I recently gave a presentation at Shoot The West, a great photo conference held each year in Winnemucca, NV. The title of my talk was ‘beyond the snapshot’, or in other words, some techniques and guidelines to create better images. Some photographers in the audience asked me to summarize these points, so I thought I would mention a few of the points here.
1. Why are you taking this picture? Asking yourself why you are really taking an image focuses your vision and photo technique to capture what attracted you to the image in the first place. If it is a strong graphic element, then compose your shot highlighting this aspect. Maybe it is a person’s expression…do you really need all that background, or is it better to get close to their face so the viewer can feel the joy or sorrow of the moment.
2. Find the fresh perspective. We have all heard this, but how many of us just stand there with camera in hand and take the shot? Maybe crouching down for the image aligns with a better background and interesting perspective. How about shooting through vegetation, against a tree or from a hotel balcony? Don’t get stuck to your tripod, move around and find the fresh angle.
3. Wait for the right light, or create your own. We all know photography is about the light. Getting up early is the right time for warm, rich light…almost every scene looks better in this warm light. Shadows are longer, texture is evident, and beams of light surprise the early morning photographer. Don’t like your light, then create your own. Try using a reflector for fill light, or a speedlight off-camera to produce an interesting portrait. Today’s photographer has more advanced lighting options than ever. The rock climbing shot above was done using three speedlights in TTL mode, quick and easy.
4. Embrace technology. Every new camera or flash that hits the market seems to have new features and modes, some that significantly help a photographer get the shot. I can shoot low light portraits in a market at ISO 3200 and get great shots, something that would have been impossible not that long ago. Image stabilization continues to improve, allowing me to hand hold at shutter speeds of 1/15. My new D4 creates a time-laspe movie right in camera, a brand new feature. Know what your camera can do, and use it to your advantage.
5. Get out and shoot. If you really want to go beyond the snapshot, then you have to make a lot of them before you can go beyond that point. Shooting consistently will refine your technique, clarify your vision and eventually define your style. Instead of being overwhelmed when you step off the plane on your next photo adventure, you will crouch down and shoot the local vendor from a fresh perspective. You’re ready to go, just keep on shooting.