DIY guide to improving your photography, part 3

Nowadays just about everyone owns and uses a digital camera. So in essence (almost) everybody is a photographer. However, some of us consistently take better pictures than others. This is not necessarily because some are more talented than others, but simply because some folks have acquired more knowledge and better skills. For those who want to improve their photography, I have put together a list of 12 tips that have made a positive impact on my development as a photographer. 

I previously posted part 1 and part 2 of my DIY guide to improving your photography. This is part 3 of that guide. It contains tips #9 to #12. 

9. Be an active member of the Flickr.com community. This is a recommendation of Trey Ratcliff of www.stuckincustoms.com with which I wholeheartedly agree (even though Trey is not very active anymore on Flickr). On Flickr you’ll interact with other  photographers. By comparing your work to the work of other photographers on Flickr, you’ll get a good idea of just where you are in your development as a photographer. Being exposed to so much great and diverse photography, will play an important role in the development of your own unique and personal photography style.

10. Shoot and process pictures on a regular basis. Photography is something you do. The only way to perfect your skills is to actually shoot pictures and process them on a regular basis.

11. Immerse yourself in photography culture. This might sound strange, but simply put: read photography magazines, visit popular photography websites, read popular photography blogs, follow photography news, keep track of photography rumors (i.e. gear rumors), read gear reviews, follow the career’s and work of photographers you admire etcetera. It comes down to this: when photography is an important part of your life, you cannot help but grow as a photographer.

12. Have fun learning photography. Not all aspects of learning are fun, but if you are not having enough fun learning photography, chances are you will give up. Because of this, you should try to have as much fun as reasonably possible. So for example, if you don’t like a particular instructional photography book you are reading, try getting another one by a different author; you might like it better and as a consequence actually get through the whole book.

Let me know what you think of this guide. If you have any other valuable tip that I have not mentioned, please leave a comment.

DIY guide to improving your photography, part 1.
DIY guide to improving your photography, part 2.

 © 2009-2011Elgin Zeppenfeldt. All rights reserved.

DIY guide to improving your photography, part 2

Nowadays just about everyone owns and uses a digital camera. So in essence (almost) everybody is a photographer. However, some of us consistently take better pictures than others. This is not necessarily because some are more talented than others, but simply because some folks have acquired more knowledge and better skills. For those who want to improve their photography, I have put together a list of 12 tips that have made a positive impact on my development as a photographer. 

I previously posted part 1 of my DIY guide to improving your photography. This is part 2 of that guide. It contains tips #5 to #8.  

I’ll post part 3 of this guide soon.

 

5. Study the type of photography you are interested in. Tip #3 (see part 1) was about learning the basics. This tip is about learning techniques specific to your area of interest. If you’re interested in learning landscape photography, I highly recommend that you read a recently published instructional landscape photography book. If you’re into macro photography, read a recently published instructional macro photography book. I could go on, but I am sure you already get it. These books will –building on the knowledge you already have- teach you the necessary techniques specific to the type of photography you’re interested in. Like I said in tip #3, there is lots of information freely available online. However, you’ll find that there is less specialized information available online, compared to basic information about photography.   

6. Study image composition. Some say that composition can’t be taught. Don’t believe that rubbish. Anything can be taught; composition is no exception. There are well known reasons why some images are so fascinating to look at, while others, often depicting the same subject, are a total bore. “The Photographer’s Eye” by Michael Freeman, published by Focal Press, is by far the best work on this subject that I have read to date. I highly recommend it.

7. Always shoot in RAW format. A jpeg image looks much better than a RAW image, coming straight out of the camera. This is because jpeg images are fully processed by the camera, based on the camera’s built in presets.  RAW images on the other hand, are uncompressed, unsharpened and contain more information than jpeg images. As a result, a RAW image is much more flexible and forgiving, when it comes to processing it. The downside of shooting in RAW is that RAW files are larger than jpeg files. You also have to use a RAW converter to convert RAW files to a usable file format (tif, jpeg or psd). Adobe Camera RAW (ACR), which is built into Photoshop (Photoshop CS5 is currently the industry standard), is a pleasure to use and is currently my RAW converter of choice.  

8. Learn how to use Photoshop to process your images. An important concept to understand is that there is no such thing as an unprocessed digital photo. Your camera will always, even if you shoot RAW, to a certain extent process the images with its “one size fits all” presets. These presets will not –and cannot- take the specific characteristics of any given image into account. As a result these built in presets rarely –if ever- get the most out of an image. More importantly, these presets will never fulfill your artistic vision. Because of this, I cannot stress how important it is to learn how to use Photoshop. Take creative control of your photography: learn how to process your images properly.

DIY guide to improving your photography, part 1.
DIY guide to improving your photography, part 3.

© 2009-2011Elgin Zeppenfeldt. All rights reserved.

DIY guide to improving your photography, part 1

Nowadays just about everyone owns and uses a digital camera. So in essence (almost) everybody is a photographer. However, some of us consistently take better pictures than others. This is not necessarily because some are more talented than others, but simply because some folks have acquired more knowledge and better skills. For those who want to improve their photography, I have put together a list of 12 tips that have made a positive impact on my development as a photographer. These tips are given in random order.

