Lots of sites seem to provide a short list of 10 or 8 or 15 things to consider when shooting, printing, visualizing, et cetera.
Blah. I even saw a post today about shooting the triangle. Sure, it’s a compositional technique but it misses the point that it is one of many compositional and design techniques that we use in photography.
I’m not against these tip lists. They can be very useful to the new photographer working on a specific method such as macro or super-telephoto wildlife photography.
What all photographers need to do is become familiar with their equipment along with the range and limitations of such. Having a comfort level of equipment added to the photographer’s own comfort level of light, environment and building upon experience will allow the photographer to work within these limitations and that is where creativity can really flow.
The best example of this comes from my teaching underwater photography. First, you have to be a good SCUBA diver. Second, you have to be able to manipulate your camera with competence. Then after these skills are developed you can then start to discover, frame, explore, look at photographic subjects and create frames.
So here is my list of ten four things you need to do to be able to take good pictures on a regular basis.
- Understand how your equipment works. When someone hands me some point and shoot camera I still have to ask where the zoom and shutter release are. While it would be good to know all about exposure comepnsation and focus methods for the particular camera I’m handed, it isn’t important for me to know. What I bring to the creation of the image is my ability to compose. That’s it. I don’t have expressive control over anything else so I don’t worry about it. When I shot with my gear I have dozens of options over the control of the image.
- Understand light. Photography is the art and science of producing images onto a light sensitive surface. It can be silver-based film or a modern digital sensor or even the base of a camera obcura. Light is the basis for all we do as photographers. Understanding how to post-process and print an image is an extension of this concept.
- Understand and work your environment. As a photographer you work within your medium within a certain environment. This can range from the safe confines of a studio to the battlefield. Understanding the space around you and the abilities or features of your environment will allow you to create better pictures. Do I have lots of control in a studio setting? or do I have to be careful about bullets and mortars. Sure those are some the extremes along the environmental continuum, however what about someone begging for change, or that impending thunderstorm, or that gathering crowd, or that fading sunset, or that melting ice cream? Your environment includes everything around you and you have little( or no) control over your environment.
- Build upon your experience and study. The more you shoot the better you get. Shoot lots. The digital world allows us this luxury that used to be afforded to the professionals, the rich and the maniacs that would roll their own film and work in photo labs to get free processing (I’m in that last group). Discover from your bad mistakes and revel in your good mistakes. This is self-study. Add to this by looking at other photos and reading or studying about photography, design, composition and whatever else you find interestingand related to photography. The more you shoot and study and the more you expand upon your experiences the better a photographer you become.
I see lots of top 10 or top 8 things to do type posts. Yikes, I’ve even seen a 50-things-you-should-do post. (Who’s going to remember those?) These can be useful to the neophyte but they need to be regarded in the larger sense of what you are doing as a photographer.