The more you know (about great photography) the less pictures you take?

Started 10 months ago | Discussions thread
Dennis
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In reply to trale, 10 months ago

trale wrote:

Over the last couple months, I've been watching "The Grid" series of videos put out by photoshop guru Scott Kelby and his pals.

I tried watching a bit of it ... ads, self promotion, chit chat ... got bored before I ever saw a critique.

  • Good lighting
  • Good time of day
  • Interesting location
  • Interesting subject
  • Good composition
  • The right moment
  • Interesting perspective
  • Eliminating distractions
  • Good post processing

That's all fine & good. But how are you going to recognize any of that stuff when you see it ? Unless you get in the habit of putting the camera to your eye, how are you going to learn to translate what's in front of you into two dimensional rectangles ? How are you going to learn how a contrasty scene is going to look when captured by whatever sensor is in your camera ? How are you going to learn how to track a moving subject, how to anticipate action, when to press the shutter ?

The more I shoot, the better I get. Each new thing you want to shoot has its own learning curve. And then if you don't do it for a while, its own relearning curve.

All the top photos on sites like 500px invariably demonstrate many (if not all) such elements.

What's your goal ? Is it to get thumbs up on sharing sites ? If so, then this kind of advice is helpful. But if it's to get good shots of something you personally care about, then you need to spend time practicing that kind of photography. Learning how to light it if you're going to light it.

For one, now when I revisit some of the photos I've taken in the past - photos that I was once very proud of, they now look mundane.

That never goes away. You're almost always doing your best work now and the work that was your best work a couple years ago looks inferior in comparison. That's a sign of continuous growth.

The other drawback is that I feel less inclined to take photos over-all.

Garry Winogrand is quoted as saying: "I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed." Now I'm not a huge Garry Winogrand fan. But I think I'd listen to his advice before Scott Kelby's. Scott is a commercial photographer. He photographs to make clients happy. So whenever I have my camera, I find things to shoot. Things I know I'll delete after I look at them. Just to see how they look. How something looks in 2D. How much contrast there is in the file versus what I saw with my eyes. How much motion blur there is at 1/30s. Whether I can get a steady shot of something at 1/15s. I practice panning. Tracking.

If you watch enough of The Grid, you get the sense that if you don't happen to be at an interesting locale, with an interesting subject, at just the right time of day (near sunrise / unset), you might as well not bother taking out your camera.

I advocate spending less time watching The Grid and more time shooting. Anything.

One thing they do emphasis over and over is that your gear (price of your camera) is NOT one of the crucial elements of a great photo. I suppose this is to encourage those with entry-level DSLRs and the like. That's fine, but when they suggest "you gotta go to the right spots" which invariably means travel costs, the cost of gear seems to pale in comparison.

As for the "right spots" ... remember, it's the right spot at the right time. You can't compete with guys who spend a lifetime at the right spot. You can spend a week in the southwest. You won't get a single shot to match what Tom Till is producing. Not only does he live there, he's out for days on end, shooting early in the morning in places you couldn't reach without spending the night in a tent. Nature photographers have understanding (or angry) families because it's not an 8-5 job. You're better off finding your own subject. Find something you want to shoot rather than something that gets likes on 500px.

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