I get a decent number of emails every week from people who have visited my website, Facebook page, YouTube Channel, etc and want to connect with me about photography. One of the questions I get asked most frequently is about improving one’s photographic skill and creative vision. The question comes phrased something like this: “I saw your photograph of XYZ and thought it was great how you composed the shot and the colors. How did you get the experience to get photographs like that? Is there a particular piece of kit (camera or lens) you would recommend for me to get photographs like that?”
I’m always humbled and normally somewhat embarrassed by this question. Humbled because every artist appreciates hearing praise for their work - there is so much that goes into a photograph that you can’t appreciate seeing just one print and the recognition is very rewarding. Embarrassed because I don’t have a spectacular answer…. “go buy this lens and you’ll shoot like me” isn’t how this works.
The best answer I can offer you is that the tool you need is between your ears, it just needs some training. We need to teach our brain and eyes to think like our camera; the camera can NEVER replicate what your eyes and brain see (especially since you see things with the help of other senses). So we must learn to use the camera to get as close as possible to what the eyes and brain see and then use tools like Photoshop to finish the process. Sometimes that means we need to think for the camera, and sometimes it means we need to understand what will translate well into a still photograph. I’ve taken many photos that I thought would be keepers when I clicked the shutter, but never translated the way I wanted - there was a disconnect between eyes, brain and camera.
So how do you train that? Practice. Like anything else, you need to practice with your brain, eyes and camera so that they work together, not against each other.
Here comes the common response: “I can’t afford to take lots of travel to practice shooting”
You don’t need to. I frequently conduct “experiments” in photography that you never read about on my blog or see on my website. They are ways for me to try a new technique at home, without spending a dime. For instance, yesterday I got the idea to try and do some black and white macro shots of one of my guitars to see what sort of interesting shapes and textures could be pulled out. I am quite pleased with the results, but more importantly, I learned something along the way. My eyes, brain and camera spent some time working together and that practice will help me sometime in the future. It’s all about improving creative vision - the ability to make all those things work together to deliver a fine art photograph.
Next time you’re in a creative slump or if you just want to practice some new techniques, here’s some ideas for things you could shoot around the house and that might turn into fun photoshoots:
- Take some food out of the fridge and try shooting it in such a way as to make a familiar object interesting.
- Borrow a toy from your child and stage it around the house in interesting scenes
- Ask your husband / wife/ friend to stage for a photo shoot
- Try to pose your pet in their "natural habitat"