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Thread: capturing the image you want...

  1. #1

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    capturing the image you want...

    Hello All,

    I'm big into reading books on photography and creativity. I am currently reading: Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson. It is a wonderful books that has given me much inspiration, as does browsing the work posted here.

    However, as I read, watch the posting here and continue to my attempts to become a contributor at iStockphoto, I find myself not knowing what to photograph. My understanding of the art of photography is to have a mental image of what you want to capture, then go and capture it. I find myself putting myself in situations where I hope to capture a nice shot. Or I go out and hope to find something that catches my attention.

    What is your process to capture great images? Do you know what you are looking for first?

    Thanks,

    Erik

  2. #2
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Nice photographs are sometimes like buses - you wait for ages and then two come along at once.

    What sort of subjects do you normally like to shoot? Do you combine photography with any other interests? Have you set yourself a mini project with a particular type of subject to capture? This may help give you focus (excuse the pun) but giving yourself too tight a brief might constrict you too much.

    For me, it all depends really. Sometimes when I go out on a walkabout to take street photographs and candids I'll come home with nothing. Either my mind is not in the right place at the time or the right circumstances don't present themselves. On other occasions you feel like a kid in a sweet shop - there's lots to shoot wherever you look.

    If I see something that may create an interesting image I try to work the scene if it's possible. By trying shooting from different angles, using differing focal lengths, doing anything to try to capture a unique view of what you I'm seeing. In terms of stock photography, you want images which will stand out from the crowd and this may help.

  3. #3

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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Quote Originally Posted by cichlid View Post
    Hello All,

    What is your process to capture great images? Do you know what you are looking for first?

    Thanks,

    Erik
    Hi Erik,

    It depends on what's on for the day. If it's an event ( picnic/birthday/etc), then I focus on pix of the main characters. Travel, usually the main attractions of the location. Sometimes, I concentrate on birds - so I take close-ups and when they're flying.

    Sometimes, I set a goal, like a nice sunset at Santa Monica beach, so I read up on sunsets, do some test shots, then go and take photos of the sunset. If I like the pictures, nice. If not, I go back for another round.

    Just as long it's enjoyable and I like the scene, I take it.

    Meanwhile, I wish you have fun and enjoy your photography.



    ooops. the process. I usually try to set everything on auto so I can concentrate on the scene.
    however, the situation may call for other settings, such as Aperture priority if the scene needs DOF, or Shutter priority if shooting my grandkids playing, use flash if it's a little dark or need fill light, adjust WB/ISO and so on. It's like watching tv. I enjoy the show, but I don't feel like learning about the technicalities of how many lines are used to display the image, whether it's liquid or solid screen and the like.
    Last edited by nimitzbenedicto; 10th November 2012 at 05:25 AM.

  4. #4
    xpatUSA's Avatar
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Speaking more as a musician than a photographer, I have found that when you sit down and say I'm going to write a song - it never works. Inspiration cometh not. On the other hand, just plunking around on the guitar in a sort of Zen-like state often produces results.

    Not being a "real-world" photographer, I can't give any advice but nevertheless a scene will often catch the eye. So, it is likely that when you go out looking for stuff, it will elude you, in accordance with Sod's Law. In fact, the most striking scenes you see will be when your camera is elsewhere . . .

    Perhaps if you went out with just the vaguest of themes in mind. Like - today, I will shoot "texture" - the which can be found in fabrics, buildings, furniture, holograms, old geezer's faces, etc. The day after, "rolling hills" or "skyscrapers". Here in the country, I see a lot of "falling down sheds", cattle, horses, snakes, armadillos, etc.

  5. #5

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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    I have often felt like a "lazy photographer" when I would go out to and hope something will come my way. I also find myself thinking about the images I take and how will others like them. I really should be photographing for myself and not others.

    I like the ideas of going out with a theme in mind and shooting that. At least I would have some direction for myself. I believe it comes down to confidence. My next reading is, The Shy Photographer's Guide to Confidence by Lauren Lim.

    Erik

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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    While I’ve never had any desire to shoot professionally, even amateurs have exactly the same issue.

    1. I think this starts with pre-visualization, i.e. looking at something and mentally translating a three-dimensional scene into a two-dimensional image. Some people seem to have an inherent ability to pre-visualize while others have to learn this skill. This doesn’t guarantee success, but at least it gives you a reasonable chance of getting a good image.

    2. Scouting the area – whenever I go someplace, I will walk around just looking for things to shoot. Yes, I have my camera along and I will shoot, but generally, I will go back later and my shots will be better.

    3. Working the shot – once you have identified a potential image, you have to work it. Different camera settings, different focal lengths and different shooting positions.

    4. Good post-production skills – I have yet to see a lot of images that work straight out of the camera. A bit of tweaking in Photoshop or similar software is needed to take any image out of the camera up a notch.

    5. Good lighting – regardless of what you want to photograph, unless the lighting works, there isn’t anything you can do. Yes, there is fill-flash and you can try other techniques, but good lighting is the key.

    6. Good technical skills – unless you shoot a lot and are intimately comfortable with your equipment you won’t get that shot. I try to shoot at least weekly and if I am planning to shoot something special, I try to keep my skills up.

