Friday, January 20, 2012

The Best Way to Improve Your Photography May be the Opposite of What You Might Think!

The Shuffle.

When we as photographers start looking at ways to improve our photography skills, we tend to look at our favorites and the selects of other photographers and try and deconstruct what makes those photos so amazing. That is a great practice, and I don't discourage that method.  I think it's important to continuously look at high quality work, if anything just to set some goals on where you might want to be.

However, in order to really grow from reviewing your own images, it might make more sense to review the work you don't like.  That's right. You read that correctly. It's easy to look at your good photos. In fact, sometimes I go back to them time and time again.  So while it may seem contrary to what you want to do, or what makes sense, start looking at your not-so-amazing-work. Then deconstruct those.

Why does one photo really work, yet the one before it doesn't seem to do it?

You know how it take a series of photos and pick a "Select" from that group.  They are all subtly different (sometimes not so subtly :) but why is one better than the other. What is it about the "others" that you didn't like.  Here are some things to look for:

  • Was it just a bad shot technically?  Did your combination (or your camera's decision) of shutter speed, ISO, and aperture not yield the right results for your situation.  This most often happens to me in low light situations, where I am in aperture priority mode, and have a fixed low ISO...and sometimes the shutter speed just goes a little slower than I need to get the right focus without blur. I might recognize it in one shot, and fix it for the next (maybe bumping the ISO or moving to manual and setting my bare minimal shutter speed for the focal length I happen to be using and either putting the ISO on Auto to let that be the variable or setting it entirely manually as well).  Sometimes its just a slight issue, that you don't catch during in-camera review, but shows up during post processing. 
  •  Was it the focus? Depending on the depth of field, this could drastically change the feel of a shot.  I'm not just talking blurry pictures from really bad focus or completely missed (although that does happen) but rather focus on the nose rather than the eye. Or focus on a foreground object rather than a background object.  Whatever.  Sometimes subtle changes in focus points can change the entire photo.  If I am not sure which will work best, sometimes I'll grab a few shots with varying focus points so I have some options in post. 
  • Was it the background? Too cluttered and/or busy?  Too colorful?  Not colorful enough? Too sharp?  Not sharp enough?  Only you can decide what background works best for the photo you are trying to make. 
  • Was it the composition? There are many compositional options that can really make a great picture stand out from an ordinary one.  Leading lines, rule of thirds, angles, etc, etc. Sometimes it's just a matter of nailing the right composition for that particular subject that makes the difference.
  • Was it the light?  Lighting is one of my favorite parts of photography. I love using light, and lack of light (aka shadows) to give depth and texture to a photo.  Was the light too hard? Was there not enough of it, or too much?  Did a shadow fall in a way that ruined composition?  There are all kinds of things to look at here.  

These are just some ideas to consider as you look at your photos to find out why you like some more than others. Once you start figuring out why you are tossing photos, you can remember those reasons the next time you shoot.  Now, repeat after me:  "Looking at good photos is GOOD for improving."  I am not saying to just sit and stare at bad ones, but it does surely give you a new perspective.  It may be challenging to figure out what's good about a good photo, but I find it sometimes easier to figure out what's not good about a not-so-good photo.

Your mileage may vary.

Have a great weekend!


No comments:

Post a Comment