We love guest blog posts! Today’s awesome article on 4 photography lessons is by Jason Groepper. Jason is a great photographer from Maple Valley, USA and we are huge fans of his tilt-shift work. Do you want to write a guest post for our blog? Get in touch!
Thank you to Diana Tula and the 500px community for this amazing opportunity to share with you all. I am daily humbled and inspired by this amazing and talented community of photographers and creatives. I wanted to share with you all 4 lessons that have been important and transformative to me up to this point in my photographic journey.
#1 Forget About Natural Talent
We live in a society with a misconception that either you are born with artistic talent or you are not, and if you are not then you have no hope of being an artist. All of us are born with inherent strengths and challenges, and we most likely naturally tend towards our strengths. However, anyone can pursue any endeavour it just takes time and extra effort on your part.
I remember I was very offended a couple of years ago. When I was just starting out in photography my wife gave me “John Shaw’s Nature Photography Field Guide” as a gift. I thought I had a ‘good eye’ already and I wondered - Can’t she see my natural ability? Can’t she recognize my talent? Years down the road I’m glad that I swallowed my pride back then and actually opened the book. Shortly after I have purchased and read many books on photography, written by great instructors and photographers such as Scott Kelby, David DuChemin, Steve Simon, Chris Orwig and many others.
If I have improved at all during my photographic journey I owe it all to reading dozens of books on photography, shooting (constantly) tens of thousands of photos, and looking at millions of great photographs.
Getting better takes time and learning. If it were easy it would not be worth it. Jay Maisel once said that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term “the 10,000 hour rule” that refers to putting 10,000 hours into your craft to be a standout or outlier in your field. So don’t wait up, pick up a photography book in a book store or your local library, read it and take tons of photos. Thank goodness we live in a time where so much knowledge is readily available and most of it is free.
#2 Be Intentional About Everything
I started out in photography using my father’s Olympus OM-1. Every time I loaded a roll of film I had to set the ISO and for every exposure I had to manually decide which aperture and shutter speed I had to use. How I longed for a newer camera with autofocus and auto exposure! Yet, this was the greatest way to learn photography because I had to slow down and make deliberate choices on how I wanted my image to look.
Every modern digital camera comes with a [P]-mode (professional). This mode takes all the decisions out of the photographer’s hands and leaves it up to the camera to make all the artistic choices about your image. The problem is that you are smarter than your camera.
Your camera has no idea the mood or aesthetic that you want to achieve with your image. Only you do. What shutter speed do you need to freeze a race car? What if you want to pan to show movement? What aperture do you use to shoot a portrait so only the eyes are in focus? The answer is simple, your camera has no idea.
It doesn’t know which of these choices is the most important to you and it only strives for an accurate exposure which is currently in focus. If you haven’t already, take your camera off the [P]-mode and instead shoot in [M]-mode (manual).
Sure you will miss some shots, but what you’ll learn will vastly improve your future shots. John Shaw talks about a discipline in photography that “for every single one of your shots you should be able to say why you chose the particular lens, ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, framing etc.” Learn how all of those variables affect your image, practice that principle and see how your photography improves.
#3 Take Your Time
I am not a professional photographer. I have a “real job”, wife and kids so the time I can dedicate to photography is limited. In the past, when I went out shooting for myself I found that I was running all over the place trying to get as many keepers as possible during the short amount of time that I had. As you can guess, the results were a lot of mediocre images.
Now when I go out shooting for myself at least once a month, I try to take my time and invest this time into creating a few good images. I don’t rush as much because I know that I will go out again soon.
Shifting my focus to one or two really good images (instead hoping to get a 100 amazing ones in one go), I am more intentional about: the choices that I am making photographically, my framing and the moment that I release the shutter. Trying to “work my subject” as Steve Simon would say, which pretty much means shooting one main subject from multiple angles and in different ways over time. Taking your time and trying out different perspectives can result in getting great unexpected results versus image hopping from one subject to the next, and getting very similar photos.
I may come away from my photo shoots with fewer images then before, but if I have at least one or two that are great, they are worth far more than a dozen of OK ones. Choose one subject and spend your time photographing it from different angles, with different focal lengths and in different light. You will see the results and progress yourself.
#4 Most importantly play, make mistakes and have fun
Just do what the title says. Your best photos, your signature style, or your next favourite preset can come from an accident or what you first deem a mistake. So feel free to experiment and play, and don’t delete those “mistake” images until you import and see them on your computer. Have fun experimenting!
Thanks for reading!