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Thread: Improving as a photographer

  1. #1
    groovesection's Avatar
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    Improving as a photographer

    I have to ask, is there any way to improve as a photographer apart from taking thousands of images?
    When i first got my camera i read up on as much as i could and i thought i understood how iso/aperture and f/stop work as inter-connectable variables and how they affect each other in exposure.
    Maybe i do understand it in theory but i am struggling to improve (imo)

    I went out for a walk this morning before breakfast and took my camera, i shot about 50 images and upon reviewing them on the camera i was sure i had a few keepers, But when i got home and transferred them to the PC i realised that most were poorly composed, and nowhere near as good as i thought they were at the time.
    To be honest i was pretty gutted and disheartened.

    So does anyone have any suggestions on how to improve? I was considering shooting a certain landmark local to me and maybe going back at different times and trying to shoot as many views/perspectives as possible as opposed to just going out and shooting random subjects.
    Is this a good idea? Or should i just go out and shoot as many things as possible?

    I recently noticed a local building (16th Century) which i thought would make a good night time l/exp,(contrasted with traffic and modernity)
    i even looked in to the moon rise times and when it would be in shot but living in the UK all we ever get is cloud so i have not yet had a chance to shoot the scene i had envisaged.

    Any tips/suggestions or links for improving and getting motivated would be much appreciated.
    I suppose i have the photography equivalent of writers block right now

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Anton

    You should post some of the images up on here so that people can offer some constructive advice and suggestions based on evidence of what you say are disappointing results. And please don't be thinking that they're too bad to post up here. That's not the point. The point is about using them in order to learn.

    You talk about wanting to understand about exposure, but then getting the composition wrong. That's not so bad when you're just learning things. If you put all your concentration into nailing the exposure, then you often forget about the composition and vice -versa.

    The thing about practicing and practicing is to help yourself get to the stage where you realise that your giving both things the attention they require. But that does take practice.
    Last edited by Donald; 3rd November 2012 at 08:39 PM.

  3. #3
    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Anton, planning you images is certainly a good way to go, but it can be done with a little more spontaneity as well, i think what makes me despondent is that although i live in very beautiful part of the world, i see it everyday and assume everybody will see it in the same way and so i dont look for that interesting shot because i KNOW nobody will find it so. Wrongly of course!!

    Try traveling an hour away, youve got the coast and the broads very close and all will look good this time of year. Try thinking in monochrome as well, look at Donalds work and try something like that.

    If its raining try some macro or water droplet stuff. Why not sit a friend by a window and do some portraiture? the thing about photography is the endless subjects to shoot, all of which have differing techniques to learn. So if you get bored or stuck with one, try another and go back to it later.

    so stop moping about and get some pictures taken none of us were ansel adams in a month !

  4. #4
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Bearing in mind that there are many ways to skin a cat, it's hard to give general advice about things that are highly individual. Having said that, I'm going to risk my own hide and do it anyway.

    One of the problems with photography is that there are so many aspects to it, both artistic and technical. The sheer combination of possibilities can easily become overwhelming, and it sounds like that's where you are right now.

    I therefore really like your idea of concentrating on one subject; one you can easily return to and improve on your last session, and one you can find at different times, in different weather etc. That way you have nailed the most important aspect to the floor: your motive.

    Then, before starting to take pictures of it, get to know it. Walk around it, see it from many angles and distances. Spend a day with it. Or two. IMAGINE how you would like pictures of it to look. Remember, you don't make pictures with your camera, you make them with your mind. Romantics would say with your heart.

    What I am really saying is that you should fall a little in love with your motive (or even a lot if you are brave enough), because that's what it takes to open your heart and mind.

    Once you have achieved that, bring your camera and start making pictures from the angles and positions you had seen in your mind's eye. Bring back those pictures and look at them on your computer. Use whatever software you use to do whatever you want to do to them, but my advice at this point is to do as little as possible, as post processing just adds another layer of confusion and complication.

    Then post the pictures here, as Donald suggests. I am new to CiC myself but from what I have seen so far, you can post your pictures without fear. The comments you'll get are both constructive and instructive and always friendly.

    Listen to and learn from the comments and ask questions. That will give you new ideas for next time you go back to your motive - and the process starts over again.

    I like your conclusion about getting the moon in the shot. Leave it for later; right now you need to get the basics right and work your way up from there. The moon shot could be your final take on the motive; the crowning glory when everything else clicks.

    Oh, and can I just say this about creative blocks of any kind. In my experience there's only one way out of them, and that's working through them. If you sit down and wait for divine inspiration, they just get worse.

    Look forward to seeing your local landmark here on CiC.

