“Photography is the simplest thing in the world, but it is incredibly complicated to make it really work.” – Martin Parr
Photography is quite simple indeed. You just need to aim, frame and shoot, and leave the rest to camera. Smartphone cameras wouldn’t have evolved if photography wasn’t as easy or as useful for people. And as a cause-effect chain, more and more people are taking up photography. Unlike early days that saw few accepting the errands of setting up the film, exposing it, washing it, drying it and collating them all prints, especially when the size of the negative was as big as the photo needed to be.
Digital photography has eliminated all of this. Yet the world of professional photography is not so easy to get into. You are either a pro, or nobody takes your photos too seriously. Even a good click ends up being tagged “co-incidence” or a “copy” of some well-known photographer. It is no different than the profession of acting where your photographs need to have their own special style and aura, delivering hit photos, one after the other.
This article gives you a five-pointer heads up for making your space in the pro world of photography.
- Select good camera (and gear)
Shooting with a DSLR is a delicious proposition in itself, and by pairing it with a range of lenses you can cover almost every subject in a professional manner. But gradually, you need to come out of your practice mode and see what it’s like shooting with a pro camera.
There are subtle details that you can then capture, pay closer attention to color and notice how it adds new dimension to a photograph. The full frame sensor cameras are a good example of digital technology reclaiming advantages of 35mm film, mated with better sensors. You get faster shutter to play with, wider frame to compose on and much more focus points to fiddle with the angle.
“It’s true that photography was equally grand when SLRs weren’t invented; but it has evolved with technology which holds the present, and definitely the future, of images.”
- But don’t focus too much on it
Camera and gear are important part of your photography journey, but your focus shouldn’t be on the gear all the time. Keep a buy once and shoot forever kind of mentality, unless your new camera brings in significant advances to your photography.
I have seen enthusiasts discussing too much about the camera, the lens that was used, camera settings or if any other gear that was required. It’s nice to have that information but it isn’t useful at all. A photo isn’t great just because it was shot with particular gear but a certain thought that kicked the photographer’s mind to press the shutter at that very moment and in that very frame. Not seconds later or earlier, not inches displaced. Off course it is his style and you wouldn’t want to make it your line of action. But what thought ingredients make a great photo is what you can learn and apply.
“Constant new discoveries in chemistry and optics are widening considerably our field of action. It is up to us to apply them to our technique, to improve ourselves, but there is a whole group of fetishes which have developed on the subject of technique. Technique is important only insofar as you must master it in order to communicate what you see… The camera for us is a tool, not a pretty mechanical toy. In the precise functioning of the mechanical object perhaps there is an unconscious compensation for the anxieties and uncertainties of daily endeavor. In any case, people think far too much about techniques and not enough about seeing.”— Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Get your bums movin’
I know of thoughts that pop up in our heads when it’s time to get out and shoot. I don’t have a defined genre; nobody is going to buy my photos anyway; my camera is so entry-level; so are my photos; I first need to learn all rules and da, da, da…
All of these may be true, but you aren’t going to get your answers delivered to your couch. Get out and click, almost every day. It’s not until you have some great shots to be proud of that you gain confidence to shoot more boldly and qualitatively. You learn in each frame.
Yeah, among other things, it is about being at the place and at the time when you can get the shot. When the shot turns out right, everything becomes right by itself. It’s easier said than done when I say grab that shot that makes everything right. But above all, what professional photographers do is be there. Let me share these two things that can help.
First, plan ahead with events that are going to happen, in or around your city and match them with the time when you can get good light (or there is enough artificial lighting). Streets and markets are the evergreen grasslands for photographers to graze upon, but events are a dynamic practice ground where you get bound to time and place.
And second, keep your camera ready for unplanned shots, whenever you can and wherever you go. This is also the very reason it is wisely stated by many photographers that you need to keep your gear light and simple. You never know which place can become “the right place”.
“Photography is about being in the right place at the right time.”
- Don’t wait for Assignments – create your own
Assignments are the straight and simple answer to the question – what do I shoot. A series of photos portraying a story is what magazines and publications are looking for; and believe me, are quite hard to find. And it shows that what you want to shoot is what your camera captures.
You may also define specific genres that attract you, but then again you might want to shoot everything and nothing in particular.
The solution is to start with shooting landscapes or inanimate objects like monuments, vehicles, food etc. Don’t waste your time and energy uploading every photo on social networks. Move on to street and portraiture. If you have already been shooting since long, tie yourself to a particular theme – like shooting kids with expensive gadgets; mothers balancing kids in one hand and groceries in another or two or more kids at once. It could be anything – girls with caps, men with choppy haircut, babies with dogs, geeks with glasses and a sports bike – weirder the better.
“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.”
- Analyze (your) photos
At the end of the day, you are the person who knows what all thought process has gone into making the shot. Many photographers just click for themselves until they are pros, many think that the world might not understand what they want to portray through their photos until they get an approving mentor.
With time, you become a kind of photo critic yourself, looking at other peoples’ work and comparing your own. You come to know what all elements should be present in a shot. If they are absent, it becomes a reject, head on.
You start to match the pre-shot feeling with the post shot analysis in retrospect. The more time you spend analyzing you photos, the better you will know which angles and frames can best work out to show what you want to show in various situations. And then your moment arrives. It may never come again, but now you see it with your heart and write it through the lens, making it eternal.
“When I go to a situation, I see something interesting, and I see the enormity and the size of it, and the complexity of it, and I say “Yes God, you’ve shown me this but it’s not enough for me.” So he says “Alright.” Then I keep walking, then he shows me something more complex and bigger. I say “Yes God, It’s nice. But it’s still not enough for me.” So I go on and on and I don’t accept it, and then he knows this child of his is very demanding and restless. And then he opens up and shows me something I have never experienced before. Then I take a picture and say “Thank you God.” Raghu Rai