On this month’s addition, I think it’s important to talk a little about some of the things that you should look out for, some don’t do’s, and some absolutely never-in-hell should you do’s. A few of these may seem elementary or obvious to you, however you wouldn’t believe how often I see amateur shooters committing many of these mistakes...
One of the difficult-to-cure diseases in photography is the dreaded gear head syndrome, where one feels like they need a ton of awesome, ridiculously expensive gear to become good at it. The truth is that a talented photographer can typically take a strong shot with an ancient throwaway film camera, with no bells or whistles loaded into its feature menu. My point is to start slow, buy the absolute necessities – a camera and 1-2 lenses (THAT’S IT!) – and as you grow and hone your style and expertise, then you can slowly purchase new equipment that you will THEN take the time to master as well, before moving onto the next big, shiny, beautiful piece of metal, glass, or plastic.
Don’t copy, copy, copy
I must contradict myself with this point, as I think it’s a good idea to ‘copy’ another photographer’s work, BUT ONLY to learn how they accomplished a certain shot or style, however don’t mold yourself into being a copycat – no one likes that guy. Learn all of the styles that interest you, then mold into your own natural style of photography – one that fits your eye and your art.
Shoot with focus
One of the major technical issues that most newbies make is they are soft on the focus in their image. It’s okay to play with macro lenses and close focus shots, where the background or immediate foreground is pushed out of focus in the shot, but it’s DEFINITELY NOT okay to have shots that are entirely soft. Take your shots as sharp as you can make them – for later when I talk about post-production and editing, you will be able to have all of the detail of your scene available for manipulation. For if you’ve taken a great shot, but once you zoom in a bit and see that there’s actually no real detail, the shot is worthless, because you will not be able to successfully manipulate it, nor will you be able to produce prints of the image.
A few points to procuring the sharpest shot possible is to shoot steady, either put your strap around your neck and pull against yourself gently to steady yourself, or shoot on a steady object (For example: tripod, monopod, gorilla pod, sandbags, etc). After each shot, it’s important to use your screen (for digital cameras with LCD screens) to zoom in on the image, so that you can make sure that you nailed the shot correctly.
No one likes an over-editor
Editing in post production can be fun and can yield interesting and unique results – as you can see from my own work, everything goes through some post editing work. However, it goes a dime a dozen for how often new photographers publish work that has been extremely over-edited and destroyed. I do encourage playing around in Photoshop (or other editors), for the point of learning how the tools work and how they can be applied successfully in the future to IMPROVE (not destroy) one’s work. Just because your photo editor application has cool color effects and unique looking antique borders doesn’t mean you should use them on ALL or ANY of your photos just yet!
Don’t call yourself a photographer ...yet
The point here is to not become too confident or cocky – continue to ask for the opinion of others, as accepting criticism is a huge importance in the development of a photographer. I joined a few online groups and got my butt whooped for a year until I had developed my work into something worth while.