  5. #5

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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Anton, the only way is to shoot, shoot, and shoot again, then look and learn from what you shot. Another big thing is slow down, just because you saw it, does not mean you have to shoot it, Stop, look at it, change viewing location, put camera to eye and do it all agian, zoom in and out, now change camera to another ordination, reopeat, if it still looks interesting take the shot, it not move on look for another subject then repeat again and again and again. After some time you learn what to look for and where is the best place to take the shot.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  6. #6
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    IMO, a photographer should try the simplest technical style to start out with. The Programmed Exposure usually nails the exposure pretty well. Shoot with a fairly low ISO (100-200) for brighter conditions and a higher ISO (400 or so) for less bright conditions. Try to stick with outdoor subjecte in the daylight to start with. The above ISO + P will allow you to concentrate on composition without having to also concentrate on getting the exposure correct.

    Study some of the rules of composition:

    http://www.photographymad.com/pages/...position-rules

    http://digital-photography-school.co...mposition-tips

    Certainly, of course, the tutorials above...

    Here are a few of the faults that I see in the images of many new photographers...

    1. Busy background which competes with the subject for attention. Backgrounds can be controlled by choice of camera position and by using a wide f/stop and long focal length to blur the BG using selective focus. One of the most hateful things is when a tree or a pole seems to be growing out of a subjects head...

    2. Things inserted into the edges of the image. Bits of people, signs, trees, etc. that have nothing to do with the subject but which jut into the edges of the images. You can avoid this by looking around the edges to spy anything that might be entering unwanted...

    3. Poor exposure... This often happens with a photographer trying to advance to manual exposure control before he or she is quite ready to attempt that...

    4. Bad focus... This happens quite often when the camera chooses an area to focus on that the photographer doesn't want. Single point focus can often solve this at the beginning. Sometimes the DOF is just not adequate to carry the image. This often happens when a very wide aperture is used...

    6. Fuzzy pictures due to camera shake. This happens due to using too slow a shuter speed combined with poor amera holding techniques...

    7. Tilted horizons or vertical lines. This is one of my biggest fetishes. I simply hate to see a tilted horizon.

    8. Distortion caused when using an uwa lens up close to shoot people or animals. The elongated Pinochio sized nose is an example...

    The rukes of composition are not necessarily rules but, rather suggestions. They can be broken but, the photographer should know that he or she is breaking the rules....

  7. #7
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Photography is all about Visualization. I suggest you spend a day or a weekend going to different places and just walk or hike and look around...look at the clouds, the way they reflect in the water, the way the light hits something, the way an object frames a subject......

    Then you want to visualize your subject, surrounded by elements. It takes years and years to learn how to visualize, without looking through the lens..... I've been at it for 7 years and sometimes I miss it. but it's become a habit now -

    Here's one of my recent, taken at Antelope Island. It's a sandstorm engulfing the island, now normally people would leave...because if you get in that mess (such as I did) you will get sand in all parts of your body and smell like the great salt lake. I stayed and wait for it to arrive. then there came a flock of seagulls, all lined up going the opposite way of the sandstorm. When they started to come into the cameras view I pre-visualized the outcome and snapped some shots.

    _mg_33421.jpg

    And then this one - it was shot moments before the birds showed up. you can see the difference of how much is left on the island from the sandstorm. But the one below isn't as dramatic, still I like it because the lone bird gives it a sense of calm...

    _mg_33341.jpg

    Or this sunset at the great salt lake (which normally any other person would have shot it in it's entirety) including most or all of the other elements which are not in this image. On each side of the mountains in the background there is water and yes it was an intense sunset, but some things are best brought in closer. Again, that's visualizing...I looked at the way the color reflected and molded itself into the water, how the silhouetted mountains and lone rocks in the water made this abstract and beautiful, but a simple image of a dramatic sunset.

    _mg_210611.jpg

    I show these to you because you never know what you will see. Again, visualization. Another good practice to get better is to pick a subject and take different angles, get high, get low, break the rules of composition, use different lenses to get another effect. Go from wide Angle to Macro or a narrow depth of field...LIke others have said, shot shoot and shoot some more!!

    I hope this helped in some way
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    groovesection's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Wow, I cannot thank you all enough for the encouraging words and wisdom imparted in reply!
    CiC really is a superb forum!
    It really is humbling to think so many people would take the time to even reply!

    There is certainly a lot of information for me to digest, but rest assured i have taken everything on board.
    Naively i thought once i understood the exposure triangle and the rule of thirds i would be able to create good pictures (especially using raw and PP).

    I guess it is hard for me to see if i am improving, and at the end of the day can you even quantify improvement? I guess not.
    Thank you everyone for your invaluable input.

