Ok, here’s my two cents on some habits that all photographers should develop. Beginner shooters may find it easier to assimilate these as more experienced shooters will already know them or have developed their own habits.
On my workshops, it’s always interesting to watch how other people shoot. Many photographers will have a comprehensive arsenal of equipment – cameras, lenses, filters, etc. Many others will aspire to own the gear that these guys have.
It is by watching how other photographers shoot that I have come to the following conclusions. I’m not sure if they will suit you but you may want to incorporate some of them into your own workflow.
So, let’s get started
1.Stop clicking – Start seeing
In my experience, this is a common issue with many photographers, both experienced and beginners. On the workshops, I see so many people mount their camera on the tripod, plonk the tripod down and start clicking away. Within a minute or two, they have taken a dozen pictures of the same scene. I’ve often asked, what they taking a picture of and most people are not sure. “The mountains …” The photo has to more than “the mountains”.What else do you see?
The next time you’re in the landscape, stop and look around. Survey the light, watch the weather, look at the shapes, try to get a feel for the location you are in, the history of it. Walk around. What is your mood – how does this place make you feel?
Similarly, when shooting a person, put the camera down. Talk to them, ask them about themselves and be open about yourself. Establish a rapport. Don’t let the camera become a barrier between you and the person you are shooting. If you can establish a relationship, it will show through in your images.
Try not to overthink what lens, aperture or camera settings you “should” use. Sure, you should aim to produce a technically good photo but nobody will say, “what aperture did you use for that photo?”. Wouldn’t it better if they said, “You have captured the essence of the place” or “I like the way you have got her unique smile”.
So remember the next time you’re out with the camera, stop, look, talk, look again, listen, look again and then click.
2. Stop acquiring gear
We’ve all been there. “If only I had this particular lens, I would get a better shot”. “My camera isn’t able to capture this dark scene”. “These filters are crap”.
GAS – gear acquisition syndrome is very common in the community.
While it’s true that you’ll need certain items of equipment to produce some specific shots, for the majority of your photography, the lens and camera you have are more than enough. You need to get the best out of them before you upgrade or acquire more gear.
I once saw a guy miss a superb shot because he was changing his .9 ND graduated filter for a 1.2 ND graduated filter. He was relying on his equipment to produce a great shot.
Although you do need to know the technical stuff, great photographs are made by you, by what you see and feel rather than the equipment you have.
3. Read about and look at other peoples work
Once you start to get to grips with the technical aspect of photography, it’s very easy to settle into a particular genre or style. Just look at the number of landscape photographers in Ireland. It’s easy to see how we all settle into being a landscape shooter – the scenery here is pretty beautiful, it’s all around us and it’s free.
But you need to push yourself further. If you can take an awesome landscape shot, there’s no reason you cannot take an awesome portrait.
So, it’s important to look at the work of others and to study different genres and styles. Don’t be afraid to be influenced by, or to copy other photographers. These will help your own personal style to develop.
Remember that photography is an art so it’s very helpful to look at, listen to and to read about other art forms. Can you shoot a particular piece of music or imitate a style of painting you like?
By doing this, you will improve your craft and develop your own style.
4. Stop pursuing technical perfection
Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”, and we should remember this. Nowadays, there is an insane drive towards technical perfection in photography. I’ve seen people delete dozens of shots because they weren’t “perfect”.
Camera technology has come so far and offers unbelievable sharpness. The dynamic range they can capture is nothing short of amazing. Being able to push the ISO to 6400 allows us to capture detail in near-darkness.
But you shouldn’t think that every shot you take has to be pin sharp and technically perfect to be acceptable. By doing so, you are reducing that family photo or that amazing scene to a mathematical formula.
You are forgetting about the soul within the picture, the reason you were inspired to take this shot, the importance of the image to you, to someone else, to future generations.
Of course, your commercial work should always strive towards technical perfection but your personal work should never be overly influenced by it.
It’s ok to not be perfect.
5. Enjoy the mediocre shots
Not every photo has to be awesome. We are not awakened every day by the sun gloriously rising over a beautiful morning haze or sent to sleep by it descending into a blood red ocean.
Photography is not about producing award winning, chocolate box shots every time. It is about us, our enjoyment of the world around us and the way we see that world. It is more internal than many of us believe. It is about imagination. It is about memories.
Most of the images you take will be photographically mediocre but will mark a moment in time that will never occur again, a moment in time that is unique to you.
Enjoy those moments.
Thanks for reading this far. Feel free to share any photographic habits. good or bad with the readers in a comment below.