1. Get yourself a serious camera. At the time of writing this, a digital single lens reflex
camera (dslr) is the standard among professional and serious photographers. I am not saying that you need to buy a USD 3.000 camera. An entry level dslr, costing about USD 500, is all you need. If you can’t afford one, use whatever camera you can afford, but do start saving for a dslr.

 Why do you need a dslr? There are 3 main reasons for this: (1) a dslr as a rule will have better image quality than a point and shoot camera, (2) a dslr gives the user a lot of creative control as almost all settings –if need be- are customizable and (3) a
dslr can be used with many different lenses; you can change lenses literally within
seconds.

However, as important as it is to have a good camera, you must not allow yourself to become fixated on gear. While most photographers love getting new and (supposedly) better gear, the reality is that if your photography sucks while using an entry level dslr, it will also suck when using an USD 8.000 professional level camera.

2. Use a tripod whenever possible. The use of a (sturdy) tripod not only helps keep the camera steady when taking pictures, which results in sharper images (no blur due to
movement of the camera), but it also allows you to fine tune the composition and/or exposure to perfection, all the while waiting for the perfect light. Simply put, when you don’t have to worry about holding the camera steady, you’ll be able to focus all your attention to the task of creating the image. That being said, in some types of photography, for example bird photography and/or portrait photography, the use of a tripod is impossible and/or inconvenient.

3. Study the basics of photography. Face it, you will have to build at least a basic
understanding of exposure, built in light meters, depth of field, light(ing) and composition, if you are ever to consistently produce beautiful images. There are lots of good books out there that will do the job. Get one that was recently published (you want to make sure you are not reading outdated stuff) and read it. Once you’re done with it, go through it once again as this information will be the foundation your photography is built on. I can wholeheartedly recommend Exposure Photo Workshop by Jeff Wignall, published by Wiley. There is also lots of information freely available online. One of the best online resources is www.digital-photography-school.com. Their articles for beginners are found here. While just about all the information you need can be found online for free, this free information is usually found in bits and pieces. And herein lies the problem with relying solely on the internet for your photography education. Because of the fragmented nature of the information available online, gaps in your knowledge of the basics will most likely occur.

4. Learn to use your camera. The perfect time to learn how to really use your camera, is while you are working on tip nr. 3. Learn about how to change the aperture, shutter
speeds, ISO, exposure modes, white balance, light metering modes, auto focus
modes, etcetera. You need to get away from the fully automatic exposure
mode(s). Learn to use Aperture Priority (Av) and Shutter Priority (Tv) exposure
modes, instead of the fully automatic exposure  mode(s). Most people will quickly develop a liking to Aperture Priority, which is also my personal preference.

Look at it this way, only when you fully understand your camera and you can confidently operate it, will you be able to take creative control away from your camera, by opting not to use the fully automatic modes.

DIY guide to improving your photography, part 2.
DIY guide to improving your photography, part 3.

© 2010-2011Elgin Zeppenfeldt. All rights reserved.

Dead Coral

I just posted this on Flickr.

I shot this a while back. On this particular day nature was not cooperating with me. The sky was a serious bore. Not wanting to come back home empty handed, I started looking for opportunities that did not include the boring sky. There were more than enough to choose from.

Some people call this type of image an “intimate landscape”. Others call it an “inner landscape”. In any event, this type of photography has its place in landscape photography. The great David Ward excels at this type of photography.

The key to capturing this image is shooting it when the water is flowing back to the ocean. Wave’s coming in, crashed over this piece of dead coral rock; the same waves flowing back to the ocean, flowed around the rock. The use of a telephoto lens is also important, as it isolated the rock from its cluttered surroundings.

Canon EOS XSi
Canon EF-S 55-250 IS
4 seconds at F11
ISO 200

Processed in Photoshop CS5.

© 2009 and 2010 Elgin Zeppenfeldt. All rights reserved.

Flickr Upload: Plateaus

This is my latest flickr upload.

A very effective strategy when shooting the ocean, is to capture the movement of the water, especially when this movement is very dynamic. In this image the movement of the ocean was captured by using a 1 second exposure (achieved by setting an aperture of f32). As for composition, this image shows that even when using telephoto’s with relatively long focal lenghts, 250 mm in this example, finding an interesting foreground element to anchor the image, remains important, unless of course you can fill the entire image with a single element. Another compositional element used in this image, is a leading line created by the plateaus. This line slowly leads the eye deeper into the image.

Canon EOS XSi
Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS
1 second at f32
ISO 100

Processed in CS5.

© 2010 Elgin Zeppenfeldt

Flickr upload: Arms wide open

 

This is my latest Flickr upload. It was shot at the Bird Sanctuary near Eagle Beach and Palm Beach, Aruba. Click on the image to see a larger version.

As so often happens, I was shooting something else and when I turned around, I saw this behind me. The simplicity of the scene reminded me of the work of Spanish great, Alonso Diaz a.k.a. alonsodr on Flickr. This is quite a simple scene. The composition is based on converging  lines and symmetry. Balancing the image so the channel appears symmetrical, is crucial in these types of images.

Canon EOS 7D, Canon EF-S 10-22 USM, 1/1250 at F5.6, ISO 100.

Processed in CS5.

© 2010 Elgin Zeppenfeldt. All rights reserved.