    Here are a few images from this morning (imo the better ones but still piss poor)
    L-JPG SOOC @ full size - no cropping or PP

    Improving as a photographer

    Improving as a photographer

    Improving as a photographer

    Improving as a photographer

    Improving as a photographer

    Improving as a photographer

    Improving as a photographer

  9. #9
    mstrozewski's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    May I ask what camera/lenses you use?

  10. #10
    groovesection's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Of course Mavourneen,
    I am using a Canon EOS 1100D & a Sigma 18-125mm IS
    Oh and i was using a Neewer ND 4 filter (cheap Amazon buy mainly to protect my lens)

  11. #11

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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Anton: As you can see the people here at CIC, focus on many different subjects as to our personel likes, myself I like landscapes and buildings as for birds IMO are best seen right out of the oven roasted, but that is me. For the first image I would have like to see the bridge anchored on both sides of the river as this would allow me to see mores of the piles that I find interesting. Image #2 maybe in a pie. Image #3, as you have a flat grey sky, get in close and work on the details, flat skys a lot of the time are a curse. If the sky was better I would have gone with a pan however I do shoot buildings alot that way, and that takes practice. Image #4 & #5 are quite good and interesting, however not my thing. Image #6, is more my thing, I like it very much and find it quite interesting, the sky is a little blown out, but could be helped in pp. The last image slow roasted on a spit on the BBQ and maybe stuffed with a sage bread stuffing with sauage meat, served with a good dark ale, wine it you like.

    Cheers:

    Allan
    Last edited by Polar01; 3rd November 2012 at 08:38 PM. Reason: spelling still bad

  12. #12
    groovesection's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Thanks Alan, Your input made me chuckle, especially the roasting comment.
    Personally i am not interested in wildlife but for some reason since i purchased my camera i keep seeing that blackbird every where, maybe i should invest in a air rifle

    Thanks for your input and advice my friend Much appreciated!

  13. #13
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Anton - a couple of thoughts for you.

    1. An image can only have one subject. If you look at one of your pictures and you find your eyes darting all over the place means you have not focused the viewers eyes on your main subject. You may have to move around and recompose and "work the image".

    2, Photography is all about lighting, and those gray overcast days give you boring and diffuse images. While this gives nice lighting for wildlife, it is not great for landscapes, cityscapes and architecture. The bright but boring skies are not helping your images. Try to shoot at "golden hour" about an hour before sunset. Images with interesting shadows and highlights work. Sunny days at mid-day generally do not (not that you have any images like that posted).

    3. Rule of thirds; compose so your subject lines up at the appropriate intersection of the thirds lines. My, helpfully, has a grid to help do that.

    4. Pay attention to the edges of your images. See if there is something that looks odd as it goes out of the frame.

    5. Shoot with your lens open wider so that you throw the background out of focus, if your subject is in the foreground. Wide depth of field is okay for landscapes and some cityscapes, but see if you can work with shallow DoF to focus your viewer's attention.

    6 Study other photographer's work and see what you like and do not like about these works and see how your work compares. I tend to be my own harshest critic....

  14. #14
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Hi Anton

    Great to see such a varied response to your question. In my view, the pictures you have now posted confirm that "you seek it here, you seek it there, you seek it everywhere", to misquote The Scarlet Pimpernel.

    I think you are doing yourself a disfavour trying too much, too hard and all at the same time. You are letting your camera take the pictures, and you need to step back from that and think about what it is you want to do, then spend time learning how to do it.

    Manfred quotes Cartier-Bresson saying that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst, and that's no doubt true. It's well established that you need 10,000 hours to really master anything.

    But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't enjoy the journey.

  15. #15

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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Quote Originally Posted by groovesection View Post
    I have to ask, is there any way to improve as a photographer apart from taking thousands of images?
    First, watch this video...


    When i first got my camera i read up on as much as i could and i thought i understood how iso/aperture and f/stop work as inter-connectable variables and how they affect each other in exposure.
    Maybe i do understand it in theory but i am struggling to improve (imo)
    Of course, understanding your tools is critical. It has always been that the great masters were also great masters of their tools, possessing superior technical knowledge and ability. But creativity doesn't come from knowing how your tools work. You'll have to look elsewhere for that.

    As a start, I would suggest Jodie Coston's lessons. She starts off with a great question..."It's A Beautiful Photograph, But Do You Know WHY It's Beautiful?" You can find them here...
    http://www.morguefile.com/classroom

  16. #16
    groovesection's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Anton - a couple of thoughts for you.

    1. An image can only have one subject. If you look at one of your pictures and you find your eyes darting all over the place means you have not focused the viewers eyes on your main subject. You may have to move around and recompose and "work the image".

