Growing as a Photographer

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    I’m interested in doing a personal project to help me take better pictures. It would seem that the oft-said thing is to take pictures of everything and I do try to do that, but I’m still finding it difficult to get photographs versus snapshots. So I’m asking for advice/help in what I can do, how I can approach this to become a better photographer. I have the equipment now where I didn’t before, so I think it’s time to work on this with a little more zeal, only I’ve no idea how to approach this. I’ve thought about a daily photography thing like I’ve seen a couple of you mention, but I don’t know the details or how to find them, or if anything else is available to try.

    Thanks for any input.


    it’s all in the eye. when you look at something try seeing it as a frame. or use the camera to actually frame it. move right/left/up/down. think about not only what you want to photograph but what else in in the frame. does it add or subtract from what you want to convey. do you know what you want to convey?

    now FWIW my recent stuff has been shit in that regard but there are lots of good examples in each contest. think about how you might have shot something you like differently. read the rule of thirds (and other stuff on photography) but don’t feel you HAVE to follow “the rules”. does your photo tell a story? and if so how well? do people “get it” w/o you explaining. if you are shooting for mood what mood? bright usually is happy and dark sad but again it’s not cast in stone.

    put on clothes you don’t care about getting dirty and get down on your knees or stomach. use a ladder to change perspective too.

    take the kids to a park with some equipment and let your husband play with them while you stay in the back ground. no “look over here” “smile now” type stuff. and don’t tell them what to do. no “time for the slide now”. let them do what they want and just record it. preferably from their eye level. use the long zoom. it will blur out the background some thus highlighting the kids.


    I’m hardly what can be described as an expert, but I’ve improved tremendously this year (no, really, even people here have said so). I’ll chirp in with what I’ve learned.

    Either by low f/stop or by telephoto, my better shots have shallow depth of field, which forces the eye to focus on what I want the viewer to see. The downside is the focus needs to be spot-on, which can be hard with images that are spontaneous shots, rather than ones that I can take the time to plan.

    Like Curious said, look at a potential scene from many different angles. Frame them with either the camera or your fingers. Don’t be afraid to get dirty if it means getting a great shot–perspective changes nearly everything, and that can make the difference between ho-hum and ‘wow’.

    Bracketing has helped a lot. You can post-edit this to a good extent, but the closer you are to where you want to be to begin with, the better the final result. I bracket my ISOs, my f/stops, my exposures, in different combinations, and over time I’ve developed a better ability to ‘see’ a shot before I take it, thus leading to needing fewer brackets as I’ve started out in a better place to begin with.

    Try and see shots in things people might not ordinarily take pictures. There’s a million shots of the St. Louis Arch, but very few like the one U-man took from within the structure that ranked highly in a recent contest. Uniqueness counts, if you can find it.

    Read old photo magazines, and check out various websites (I’ve crawled through the forums here and found lots of tips and suggestions that also lead to some websites, and while I have an aunt who’s sent me back issues of photo mags, you can also troll the library for the same.)

    What they say about the natural lighting at dawn and dusk is true. I often plan ‘great’ shots at any time of the day, but actually take them when the sun is low in the sky. The colors just pop better. If it’s too yellow, I’ll adjust the color temperature to pull some yellow out of the image. Contrast is better, too, at this time; a sun high in the sky leads to images that are too bright in places and not bright enough in others, which is fine if you want to HDR them, but sucks if you don’t/can’t.

    For interior shots, I try to have more than one lighting source, if possible; shadows are not often the photographer’s friend. Which is also why I almost never ever use flash. Nasty shadows thrive in a flash atmosphere.

    I’m sure you’ll get lots of tips in here that are better than mine, but then, here in the forums is where I’ve gotten some of my best tips anyway. Heed the (real) sages in here–they’ve been a photographic blessing, in my case at least.


    Take your mind off the hook, seek out different angles and perspectives, see the obscure, see the commonplace in a different way. Take a risk, it is only ones and zeros. Don’t be afraid to look stupid, hanging upside down trying to get a shot. Leave early, go out late. Shoot at night, shoot at noon, shoot until your finger hurts and then shoot some more. Shoot close, shoot far, go out of focus, twirl your camera above your head. Shoot every day, then take a few days off. This is fun, let it be.


    From one mom of little ones to another, my advice is simply to slow down. It’s hard to keep an eye on a young one and take good pictures. Find time to play around with the camera when you have the time to really analyze what you are doing and experiment to get a feel for what the camera can do at various settings.


    Step out of your comfort zone.

    Take the camera out auto. Play with perspective vs. composition. Try shooting the same subject up close and wide angle, then again from far away and full zoom. Play with different settings to see what they do.

