First some history and my ideas on photography: I took an elective art photography course my sophomore year in HS in place of Computer Science and I fell in love. I continued to practice with photography into college, during my Photo 1 course I was told by my faculty that my technical skills were well-developed but she didn’t care for my modest subjects. But it is in the subjects and the style of the photograph you see the photographer.
Photography is the art of preservation. In 1/150th of a second, time stands still. A moment, so short is preserved.
Cameras: I learned photography on an old manual Canon that my mom had. It took 35 millimeter film (if you youngsters know what that is!) and was mostly manual, you could set it to Automatic, but the quality isn’t the same. For my 16th birthday, I didn’t ask for a car. I asked for a camera, a Nikon 35 mm. I used that camera through the rest of my time in HS and in College. And it still works great. For Christmas 2008 I asked for a Nikon DSLR D60. It was a modestly priced DSLR with all the goodies one needs to produce good digital images. However, just because you own one of these DSLR cameras put it on Automatic and point and shoot does not make you a photographer. Being able to change the settings for a more dramatic look, knowing the technical side of photography, knowing the history behind the art and science that makes you a photographer. I also own several Brownies and a few medium formats, one of which I feel is in working condition, minus the fact that the light meter is out.
I learned photoshop by myself in the comfort of my home with a book. I honestly know enough to get by, but I use photoshop for a lot more than making flowers that are red, yellow and erasing wrinkles. I use photoshop the way I used the enlarger in the darkroom in HS. To enhance the image taken. Sometimes this means cropping and adjusting lighting, burning and dodging. If I have to do more than 5 things to an image in photoshop, I should have done something different technically. But that is me, I follow a few photographers on Twitter and FB and they are good but I feel overall people are doing too much post production and not enough inside the camera. (ie technical skills)
I feel this way because I learned photography on film, not on an SD card. I learned to develop my film and images in a dark room. I learned if I didn’t roll my film back, I risked ruining my photographs. (which I did once and I felt so sick to my stomach) Post production is part of the process of photography not the entire process. Technical skills matter, to me at least. Knowing to to work your camera manually will not only allow you a more creative way of photographing but it gives you full control of the machine. To control all your settings and compose your subject gives you the artistic presence and mind to create a unique image.
Recently: When in my College photography class we had an assignment to photograph a random object given to us in a brown paper sack as we left class. When I got back to my dorm and opened my bag, I was given a wooden carved mill-work piece. It was random and I had to get creative in photographing it. If your interested in portrait photography, make sure you try other types as well. Trying different areas of photography will give you ideas and encourage you in your interest as well! (example: I love architecture and interiors photography but I occasionally dabble in portrait and fashion photography. It keeps me on my heels!)
I photographed the Fashion Show at Baylor (for the 2nd year in a row). I use all manual settings,especially with the dark room and bright lights on the run way. I give myself (and the model) about 5 feet that I can photograph in. If the model is not in the space allocated for them (ie the last 5 feet of the runway) then I cannot get a good image of them. The lighting is so different from the back of the runway to the end, that If I shoot them as soon as they appear then they are dark or blurry. I also tell the director of the show there is to be no flashes by people photographing in the audience, this may seem rude but when you have tuned your camera for specific lighting and then someone uses a flash. Most likely your image is now over exposed. (Don’t worry I got lots of evil looks after she told the audience that one!)
It is highly recommended that you manually focus each image. But I don’t know about you, but I have a real hard time focusing with out a blur line. Like in the older film camera with the circle and the line through it so you knew when your subject lined up perfectly in the blur line it was focused. They have gotten rid of that, and my eye sight isn’t that great. I have to be honest here, I use auto focus. There I said it. But without a blur line I have a very hard time focusing. I can do it but only if I know my subject isn’t going to be going anywhere for a while…
Tips on improving your photography skill:
1) you need to do a lot of reading. Research photographers online, find styles you like and practice them. I remember the first time I did a sun burst, after seeing images and reading how to do it. I was so so excited and have somewhat perfected it. It is an art form to say the least. Read about the history of photography, learn about photographers and how they achived the look and technical side of their photography.
2) practice makes perfect. take your camera with you! even if it is a point and shoot, you can still get quality images. Just use your technical skills. (read your manual while your reading all that up there, it will help!)
3) if you want to get your name out there, offer free or discounted photo shoots. Trust me people like free and discounts!
4) continue learning. go to workshops. talk with other photographers. keep reading!
“It is easy to take a photograph, but it is harder to make a masterpiece in photography than in any other art medium.” – Ansel Adams