    2, Photography is all about lighting, and those gray overcast days give you boring and diffuse images. While this gives nice lighting for wildlife, it is not great for landscapes, cityscapes and architecture. The bright but boring skies are not helping your images. Try to shoot at "golden hour" about an hour before sunset. Images with interesting shadows and highlights work. Sunny days at mid-day generally do not (not that you have any images like that posted).

    3. Rule of thirds; compose so your subject lines up at the appropriate intersection of the thirds lines. My, helpfully, has a grid to help do that.

    4. Pay attention to the edges of your images. See if there is something that looks odd as it goes out of the frame.

    5. Shoot with your lens open wider so that you throw the background out of focus, if your subject is in the foreground. Wide depth of field is okay for landscapes and some cityscapes, but see if you can work with shallow DoF to focus your viewer's attention.

    6 Study other photographer's work and see what you like and do not like about these works and see how your work compares. I tend to be my own harshest critic....
    That is a superb post, thanks my friend.
    But i have to say in the UK it seems that 99% of the time we are blessed with grey and overcast skies. I can honestly say there is not such a thing as a golden hour (seriously though) thanks for your input ad advice.
    I should have really removed my ND4 filter before shooting today!

  17. #17
    groovesection's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Quote Originally Posted by oleleclos View Post
    Hi Anton

    Great to see such a varied response to your question. In my view, the pictures you have now posted confirm that "you seek it here, you seek it there, you seek it everywhere", to misquote The Scarlet Pimpernel.

    I think you are doing yourself a disfavour trying too much, too hard and all at the same time. You are letting your camera take the pictures, and you need to step back from that and think about what it is you want to do, then spend time learning how to do it.

    Manfred quotes Cartier-Bresson saying that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst, and that's no doubt true. It's well established that you need 10,000 hours to really master anything.

    But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't enjoy the journey.
    Thanks Ole,
    I am trying to step back as you suggest, I have noticed that i now seem to see things in a different light (photography wise)
    I guess this will improve in time and i am expecting too much too soon. Thanks for your advice/help buddy

  18. #18
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Quote Originally Posted by groovesection View Post
    I have to ask, is there any way to improve as a photographer apart from taking thousands of images?
    The key is to set goals. There are many free how-to tutorials here at CiC and elsewhere. Pick a topic that you are interested in and find out all you can about it. Then shoot to improve your skill at that particular goal.

    The sole goal 'taking thousands of pictures' will not help you to improve. There must be a purpose for the pictures you shoot if you want to improve. It may take well over a thousand purposeful pictures but by setting goals and working to achieve them for learning camera technique, post processing skills, and perhaps most importantly the basics of composition, you will steadily improve.

    If you want to improve, set a goal, shoot, evaluate the results, get constructive feedback, make changes to your technique and fine -tune your goals and reshoot to improve the result. Repeat this until you have reached a level of satisfaction you are currently happy with and move on to a new goal.

    This link may help you get started:

    How to Get Effective Feedback for your Posted Images

  19. #19
    groovesection's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Quote Originally Posted by Graystar View Post
    First, watch this video...




    Of course, understanding your tools is critical. It has always been that the great masters were also great masters of their tools, possessing superior technical knowledge and ability. But creativity doesn't come from knowing how your tools work. You'll have to look elsewhere for that.

    As a start, I would suggest Jodie Coston's lessons. She starts off with a great question..."It's A Beautiful Photograph, But Do You Know WHY It's Beautiful?" You can find them here...
    http://www.morguefile.com/classroom
    Thanks mate, now watching the video, hopefully it will help me
    and i have bookmarked the 2nd link for later,

    Thank you EVERYONE for your help,advice, links and kind words.!

  20. #20
    groovesection's Avatar
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    Re: Improving as a photographer

    Quote Originally Posted by FrankMi View Post
    The key is to set goals. There are many free how-to tutorials here at CiC and elsewhere. Pick a topic that you are interested in and find out all you can about it. Then shoot to improve your skill at that particular goal.

    The sole goal 'taking thousands of pictures' will not help you to improve. There must be a purpose for the pictures you shoot if you want to improve. It may take well over a thousand purposeful pictures but by setting goals and working to achieve them for learning camera technique, post processing skills, and perhaps most importantly the basics of composition, you will steadily improve.

    If you want to improve, set a goal, shoot, evaluate the results, get constructive feedback, make changes to your technique and fine -tune your goals and reshoot to improve the result. Repeat this until you have reached a level of satisfaction you are currently happy with and move on to a new goal.

    This link may help you get started:

    How to Get Effective Feedback for your Posted Images
    Thank Frank, Some great advice and thanks for that link, i will have a thorough read tomorrow (time for bed now
    For some reason i cannot seem to mark your post as helpful

    Thanks again everyone, really helpful advice and inspiration!

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