Here I am, “stuck” at home, in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. In Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf has closed down much of the state, allowing life-sustaining businesses to continue, but little else. So what is one to do when there’s little work to handle from home? Suddenly there’s time for all the stuff I didn’t have time to do before (or more realistically put off because it’s not “fun”). But here’s a great opportunity to actually study photography and the images being created by others to learn how to improve my own. No one becomes a great photographer overnight. This is an art form. And with any art form, study and a lot of practice will go a long way toward improving your skills.
Thanks to technology, we are continuously bombarded with images: social media, television, magazines, books… photos are everywhere! And they’re easy to take: phones and cameras are likewise everywhere. It’s easy to think that you can quickly make money just by purchasing the latest, greatest camera. Not so fast.
Practice, Practice, Practice
You’re not going to become the next Rembrandt just because you bought a brush and some paints. Likewise, you won’t become the next Ansel Adams or Dorothea Lange because you have the latest, greatest camera and gear. Take the time to learn your equipment: get off of auto, experiment with focus points, use your equipment in different locations, under different lighting conditions, etc. Practice, experiment, look at your results, and take note of the settings you used, both for the images you like and those you don’t.
I gave myself a project of photographing various Lego animals and sets over the winter. I set the camera on a tripod and experimented with different aperture settings. I changed my focal length, sometimes including the entire subject and sometimes zooming in very close. But always experimenting with aperture and focal points. Then I downloaded the images to my computer and took a closer look at the results. Reducing the depth of field worked in some situations and not so much in others. Sometimes there was a big piece of dust I hadn’t noticed before. I learned to slow down and take a better look at the scene before the next set-up.
What are Others Doing?
Study the work of others, as well. Find people taking pictures of similar AND different subjects and look at what they’re producing. What do you like of theirs? How did they compose the image? What time of day is it? Can you get a sense of the settings they used? (Photography magazines often include exposure settings in the caption information.) Where were they standing? How would you have approached the scene differently?
Get feedback on your work. Seek out those who will encourage you and suggest other ways of seeing. I don’t find harsh criticism useful – people who seem to enjoy putting down the work of others. But I appreciate suggestions on cropping, perspective, time of day, timing, and exposure settings. Most of all, keep shooting, experimenting, and reviewing your results!