class 4 SD cards and super fast class 6 or 10 cards. Video excluded.

    Dale

    Ruahrc: Ansel Adams made his own paper using platinum instead of silver on 100% rag paper.

    Add this: Impulsively correcting everyone when you could be using the time better.
     
  23. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #23
    My previous post was worded a little poorly. Ansel Adams probably did make his own paper, and did a lot of "post processing" in the darkroom.

    Back in the film SLR days, most hobby/amateur photographers did not participate in the "post processing" of their shots because they sent their film to a lab to get developed. That does not mean that there was no post processing being done to their pictures though.

    Ruahrc
     
  24. JoeG4 macrumors 68030

    JoeG4

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2002
    Location:
    Bay Area, Ca.
    #24
    How about how to succeed?

    1. Hold the camera really still. No, that's not still enough.
    2. Don't shoot pictures from the back seat
    3. long exposures at night are godly
    4. Don't use the flash at night.
     
  25. Laird Knox macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    #25
    What's so bad about using a flash at night? ;)

    [​IMG]

    (I know that's not what you meant, just couldn't resist.)
     

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