Photography is a continuous learning process. Even at the professional level, photographers are experimenting with new processes, new techniques and even shared knowledge to improve their images. To become a pro usually means that the photographer has spent some time as an “apprentice” to a well established pro shooter. However, you can get there on your own, with the help of books (something I wrote about a few weeks ago).
The impetus for this week’s column came from the rock concert during the Burapha Bike Week. This was the real deal in rock music, with our local musicians playing with a current international (Guns ‘n Roses) guitarist (but not Slash, I am sorry to say).
Now stage photography can be quite a specialized art form, with many stage acts having their own photographers who tour the world with them, just to get those iconic shots of the stars performing on stage. However, you can do just the same though on a smaller scale.
There is only one totally accepted way of making a small fortune out of professional photography - and that is to start with a large one.
However, even amateur photographers can make some money with their cameras, but they have to understand the marketplace first. It is no good trying to sell a beautifully exposed photo of hydroponic tomatoes growing to a magazine called the Pig Breeder’s monthly.
“You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” was an advertising slogan coined by George Eastman, the founder of Kodak in 1888. He was the rightful father of popular photography, having brought it to the masses. However, the images were not of a professional standard. That came much later.
We would all like to turn the clock back, and for more than just cosmetic reasons. There are those people in the world who have been exploring the technologies of yester year, and in the 189 years of photography there have been plenty of technological changes. And I include the digital evolution, but there were plenty of technological breakthroughs before that.
Are your photographs coming out grey? No really strong blacks or whites any more? Black cars turning out as grey cars? White cats turning into grey cats? Could be your whites are not balanced properly.
If you are keen on photography as a hobby, then as well as a decent camera (generally a DSLR with a range of lenses) you will have a decent camera bag! That bag should be large enough to carry the aforesaid camera, lenses, and a few other items, some of which are important, and some just part of a wish list!
Very soon we will be coming up to 200 years of photography. Everything about photography has changed remarkably in the past 175 years since Louis Daguerre went on to develop the daguerreotype process, the first publicly announced photographic process, which required only minutes of exposure in the camera and produced clear, finely detailed results. It was commercially introduced in 1839, a date generally accepted as the birth year of practical photography. In the mid-1820s, Nicéphore Niépce had managed to produce an image, but several days of exposure in the camera were required and the earliest results were very crude.
“When all else fails - read the instruction manual” is always some very good advice, and the answer to many photographic problems can be found in it. However, this does pre-suppose you have read it, or even know where to find it. And even more importantly, know where to find the salient items from all the functions of today’s digital cameras.
When you speak the word “digital” it means you have entered the world of the drop-down menu. How I curse it! They have taken simple rotary dial adjustments and made them difficult because you have to scroll down menus and then scroll across and so forth, looking at the LCD screen on the back of the camera.
Of course, it can get even more difficult, as when the instruction manual that comes with your new camera is on a CD. The CD covers over 100 pages, and of course, is quite useless when you are in the field without a PC or any electronic device that can read CD’s (so far this ability is not available on the ubiquitous smart-phone).
Now the camera manufacturers don’t think they are making it difficult for you. In fact, they think they have made it easier for you! Instead of working out the correct exposure for any shot, they have done the sums for you and all you have to do is select the mode you want, be that fireworks, rainy overcast day, or snowflakes. But you may have to go through the drop-down menu to select the mode of course.
But, a printed manual generally comes with the new camera. Do not lose it. It is akin to your bible. But you must read it first before traipsing outside with the menu for sunset beach selected. Look at that again - read it first.
A few years ago, one of the readers, Don Griffith, wrote to me with some very good advice, for a confused amateur who had written, “I have trawled through the instruction book and menus for both turning it on and also extending the viewing time of the menus but I’m damned if I can find anything about either items.” He had also written, “A question though, I know most of the time it is power economical to leave the LCD off but occasionally it is needed for viewing. Any suggestions?”
I reprint Don’s advice here. And as it was extremely sage advice, so I suggest you read it. “I have a D40 and probably the instruction manual for it is exactly the same as a previous writer. Very badly laid out and confusing - vague language and far too many cross references for someone making the transition up to a DSLR to make total sense of.
“To this end it is very worthwhile investing in a third party book on the camera if one wants to get the best out of it.
“I got one from my local ‘Amazon’ - the beauty of using Amazon being I was able to read parts of it before I bought it to make sure I was not buying yet another confusing instruction book. I bought the cheapest available out of a surprisingly large collection that was on offer - and it has been a complete revelation and consider it has totally paid for itself in the first three or four chapters.
“For example, I have had the camera for 12 months and in the first chapter or so I learnt basic things that I was previously unaware of - like how to use the exposure compensation/aperture button.
“No doubt there are owners of other makes of DSLR cameras with much the same problem - if so it is also worth them looking for a book for their camera as well.”
By the way, when children play with the camera, you can end up with the situation, for example, where nothing on the LCD makes any sense, no matter what you do. The answer for that problem is to return to the shop and look hopeless, and the bright young thing behind the counter will fix it in less than one minute. Unfortunately, you and I are no longer “bright young things”.
I have kept thousands of photographs I should have thrown away - however, they do have a value. They teach me what I did wrong, several times over!
Looking over many of the shots showed me that I took a lot of shots of almost exactly the same things. One wrong shot was repeated over and over again, as if I expected God to come and fix the photo for me. He didn’t.