It has been said for many years that the photojournalists’ creed is “f 8 and be there!” Interestingly, nobody knows who first uttered those words and applied them to journalism, but they remain pertinent, even today in the instant digital age.
Last week I used the photo I am using again this week, because it is such a good example of making your subject the “hero”. This shot was taken by an amateur in the UK and he could see that he had a great subject with Peter Fonda on the chopper from the 1969 movie Easy Rider which starred Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson.
The digital evolution has progressed to the digital revolution, and with each new “app” (how I dislike that contraction), the art of photography is being murdered. You can now get rid of warts, wrinkles around the eyes, grey hair, poor focus, wrong exposure and all the other factors that make for inferior photographs, and all with the click of a mouse. I’m sorry, but this is not “photography”.
One of my correspondents overseas brought an app to me attention. (Actually I dislike the very word “app” - what was wrong with “application”?) Now I realize that “change” is inevitable, but I have this more than sneaking suspicion that the “apps” surrounding photography are taking away “reality”. The “virtual” world is taking over. Soon there will be nothing that we can actually trust.
A good camera is an expensive investment. However, like many expensive purchases you can save a bundle if you look at second hand, rather than brand new. But is it worth it with photographic gear? I say yes!
If you ever see a secondhand book on photography - buy it! Sure it will have chapters on color photography as something ‘new’ and also home developing B&W pix in the bath tub, but there will also be some excellent advice on how to take better photographs.
Taking photographs is so easy these days that you don’t need an instruction manual any more. That is correct for 95 percent of the time, but not 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately.
There is an unfortunate concept that today’s electronic digital cameras will always provide you with great images. And the more pixels, the better. Unfortunate, because it just isn’t so!
Along with the advent of “selfies”, we also have the group photos at some event or other with a row of people all holding their thumbs up. No longer does this mean “good” it now apparently means “like” after Mr. Zuckerberg was allowed to massacre the English language with his pictogram.
If you read this column, then it goes to say that you want to improve your photography and get better pictures. While there are plenty of photography books for sale in the bookstores, most of those are of the genre, How To Photograph Crocodiles or similar. (The answer is with a very long lens, don’t bother buying the book.)
I have been asked, more than once, for a few easy ways to get better shots, so here are a dozen simple rules, which if you follow them, I will guarantee you will get better photographs. And get more photographic fun.
The first is simply to take photographs every day. Photography, like any sport, recreation or pursuit is something where the more you do it and practice it, the better you get. With memory cards and the like, it is no more expensive to shoot four as it does to shoot one!
The one major fault in most amateur photographs is taking the shot from too far away. From now on, make the subject the “hero” and walk in several meters closer to make the subject fill the frame.
Focusing! With modern auto-focus cameras the most obvious focusing problem is where the subject is off-center. The camera’s eye doesn’t know this and focuses on the central background, leaving your close-up subject soft and blurry. Focus on the subject and use the focus lock facility of your camera.
Tripods I have mentioned frequently, but one of these will expand your picture taking no end. Camera shake becomes a thing of the past, and you will take more time to compose your shots. Even a ‘mini-tripod’ is better than nothing. Get one.
Always carry a spare memory card. There is nothing worse than deleting on the run trying to get the shot of a lifetime.
Keep your interest and pride in your work by making enlargements of your better photos. This is very cheap and enlargements do make good presents at Xmas time too.
We all get lazy and it is too easy to end up just taking every picture in the horizontal (landscape) format. Make it a habit to always take at least two shots of each subject - one in the horizontal format and the other in the vertical. You can get some surprising results that way. Don’t be lazy - do it!
With color photography, which covers about 99.99 percent of most people’s pictures these days, the one major factor to give your skies and seas and scenery some color oomph is the use of a polarizing filter. Get one and use it every time the sun shines.
You will always miss some “classic” shots and regret it later, but you certainly will never get them if you don’t have a camera with you. With so many incredible photo opportunities in Thailand, you should be ready at all times!
To give your daytime shots some extra sparkle, use “fill-in” flash. Most new cameras have a little setting that will do this automatically for you - even with point and shooters. If you haven’t, then spend some time learning how to do it. It’s worth it when you see the results you get.
To give yourself the impetus to go out and take photos, develop a project and spend your leisure time building up the images. It can be flowers or fashion, cars or canaries, but fix on something and follow it through. Don’t do buses, because that’s my long time project.
Finally, at the end of every year, give the camera a birthday by buying it some new batteries. You won’t have a problem damaging the sensitive innards with neglected battery acid and the camera’s light metering system will work correctly every time. It’s cheap insurance.
Here is the list.
1. Take more shots
2. Walk several meters closer
3. Use the focus lock
4. Buy a tripod
5. Carry a spare memory card
6. Make enlargements of your better prints
7. Use different formats
8. Use a polarizing filter
9. Carry your camera with you
10. Use the flash during the day
11. Develop a project
12. Change the batteries
Get out there this weekend!