    I had noticed that when I travel, my work gets better later on in the trip. I now spend a few days or weeks before I go somewhere shooting so that I am on top of my skills.

    7. Luck – being in the right at the right time should never be underestimated. A good photographer will know how to increase the chance of good luck.

    8. Practice, practice and more practice - As Henri Cartier-Bresson said; "Your first 10 000 shots are your worst". In the digital age, a lot of people feel that this really should be your first 100 000 shots.

  7. #7
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    I think Manfred has just about said it all. Lighting is the key for me. When we are on holiday I tell the motel owner that when I sneak out before daybreak I will leave my wife behind but I will come back to collect her and pay the bill. Dusk and the setting sun has forced many a late dinner. My biggest problem is that the best light for photography is also the best light for fishing so I often need to carry two lots of gear.

  8. #8
    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    I rarely know what I am looking for first. The way I approach looking for things to photograph will be somewhat difficult to explain, it is a technique called walking meditation.

    When I go out to photograph I force myself to be open to the moment. As a matter of fact it is the primary reason I have taken photography up as a hobby. It allows me to drop all the garbage going on in my brain and just experience the world. My favorite technique is to stand motionless for five minutes in one spot and just look, hear, feel and smell. This is not to say you are shutting off your brain, you just stop hanging on to each sensation and allow them to flow. Once you get into this state you actually begin to see more and the interaction of light,colour and shadow becomes more apparent. When you see something to photograph, kick in the photographer mode of thinking ( aperture,speed,lens selection,in camera composition,exposure compensation and all that other stuff you have shot 10,000 to100,00 crappy pictures to learn as second nature; if you are just starting out then it all seems too complex for words but it will come if you are also thinking and learning what is and is not working in the picture you take versus what you wanted to take) and take the picture.

    I can set out with a goal in mind and a target location. Doesn't bother me a bit if I end up spending the entire time somewhere else shooting some subject that has caught my eye. I agree fully with what has been said by others, just don't forget to keep looking ALL the time and be open to what is around you.

    As for istock, I am a contributor and it is a great way to have someone cull your images for the technical stuff. They really don't mind what you shoot as a criterion for acceptance. If you are shooting flowers, kittens and common things then you will have to be exceptional to get accepted. Look at my portfolio http://www.istockphoto.com/search/po...942545#8bc336d and you will see I shoot some pretty idiosyncratic stuff that is not really marketable but probably because it is unique I have a good acceptance rate (currently about 72%). Good luck, it is worth the effort. If not financially; then as a learning tool.

  9. #9
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    I am certainly not a GREAT photographer who captures GREAT images. However, I always view the world in the context of what it would look like in a photograph. When I am driving, walking or flying, I am seeing possible photographs even though I don't have a camera with me.

    A lot of my shots are researched and preplanned. Some shots can be made, such as if you see a large sign advertising on a street (like an ad of a beautiful gal in lingerie) with someone (like an old lady in rags) walking by - or even better; looking at the ad. Finding this shot and preplanning would work quite well but takes strategy.

    When I view travel videos or view world events, I aways view them in the context of my being there and shooting them. In fact, I sort of classify places to which I would like to travel by the photographic opportunities they would provide. My desire to see stage or sporting events is determined on the chance of being able to photograph that event. I was thrilled that I could photograph the Tang Palace Dance Show in Xian, China. I had wanted to shoot a Chinese opera and in my research learned that there was a cultural site in Beijing in which I could have gone behind the scene and shoot the performers putting on their make-up. I did not have the chance to shoot this but, the Tang Palace show was a decent runner-up...

    capturing the image you want...

    I like to have specific types of images in mind when I go on a trip or when I attend some sort of event. Of course, lots of images are "off the cuff" and cannot be preplanned but I enjoy it when I am able to preplan some shots - even when I cannot get the exact shot I am looking for.

    Before I traveled to China on that two week tour, I knew that I wanted some specific shots. I got most of them to one degree or another. However, the shot I had planned was an early morning shot of a single person doing Tai Chi exercises in a park. I wanted a water (lake or river) background, especially with a typical Chinese building on the opposite shore. I wanted the shot framed by tree branches, especially trees like weeping willows. I did, because of the way the tour was set up, not have the opportunity to make this image.

    I also knew that I wanted a shot of a street musician and was able to shoot this gentleman in Xian.

    capturing the image you want...

    Unfortunately, I did not have the time I would have liked to shoot this picture. My recollection of the China tour was that of rushing from one site to another.

    Another shot that I wanted was of a young Chinese soldier guard in Tianammen Square in front of the giant portrait of Mao. I started shooting this and my wife started screaming at me that the tour was moving on (her greatest fear was to lose the tour). Thus, I did not have the chance to get this picture exactly how I wanted but, it came close...

    capturing the image you want...

    I wanted a very close up shot with a long lens which would have been almost a head and shoulders of the soldier with the portrait of Mao filling up the rest of thr frame. For that reason, I brought my 1.4x TC to China. Despite bringing a specific piece of gear, I didn't have the chance to get the shot.

