Monday, September 27, 2010

Tech Talk Tuesday

Part 1:  Encouragement for Beginners
Stephani asked me for a few 'words of wisdom' on how to become a better photographer.  As I was writing an email back to her I realized that I get lots of similar questions and I usually have the same first response. So I thought I'd write it here as well. For those of you who've been around awhile this will sound like a broken record (hmm, I guess that phrase is really outdated).... anyway, this is for you newbies who might benefit from my answer.

Hi Stephani,

Just a follow up to your comment on my Phun Phriday post asking for some ‘words of wisdom’.  I don’t think my words will be particularly wise, but more practical, and a bit boring.  For me, it all comes down to time, practice and persistence.  If you are willing to do these three things, I know you (and anyone) will certainly improve by leaps and bounds as a photographer.   Even those of us with limited natural abilities, can ‘learn’ to develop their creative side.   Probably 80% of everything I do, I learned from someone else.  That leaves only 20% for originality and creativity.  I got into photography later in life, after my kids were older, so I had a bit more time to devote.  So here’s what I did and still do.  I first got a decent camera, then read the manual.  I went to my local book store and bought several books further explaining how my particular camera works.  (If you have a popular camera, these books are readily available.)  I studied all the features of my camera, practiced until I understood all of what it could do in addition to just pointing and shooting.  Then I read every book the library had on photography, and purchased some new ones as I could afford them.  Now I have all sorts of books from learning general photography, to specialized ones on lighting, exposure, portraiture, how to shoot landscapes, etc.  Then the internet came along and I discovered if I spent some time, I could find almost limitless websites, blogs, etc. teaching just about every aspect of photography.  I find out about well known and new techniques, both for general photography and editing.  I find and follow the blogs of great photographers.  I study their photos, I read their tutorials, then I practice, practice, practice.   I am active in local camera clubs, and got on the mailing lists of camera shops and clubs that sponsor guest speakers and classes for little or no money.   Years ago I discovered Photoshop Elements and that changed my photography dramatically.  I realized that not only did I love to take photos, I loved the artistic side of seeing what I could create in post processing.   

I know there are those who are truly gifted, and can pick up a camera and within a short time create spectacular images.  That’s not most of us, and certainly not me.  For me there are no short cuts.... just time, practice and persistence!   Believe me, if you saw some of my early attempts at photography, you’d really have confidence that everyone can improve!!  Hope I’ve given you some encouragement.

Happy shooting,
Thanks for asking Stephani. I'm honored that you would find my opinion valuable; and, for everyone reading this, check out Stephani's great blog Picture Window.

Part 2:  Critical 'equipment' for photographing children


Here is an image from tonight's photo shoot.  This is my beautiful daughter and her beautiful handsome family!

  From this point of view you'd think taking this picture was easy ..... smiling, cooperative children holding still while grandma fiddles with the lighting, her camera settings, until she finally snaps the shot.  Well not true!  If you are thinking of specializing in family and children's portraiture, there is one essential piece of 'equipment' you MUST have.  And that is an assistant!  But beware, not just anyone who calls themselves an assistant will be able to get the job done.  It is essential that your assistant have multiple and unique skills and abilities.  This person must be in good shape because a lot of physical labor is required such as running up to the children to wave a stuffed animal, feather boa or other interesting item in their faces then racing out of the picture so the photographer can take the shot.  She must be proficient at blowing horns, ringing bells, and conducting a puppet show on the photographer's head.  She must be quick witted in order to make up silly games on the spot, think up and execute unusual noises and sounds that will entice children to look at the camera.  She must move quickly and have good upper body strength and stamina to chase, pick up and carry a 2 year old back to his spot at least 100 times in one hour.  She must be an entertainer, a comedian, and a disciplinarian.  And most important, she must be someone the kids adore!!!  And I have the perfect assistant that does all of the above, even when she's 5 months pregnant!!  This is my wonderful daughter-in-law Michelle.  I've decided if she ever moves too far away to be my assistant I will just have to stop taking pictures of children!  She is always willing to help me, and believe me it is work.  She is exhausted when we're through, but I honestly could not do this without her.  Thanks Michelle!