There’s a notable enthusiasm for photography on the island, and part of that enthusiasm is a willingness to share. Wilkography starts off a new series of practical photography lessons by sharing Ten Tips and Ten Pics to inspire you on your own photographic adventures. Enjoy!
# 1 – Slow down
This is something I need to tell myself repeatedly and I am finally getting the hang of it. It is too easy to get excited when you are somewhere amazing and there is a good shot to be had. All the planning and information you had in mind goes out the window and you just want to start firing off shots without thinking about what you are actually doing.
Once you get home and put your memory card in the computer, your anticipation turns to disappointment. Things are not in focus properly, or you have returned from a three day hike to realise all those amazing images you captured are in lower quality JPEG format and not top quality RAW. You’ll now know how vital it is to take your time and get things done right.
# 2 – Plan ahead but be flexible
I am always looking for good locations and thinking about photo opportunities. Numerous times however, I have arrived on location with a fixed plan and ignored what was going on around me.
By following tip #1, I have learned that in landscape photography things hardly ever go as planned. In every change of circumstances another opportunity generally presents itself and it is up to the creative mind to try and make the most of what nature puts in front of us.
# 3 – Look at images from great photographers and learn from them
The online photo communities 500px and Flickr are places that I like to go for inspiration. By remembering tip # 1, I realised there is a story behind every image and a lot of thought and creative energy went into capturing them. Try to understand what the photographer went through, from conception to final editing, and then try to introduce these steps into your work flow.
# 4 – Invest in yourself
Sure, Youtube is great for self-education and you can learn nearly anything you want. However, the information can get confusing and you miss out on whole concepts. I recommend paying for online courses where you buy video tutorials created by great photographers. These courses will teach you much more and you can watch them multiple times.
Podcast are a great source of information as well. Improve Photography and TWIP (This Week in Photo) are two of my favourites. I listen to these whenever I get the opportunity and find that it opens my mind up to things I had not considered. I also keep up to date by learning about new technology as it hits the market.
# 5 – Join a photography group and meet other enthusiasts
Facebook is full of photography groups and clubs in your area. Get involved in these and meet other people with the same interests so that you can do all that nerdy camera stuff that annoys your partner or friends who turn off when you get excited and start talking about photography.
# 6 – Make mistakes and seek out constructive criticism
Let’s face it: photography can be very frustrating when you start out. If you are like me, the desire to produce really good images that you are proud of is going to take time and patience.
Be prepared to make mistakes because this is how you learn and it will help you to improve. Ask people for constructive criticism and use sites like Pixoto.com and the 365 Project to upload images and ask people for their honest opinions. It’s great to hear from Mum and Nan that your shots are great, but the feedback I truly value is from other photographers who are honest and polite about what they think of your shot and how it could be improved.
# 7 – Understand and practice composition
When you frame up your next shot, don’t forget tip #1! Think about the options in front of you and try to create images instead of just taking photos. Use the rule of thirds (balancing your composition in thirds rather than halves) and try to find interesting objects that can be used as your foreground interest. Look for natural lines that will lead the eye into areas of interest in your scene.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by a large landscape, make sure to take your time and get the shot right. Composition can be the difference between a good shot and a great image.
# 8 – Learn about light and understand how it affects the quality of an image
One of the most important things in photography is light. You can be a master of all the techniques in the world but if the light isn’t right the shot won’t be either. Once you understand this and learn how to make it work for you, everything will change and you will get much better results.
Everywhere you go, look at how the tones and contrast of what you are looking at are different based on light. Look at the colours that come from the morning and afternoon sun and compare that to the harsh overhead midday light. The nasty feeling of getting out of bed early to catch the sunrise will be soon forgotten when you realise you can capture the light show that nature puts on when most people are still wrapped up in bed.
# 9 – Learn how to use editing programmes
Get a copy of Lightroom and Photoshop which are (and this is only my opinion) the best tools for editing available. There are many opinions on editing and I think it is all about personal preference. But inevitably there will come a time when you will compare your images with others and wonder how they get the results they do.
It’s called the digital darkroom and personally, I think editing is great fun. It’s a lot to learn, but the results and rewards are many. It can seem daunting, but if you start early and keep trying you will be glad you did. I recommend Serge Ramelli and also Adobe Lightroom’s channels on Youtube to start with as they are great for beginners. When you become more experienced and efficient, there are people like Chip Phillips, Ryan Dyar and Tony Kyuper who do advanced landscape editing courses that you can buy online.
# 10 – Enjoy yourself and don’t let it all get to you
Photography is fun and you should do it because it makes you happy. I took on photography at a stage in my life where I needed change and was going through some serious soul searching. It has given me the motivation to go places, see things and meet people that I never would have and other people never will.
I have a much stronger appreciation for our planet and how precious it is since taking up photography. My love of the Tasmanian wilderness has grown quite strong and I am of the opinion that it should be preserved and treated with utmost respect. I don’t think enough people realise what we actually have here and how close it has come to being destroyed by the arrogance of a few.
I am a much healthier person both physically and mentally just from picking up a camera and looking at life differently since doing so. I feel fortunate to have a passion that I will carry with me through life and then allow me to leave something behind when I go.
One of the most influential people in photography for me is the Tasmanian photographer Peter Dombrovskis. He summed it all up when he said:
“When you go out there you don’t get away from it all, you get back to it all. You come home to what’s important. You come home to yourself.”
I have written this article with the hope of helping people who are new to photography. I consider myself to be an advanced beginner and the advice I am offering comes from important things I have learnt and mistakes I have made.