    I was a combat cameraman in my earlier life and I often view newspaper images and news videos in the context of how I would have shot them.

    I am seriously considering a smaller camera which I can carry everywhere and every day. I want to be able to shoot the images that I see all the time. I am thinking of the Canon SX50 HS. Unfortunately this camera has not been out long enough to be available as a Canon Refurbished item which is the way I prefer to purchase my Canon Cameras. The previous model SX40 HS does not have RAW capture which is quite necessary for my needs. My wifes little Canon Elph 100 HS is a nice little camera at a wonderful size but, is not quite "enough camera" for my desires. However, in comparison to a full size camera such as my 7D and 17-55mm IS lSX50 HS the little Canon SX50HS is quite small and convenient to carry.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 11th November 2012 at 03:41 PM.

  10. #10
    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Quote Originally Posted by cichlid View Post
    What is your process to capture great images? Do you know what you are looking for first?

    Thanks,

    Erik
    If it's 4:00 pm and the sky has a bit of cloud, it's sunset time, and I know where I'm going - to the ocean to shoot the sunset.

    If it's a family birthday, I know where I'm going and what I'll be shooting.

    If I go for a walk in the park or downtown, I'm open to seeing literally anything.

    Some of us find this last approach easier than others. It takes effort and practice to "see" things.

    Two things are always on my mind - colours and shapes - either singly or together.

    I also use Richard's approach which is very good, but this takes time to learn and be able to practice. Manfred's point number two helps one to develop this ability - good advice.

    Glenn

  11. #11
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Can I also add, with all of the other great advice that's been given, I noticed in your original post that you mention you're attempting to sell photos and become accepted on iStock. It may be worth mentioning that what is considered 'good', and what sells on iStock are not necessarily the same things.

    Stock photography tends to be very posed, and deliberate, which is fine, but will negate quite a lot of the wonderful advice that's been offered to you above. You will never see any photos like the ones in Colin's post about the most awe inspiring shots of 2012, nor will you find any National Geographic shots on iStock.

    Maybe the destination to your journey is closer than you think. Maybe you're already capturing great images, just not great stock photos.

  12. #12
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    If I'm scouting for images I use an empty 35mm slide mount to isolate the areas of interest. I find it difficult to visualise without some sort of limiter.
    I've even calibrated my arm against my zoom lenses to get a sense of the focal length :-) .

    Ed

  13. #13

    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Photography is an art that requires a lot of mental thought be put into every shot. When you take a picture, you are really just capturing light. So you need to be able to pay attention to all your light sources and understand how they will interact with the mechanics of your camera. I am doing professional holiday photography in Dallas. Some good holiday shot opportunities will last only for few seconds. If you don’t have your camera in your hand, turned on, and set to reasonable settings you may miss it. So frequently double check camera settings and be ready to capture the image when the opportunity arrives.

  14. #14
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Quote Originally Posted by Sussex825 View Post
    I've even calibrated my arm against my zoom lenses to get a sense of the focal length :-)
    Hi Ed,

    Now I have this mental image of your arm tattood with focal lengths all the way up - now there's a photo/photoshop idea for you Erik

    Cheers,

  15. #15
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Quote Originally Posted by cichlid View Post
    What is your process to capture great images? Do you know what you are looking for first?
    I do two things to nudge the image in a direction that may produce a pleasing result. The first thing for me is to look to get images of things that interest me. It doesn't matter if it is architecture or landscapes or food, or even something with interesting patterns or colors. If I see something interesting, I use the steps the Manfred mentions above to try to capture what I see.

    Second, I constantly ask myself 'what if' questions about what I see. What if the sky was lighter or darker? What if I shoot from a higher or lower angle? What if I wait for a cloud to move. What if there was a motorcycle leaning into the curve on this road? The list could be endless and some 'what if's won't be practical (at least not at this moment), but the more options you can think about, the more chances you'll get a the opportunity to get that special shot.

    Hope this helps!

  16. #16
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: capturing the image you want...

    Quote Originally Posted by Sussex825 View Post
    If I'm scouting for images I use an empty 35mm slide mount to isolate the areas of interest. I find it difficult to visualise without some sort of limiter.
    I've even calibrated my arm against my zoom lenses to get a sense of the focal length :-) .

    Ed
    When I was a cinematographer, especially when I was shooting with extremely heavy camera/tripod combinations (I never weighed a 16mm Mitchell camera with a 400 foot magazine plus a Mitchell tripod and O'Connor 50 fluid head - but I would guess that the combination weighed in excess of fifty pounds and probably a lot more), I would use a "director's finder"

    http://www.ascmag.com/store/home.php?cat=337

    This allowed the director or cameraman to view what the scene would look like before actually going through the effort of moving and setting up the camera. It saved a lot of energy and probably quite a few cuss words.

    IMO, the popularity of live view LCD viewfinders are predicated on the fact that they take a three dimensional scene and turn it into a two dimensional view. Sort of a WYSIWYG viewing. I personally don't like viewing my imagery this way but, I can see how it might be attractive to some people. It is the only way my wife likes to shoot!

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