    Shoot alot, don’t worry about deleting the “bad ones” until later, you may see something worth pulling out later when post-processing. And slow down. Like others above have said, thing about what’s in the background, foreground, etc. Try different angles. When you’re planning a shot in advance, think about what you want it to look like, sketch a picture if needed. Then think about what you need to do to construct that image.


    these tips are simple, and useful :

    #2 & #3 work best for me, as well as what Curious said about framing things mentally.

    My best tip: NEVER leave home without a camera. I shoot everything (although I admit landscapes and architecture are big favourites – they don’t move 🙂 ). You’ll often be pleasantly surprised.


    Photo a day. Take a photo EVERY day for a year or more. Your skill will improve dramatically. There are a whole bunch of groups on Flickr for it.


    I have a similar problem, for work I need to take record shots for use later on and for photographic analysis. It really does not allow for any creativity, I really need to record a part of a building accurately and with maximum detail. Now photographing for the weekly contests forces me to do things differently. For me it is a difficult transition between the two, but I try to get ‘in the mood’ before going out taking pictures for pleasure. I consciously think about not shooting ‘record’ shots. I’ve actually stopped myself mid-shot because it feels too much like a ‘record’ shot. I try odd angles, shooting things other than buildings, change conditions, etc.

    I also try to set aside time specifically for shooting, usually a Saturday or Sunday morning before the wife gets up. I try to go somewhere new each time, but I will return to places that I know have good shots that I did not get the first time.

    I was also given the advice of “shoot a roll of film a day”.


    The best advice I can give is to mirror what curious said – try and see the world around you as though you were looking at a photograph. Then, for any given situation, whether you have a camera in your hand or not, try and think about what you’d do to best capture the moment you see.

    Some books on basic techniques for various situations can help, but getting to know your camera and just trying to capture the images you eye sees does wonders.


    Thanks for all the suggestions. Definitely more things to keep in mind as I go about my day. I do try to take my camera everywhere “just in case” so I try to never be without it. One thing I read suggested going on a photographic scavenger hunt, so I asked Hubby to come up with one for me that I could do.

    I do try look at different angles, and I adjust the settings as I can for the situation (love that I can do that now). My kids still comprise most of my shooting and I mostly try to get them in action, especially when they’re outside (weekends are best for this). I’m hoping to get in the habit of a daily walk in the afternoon (again) for multiple reasons (exercise, fresh air, getting out of the house), and as I take my camera along and as I’m able to go farther I’ll be able to take pictures of different things. I’d love to capture sunsets (asleep for sunrises) but as I generally work during that time, I’ll have to go for the weekends on that and try to find a good vantage point.

    I’m really good with sticking in my comfort zone and not leaving it. I’m stubborn that way, so it’s hard to step out of that and see different angles, which is why I thought I’d make a project out of it with a specific goal. I can follow directions relatively well, but when it comes to improvisation (in this as in other things), well, let’s just say I’m not that good. While in music school many people said practice the scales because then one would be familiar with the tones available and you almost could never go wrong with scales, it’s the foundation, so I guess in this I’m actually trying to do that. Work on the foundation so I have that to work with.

    Next time I’m at Wal-Mart (or Barnes and Noble if I make it to Bangor) I’ll see about picking up a copy of a photography magazine and see what I can pick up from that.


    Next time I’m at Wal-Mart (or Barnes and Noble if I make it to Bangor) I’ll see about picking up a copy of a photography magazine and see what I can pick up from that.

    I like Outdoor Photographer for good techniques, and B+W for advanced monochrome techniques.

    Shutterbug is more about the hardware, Digital Photography is kind of meh, and Popular photography is the Geo Metro of photography magazines.

    Then there’s lots of artistic ones at the big box book stores than can give you ideas, but usually don’t say how to do it.


    Good to know, Orionid. Thanks for the info. I’ll keep that in mind when browsing the selection.


    I’m still finding it difficult to get photographs versus snapshots. So I’m asking for advice/help in what I can do, how I can approach this to become a better photographer.

    My take on snapshots vs photographs, FWIW:

    A snapshot is, at least in many cases, basically a prompt for your memory of a scene, event, etc. You look at it, and it evokes the feelings you had when you were wherever you were, doing whatever you were doing.

    But mostly, no one else is going to look at that snapshot and feel the same things (well, except if the snapshot happens to be of something other people find incredibly cool).

    So, basically you want to ruthlessly crush (or at least temporarily set aside 😉 those memory-based associations and look at what you’ve shot purely in terms of how it works as an image. Identify what you’re doing wrong, and work on fixing it.

    I find it helpful sometimes to practice things technique or composition-wise in fairly familiar surroundings (I have several places locally that I go to) rather than out exploring, because there’s no real pressure to get actual photos of everything when you already have a bunch already and it’s easy enough to come back in a day or two.


    Oh, yeah. And don’t let hardware stand in your way. If you can’t afford something, think creatively – odds are something you can afford can be modified to do the same thing.

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