HOW TO: TAKE BETTER PHOTOGRAPHS...

Introduction

These days it seems the word “Professional” has come to mean not only status of employment but also an indicator of artistic quality.

This is fine when it comes to defining your employment status, but problematic when it comes to defining quality, because if “professional” indicates quality of both work and attitude, then “amateur” must mean the opposite.

“Professional” has absolutely nothing to do with quality of work or attitude to the business.

How many “professionals” take bland photos [lots and lots] and how many times have so called professional photographers given their customers less-than-satisfactory service? [you hear about it all the time]. So being able to call yourself “professional” really does NOT accurately describe anything other than your employement status.

To imply otherwise is just perpetuating a myth.

Which leads to my second point in this introduction…

So many artists describe themselves as “just an amateur photographer” or “only an amateur photographer”.

WHAT???

What the hell does your employment status have to do with anything? To use the words “only” and “just” only makes it worse, because it implies that you as an artist are somehow less because of your employment status.

You are an artist, stop saying you are not good enough simply because you don’t belong to that rarified breed that actually make a living from photography.

MOST “professional” photographers are commercials photographers – they are not art photographers. The number of professional photographer who make a lot of money is very very small – even Auntie Annie [Annie Leibovitz] can barely scrape by these days and she is arguably the most famous commercial photographer in the world today.

As for professional art photographers… geez, I can only think of a few. They are so rare that they are almost statistically insignificant.

  1. How often do you hear someone say “I am only an amateur painter”?
  2. How often do you hear someone say “I am just an amateur Graphic Designer”?

I am gonna cyber bitch-slap the next artist that describes themselves as “only” or “just” anything, ok.

Photographers have to stop this stupid degradation of themselves and their art by the ridiculous use of the segregational terms professional and amateur.

Both of these words have no other true meaning other than to define your employment status, any other meaning is simply a gross inaccuracy.

Employment status aside, you can and should have a “professional attitude” towards your work, and I think that is more important than calling yourself “a Professional”.

These words are divisive and elitist and have no place in the heart of an artist.

You are an artist. It doesn’t matter what job you have.

For some really cool links about this subject CLICK HERE


How to take better Photographs

How do I get better at my art, and how do I take better photographs?

Well, I would ask you : “better than what, – better than other photogs, or better than you do now?”

Firstly, stop comparing yourself to others. If we compare our work to others, we might as well give up now and throw away all our equipment, because frankly none of us will be like Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovits, Herb Ritts, etc.

So, stop that rubbish right now.

Secondly, to be better than you are now. That is a great and noble cause.

There is no single simple answer to how to get better at taking pictures. Allthough I once asked Ruby Spowart [Australian Master of Photography] pretty-much what you are asking now, and her answer was this:

“The only way to learn to take better photographs, is to take lots of photographs.”

I was a bit annoyed at that. I thought of all the people I knew, surely she would know the “answer”. But ultimately she is correct. Art is not about suddenly becoming better. It is a lifelong progression. I hate the word “journey” – it is so cliched.

Uncle Ansel once said that a photograph says more about the photographer than the subject. To look at this another way – Your art reflects you as a person, as you grow – so does your art.

Look at the Front Page of the PC&A Group – have a look just under the group name, what do you see?

You will see four little words: TEACH – INSPIRE – LEARN – EVOLVE

I added these words to our group some time ago. They are words that I try to live by every day. I often fail, but the point is to try. If you keep going, don’t give up, always strive to achieve these goals, then you will grow as a person, and your art will grow with you.

TEACH

We all have within us knowledge that is unique to ourselves.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, or what stage you are at, we all have a responsibility to pass this knowledge on to those who want to learn from us.

INSPIRE

If you love your art, if it moves you on an emotional level, if you consider yourself to be an artist, then share this passion freely. Inspire others to be more than they are, Inspire them to love their art as you do.

If you inspire others, then it is a two-way street. Your inspiration becomes theirs, which becomes yours.

There is no greater joy than sharing your passion in life and seeing others become excited about what they do too!

LEARN

No matter how much you know, you just don’t know it all, and you never will.

Never ever stop learning. Consume everything you can find about [your] art.

I can’t tell you how many books, magazines, websites I have devoured over the last 15 years. I still do. I will never stop. I read about techniques, equipment, styles, inspiration, anything at all. It is all knowledge, it all makes me more than I was before.

Speak to other artists, in person or online. Learn what makes them tick. You don’t have to be like them, or do what they do. Just take whatever works for you and integrate it into who you are.

Study the work of artists you admire. Look at how they compose their images. Look at how the light transitions across their subjects. What do you like about their work? What don’t you like? … and most importantly – Why?

To understand your own work, you first have to learn to understand it.

I have a tool that I use to understand any image. I call it THE PHOTOGRAPHIC CRITIQUE GUIDE – while it isn’t the last word in image assessment, if you follow this guide and ask yourself how each of the criteria applies to an image, you will eventually learn to do it automatically. Then you will learn to look at your own art in the same way.

EVOLVE

Do you know the meaning of life? I do, and no – it is not 42!

The meaning of life is to evolve. To be more than you were before. To be better than you were before. [Not better than someone else because that is a pointless exercise]

To evolve means to constantly grow, to strive for more, little by little every day.

Never give-up your dreams. Take baby steps and tomorrow you will be more than you are today. Evolution is not a goal, it is a way of life.

I have a piece of art I created with some words that mean a lot to me. They are the distilled knowledge from years of studying philosophy, eastern & western religions, psychology, and listening to people who have been there before me…

LEARN TO LOVE THAT WHICH YOU FEAR.
DO THE THINGS YOU HATE DOING.
SEEK THE BEAUTY IN ALL THINGS.

As much as I hate inspirational postery-things, I created these three simple lines to remind me of how I want to evolve.

  1. Become more than you are – learn to love the things you fear, and they will no longer own you – you will own them.
  2. Become more than you are – Do the things you hate doing, and you will become a stronger person for it.
  3. Become more than you are – Seek the beauty in all things. Everything has an aspect of intrinsic beauty that is unique to that thing. Search for that beauty in all things and you will always have the joy of discovery.

In conclusion, there is no simple answer. There is no “one thing” that you can apply.

When everyone starts out, their work is naive, derivative, and cliched. You should have seen the stuff that I took when I first started… oh god, that stuff will never again see the light of day. But it also had a freshness and innocence that I can no longer replicate because now I am more aware of me trying to achieve something rather than acting on instinct.

But it is what it is. We all start somewhere.

It takes years to develop your own style, hell it might even take decades. That is just the way it is. Its trial and error, it is learning and failing.

The trick is to keep going, keep learning, and don’t stop because you feel you are not getting to where you want to be as an artist. You never will anyway, because as an artist you should always want more.

If there is one thing that I believe in about being an artist it is this:

Be bold, be daring. If you think that other people will think it is a crazy idea, if you think that other people will think you are being stupid, – then do it because that will set you apart from the crowd.

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