Musings of a London based photographer
Shooting with film to teach you discipline with the amount of shots you take.
The immediacy of digital cameras is both a blessing and a pain. It allows you to shoot hundreds, potentially thousands of images without being limited to the constraint of 24 or 36 shots. You can get a bit snow blind to be honest if you don’t have the time to review and cull some of the images, and when it comes to post production, you can be like a deer in the headlights wondering which ones to keep. The one with the building slightly to the left, or slightly to the right... So, buy a film camera and shoot with film as lots of people have advised me to teach me to shoot more succinctly? I like the idea of this, but it's not for me. The idea of buying another camera, learning its idiosyncrasies, getting the film developed and then scanning it in. Will it teach me discipline to shoot within a set amount of shots? No. I can do that myself on my DSLR. I've tried it and done it. I don't romanticise technology. It's a tool for me. I'd like to shoot film at some point, but only because it's something I haven't done.
Pitfalls of Social Media
Not getting influenced by social media into thinking you are the next David Bailey or on the flip side getting discouraged that everyone thinks you are a rubbish photographer. It’s a side effect of social media. So, you put up a photo and get tons of plusses or likes and loads of comments. You could obviously be an absolutely stunning photographer, or you could be really quite an average photographer, but are a great person who has managed to get a lot of people following you that really like you for who you are. Not necessarily your photos. It's important to keep a critical eye on your own work and not get carried away when people tell you that you are a fantastic photographer. And you could be a great shooter, but if you don't engage with other people and just expect them to tell you how great your shots are, generally your online friends won't hang about very long.
Buying a camera
If you are anything like me and do most things at a very sad 'terminal intensity' level (even shopping!), buy an intermediate camera just above the baseline beginner level. Buy a dummies book for the camera, and buy something like Scott Kelby's Digital Photography Boxed Set, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 and feel a bit swamped for a while as you dive into this brave new world of digital photography. I'd rather have a camera I have to grow into learning what it does (if you can of course afford it!), rather than outgrowing it and being annoyed at its lack of performance as I grow as a photographer. If you are picking things up and rarely sticking with any of them, beginner camera all the way and feel your way from there.
Asking people to critique your work
Now this is a tough one. You post something public and ask to be critiqued. You'll have a sensory overload if you do this. You'll have George in Nebraska that likes to shoot cats (as in photography not from the bell tower) and thinks your shot of Tower Bridge isn't friendly enough even though you were going for the moody and overcast look. You'll have Warren from Wapping who thinks you should have shot it from behind the bridge (because Warren has never been there and doesn't know that where he wants the photo taken from is the middle of the Thames). Or Pete. Pete is the most beautiful landscape photographer but he can't drop down to a level where you know what the hell he is talking about. Or even Derek. You met Derek once and he smells of anchovies and was a Stones and not a Beatles fan and so you disregard his views. Even though Derek clearly knows what he is talking about!
If you want to be critiqued and not confused, form a list of who you trust and ask for their opinions. Tell them what you were after capturing and/or achieving with your post processing work. Someone once told me that if the focus of one of my shots was one degree over to the left more it would have been a better shot. I kid you not.
This quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson kept me shooting
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
It made me remember to get good at most things takes time and photography is no different. We are swamped with amazing pictures daily and when you aren't shooting anything that you feel isn't in anyway comparable can be dis-heartening.
I'm not a fan of really over processed HDR, horror pics, etc.
Who cares what I or anyone else thinks? If that's your bag and you really dig it, ignore the people that don't like it and shoot what makes you happy.
Don't know the lingo and feel like a goof sometimes as people bandy about terms like family of Angles, lens diffraction, etc?
You'll pick it up as you go along. There is nothing more satisfying than shooting better shots than someone who is a complete git, knows all of the buzzwords and looks down on you. When they ask what your settings are, tell them you turned the dial to one of the pictures and said cheese....;)
Meet other photographers
Shooting on your own is all well and good. It can clear your mind no end, gives you time to listen to your music and can generally relax you. Talking and being around other photographers made me grow as a shooter though. And to be fair I always have a good time when I shoot with my peers or new shooters alike. They may know things you don't and vice versa. I've learnt absolutely loads from other shooters, and I hope I've managed to pay some of it back to the newer shooters I've been around.
Backup, backup, and backup
People don't backup enough. Lots of shooters just backup locally to an external drive. It's a good first step but that’s all it is. The first step. What if you get burgled? If your PC and everything around it gets stolen or you have a a hard disk crash you could be up the creek without a paddle. So, look into cloud backups. There are lots of good cloud encrypted backups. An agent runs on your PC and ascertains what is new, etc, and pushes it up to the cloud storage space. Some services allow you to ship them a drive, and then you sync everything up between the cloud and your PC once they confirm they have put it all into your account. Others you just have to upload your library of images from scratch. Sure it takes a while to upload your entire catalogue. It's an inconvenience. My first upload was 410 gigs. It took about three weeks. I put my money where my mouth is. It would have course be much more than just an inconvenience to lose all of those precious images though... For reference I use www.crashplan.com (it’s about $40 a year)- I don't get a referral or anything like that, it's just the service I use and there are plenty more out there.
You can meet lots of interesting people on photowalks. Don’t be shy and attend a few.
Want to get better at photography?
Shoot more. Process more. Learn how your camera works in certain lights. Mess about with the settings while you are sitting indoors watching TV. Take pictures of the food you are cooking, your cats, kid's toys. Tilt the camera a little here and there. Just shoot. You don't have to keep the shots, but you will get annoyed enough by some of the shots as they are okay actually but just slightly off enough for post processing to not be able to help because you did not know enough about your camera to eke the most out of it. If only you'd pushed the ISO a bit more, or shot it with a lower F stop. Or you find out you can actually shoot handheld at 1/60 and things are still sharp! You’ll only remember these things out in the field if you do them enough.
Want to get better at an aspect of Photography?
Read about it and shoot. Unless it's something really, really left field someone will have written a book on it. No point re-inventing the wheel with the basics. You can redefine that aspect of photography once you have the fundamentals down!
Don't be a dick if someone doesn't like your shots - to paraphrase Wil Wheaton
You can't please everyone, nor should you try to. That way leads to mediocrity.
Kit envy We all have a bit of kit envy in us. Until you can afford it, love the one you're with (we are just talking about camera gear here btw!)
Get a sturdy camera bag
If you brought it after reading this and have dropped your camera in it's bag and it survived, you’re welcome. If not, you’re carrying about kit that costs a fair whack of money. Don’t skimp on a kit bag. The £40 and upwards you spend on a reasonable bag is nothing compared to the £600 you spent on that camera body. If I'm going to drop it in a bag, I at least want that bag to be fairly well padded and therefore giving it more of a chance to survive.
Things to bear in mind Spare memory cards and lens wipes Carry more than one battery if you are out for a while Be careful where you shoot. If you must shoot somewhere that is a little sketchy, take out your headphones so you can hear what’s happening around you. And don’t flash your kit around