Thursday, November 09, 2006

Five Heavenly Habits

Ok. so I told you what not to do when presenting work, for a little different spin, here's five things you should do.

1) take the picture you want,but once you have it recorded, ask yourself what makes it worth shooting, and is there anything you could do right now to make a shot that makes that thing come across stronger in the image. The feature might be a shape or tone, a wonderful shadow, a terrific colour, two objects that complement each other, something that stands out as different from everything else in a scene. It could be the smoothe texture of water, the roughness of bark, the weight of a rock, the delicacy of fine leaves. You could move in, move back, get on your belly, stand in the water, wait for better clouds, use a polarizer, blur the background or whatever. Shoot the second shot and make some notes so you can learn from your experiments - some rethinks will work, others...

2) Instead of looking about at random for a masterpiece photograph to jump out and say 'shoot me', try instead to look at what is interesting about where you are and simply set your sights on doing the best job possible of creating an image that illustrates this feature of the landscape. Here I'm talking about the landscape feature rather than a shape or colour. It could be that you are walking along the edge of the river - so the question is how best to show this river. You could be walking along a valley trail looking up at high peaks and your goal would be to give the impression of that grandeur, the height and majesty o the peaks. Trust me, you won't miss a masterpiece shot this way and you might just find one and in the mean time improve your skills so that you can take advantage when the great opportunity does come along. I never did have the patience to go out shooting for 3 hours and not take a single photograph - I like the process of using a camera and for me that is very important. Rather than shooting a series of random less than stellar 'would be' masterpieces, treat the time as an exercise with a specific goal.

3) After you have worked on an image to your satisfaction and made your first print, ask yourself if you haven't gone over the top - this could be too much contrast, too dark, too saturated colours, burning that looks like burning, too tight cropping, etc. and if the answer is yes, don't be afraid to save the image just in case and go back to the original (the image at the top of the history pallete in Photoshop) and start all over, or even reprocess the raw file if need be.

4) when taking photographs - ask yourself if you aren't being a bit lazy - should you really be using a tripod but didn't bring one, didn't scout the area as well as you might, didn't put much thought into the composition but simply centred the pretty thing and hoped the rest would somehow work itself out (ir rarely does). Did you wait 15 minutes for the wind to die down, are you absolutely sure the lens you have on the camera is the best one for this image? Give yourself a mark on effort - ask yourself how much skill you brought to bear in taking the photograph and do you think you deserve to be paid for any image resulting. Chances are that if you are not proud of your effort, the results will be less than stellar.

5) Do you have an effective backup system so that when your hard drive fails (not if, WHEN), you will be ok? Are your negatives stored in a way so that you can find a single image 5 or 15 years from now, not just next week? Trust me, that takes a whole lot more effort. Over the years I have become a much better photographer, but there are some images from my early years that still stand up to scrutiny and deserve to be seen. It's not enough to burn your images to DVD, you need to be able to lay your hands on that dvd, painlessly.

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