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My Photographic Journey

Follow My Faltering Steps Towards Halfway Decent Images... Someday

old destroyer at Priddys Hard

I like taking photographs. Maybe it stems back to living in Hong Kong in my early teens and borrowing my Dad's Peafowl SLR to take pics of the amazing Hong Kong skyline from Stonecutters island. Maybe it's the magic of taking a snapshot and after having it developed thinking, wow, did I take that?

So I guess if you asked me what my perfect job would be, I'd reply photographer. I'd like to earn my living through the lens. Now I know that this isn't going to happen, but what I want to do is take better pictures, enjoy them with others, and maybe sell a few through sites like istockphoto.com.

I've got an OK start for an amateur. My new Fujifilm S5700 / S700 camera is capable of good quality shots and has a lot of the control of a d-slr. I've got a tripod (£6 from Asda - bargain!) I've got Photoshop CS (can' t afford the new one). I've got Scott Kelbys Digital Camera Book to point me in the right direction. I've got my Flickr account to share photo's, join groups, take part in assignments and learn from others. I've subscribed to loads of Photography Podcasts. I buy Photo magazines and books. So what next?

Well, obviously I need to practice, and although the Pro's often poo-poo the "rules of photography" I think they're a great way for learners like me to visibly improve their techniques and photo's.

So here's what I've picked up so far as being important:

  • Take as many pictures as possible. Digital is free.
  • Use a tripod. You'll get much sharper images. (This is so true. If I take a tripod out I get very few fuzzy shots if any at all).
  • Use your camera in aperture priority mode where possible so you can control the DOF Depth of Field to focus interest on your subject.
  • Use a manual white balance to avoid colour casts.
  • When shooting animals give them plenty of space to exit the frame.. (An empty space in the picture in the direction they're heading.)
  • The rule of thirds. Imagine the picture has three equally distant vertical, then horizontal lines breaking it up. Put the subject of your image on the intersection of these lines. Put your horizon on either of the horizontal lines. In portraits put peoples eyes on the top horizontal line.
  • Shoot landscape at dawn or dusk for the best results.
  • Landscape pictures should have a foreground, middle and background to draw the viewers eyes through the picture. Lines can also be used to enhance this effect (like railway tracks or a fence).
  • Always take pictures from a different perspective than you see normally with your eyes. (Get down low!)
  • Look for opportunity to take Macro shots, but still follow the rules.
  • Robert Capa's rule: If you photo's aren't good enough, you're not close enough. I think this means that the interest is in the detail, not the whole picture. (Although he was referring to going in on the First wave to Omaha beach on D-Day, not taking snaps of the familly pet.)
  • Black and white images help to focus the viewer on the subject of your image without the distraction of colour. (The Purple Neck-Tie Rule).
  • Bin pictures on your camera before you upload them to PC, it's quicker.
  • Garbage in, garbage out. Don't spend ages trying to tart up a poor image in photoshop.
  • Take part in group discussions and assignments as much as possible, this way you force yourself to get better and learn.
  • Take as many pictures as possible. Digital is free.
  • Use a tripod. You'll get much sharper images.

So how am I getting on? Check out my Flickr account for progress and please post comments about how I can improve my pictures. Thanks in advance!

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