Photography Home

    Why photography?

    Believe it or not, this is one of the most common questions I get asked.

    A lot of people think, photography is merely the act of pointing a camera at something and pushing a button. While that is part of it, there's a lot more to it. Just like driving a car is more than turning the ignition, there's the aspect of skill. Compare a first-time learner driver to a Formula One driver... and you get the difference between what these two "drivers" are capable of. Fortunately, "good" photography isn't as exclusive as Formula One. In fact, the cheapest (new-ish) cameras today are light-years ahead of the gear famous photographers have used in the past. Yet, most modern day happy snaps fall short of photographic masterpieces. You might wonder why.... because photography is easy to do, but great photography isn't.

    Alternatively, some of the more pretentious "arty" folk think that photography isn't an art because it lacks the requirement of fine motor skills of other art forms like sculpture, painting and drawing because you don't make something from scratch. Ok, so I'm a passable sketcher, and an ok painter (although I don't practice much these days) but I like the challenge of Photography because there's a lot of work that goes in before, during and after the shot is taken.

    Photography means different things to each photographer. It might be a form of creative personal expression to one person, or a reason to get out of the house and see things to another, or it might be a tool to share, educate, inform or entertain to someone else, or to those professionals out there, it might be a way to pay the bills. To me, photography is a fun way to capture moments, appreciate some of the amazing things I've seen, as well as do all of the above things.

    Sunset photographer silhouette

    I come from a long line of artistic people. My mother was an Art teacher, my grandfather shot photos with his prehistoric Nikon and got great results right up until he couldn't do it anymore. I have painters, musicians, sculptors, architects in the family dating back nearly 1000 years. I suppose I got the bug when my grandfather accidentally dropped a tripod on my head, so to make up for it (or buy my silence), he gave me a few photography lessons. This helped me to take photos of inspirational artworks, just so my mother could incorporate different styles, and artistic mediums to her classes.

    My mother would never have let me live if I couldn't draw to at least a passable degree. However, who has the time to draw/paint/sculpt a scene when they're on holidays? Not I! So I use the photography in a combination of my tech-head ways, with my mother and grandfather's eye for details to photograph things I find interesting.

    Photography is fun, and I'm proud of many of my shots. However, many people spend huge sums of money on equipment when all they need to do is invest a fraction of the time (and cost) into learning the basics which would improve their shots far more.

    My objectives for this photography section of my site:

    1. Provide a place to show some of my shots.
    2. Create a place to answer FAQs (frequently asked questions) so I can enjoy social gatherings without it turning into a lecture.
    3. Give basic advice aimed at helping you to get started, take the next step, and to save you money and/or heartache.
    4. Direct you to books, videos, and other helpful sites that I've found to be clear, concise, and well worth the time to read. 
    5. Photography is also a great way to show my activities, jazz up this site, so it's nice to have yet another excuse to shoot some more pics.:-)

    So where should we start? By debunking some erroneous preconceived notions.

    Myth 1: The dominance of the "three techs": technology, technical knowledge & technique.

    Look at any photography magazine, web site, photography conference, or even photography books, and you'll see these three themes over, and over, and over... again. The ever-improving technology photographers use, the insane amount of background knowledge some "experts" have, and of course the tips and tricks to "improve" a photograph taken in any number of common situations.

    Now, don't get me wrong, it's definitely great to have shiniest gear, tons of technical knowledge to drive it, and some "tried and true" means of getting "the shot". (As if there's one "best way" to take a shot.. don't believe that nonsense). However, isn't it simplistic...  or worse yet, limiting?

    Where is creativity mentioned? Where is self expression mentioned? Where is the intent behind taking the picture in the first place?

    Here's a better question: "Why aren't these things mentioned?" Now there are many opinions, but I genuinely believe that it comes down to three reasons:

    1. That "creativity", "goals", and "self expression" is different for everyone, so it's difficult (if not impossible) to teach using a one-size-fits-all method.
    2. There's a great deal of pressure/motivation to sell the three "techs" in the form of gear, information, and courses which can easily be taught to the masses using the delivery format of choice.
    3. Constant change. Let's face it, intentions, creativity, and expressions aren't just static ideas. People change their approach based on mood, experience, expertise, training, dealing with unexpected situations, and an unending list  of factors beyond that. If you express yourself as a child today, will you express yourself similarly in 35 years? Of course not!

    The "techs" are a means, not an end. They're general guidelines, not universal truths. Honestly, no one can tell you how you can best take a photo. But we can help you to get better results, and encourage you along your development as a photographer. Then you can go your own way and help others to do so.

    Myth 2: Spending more money on gear alone leads to better photos.

    There is no correlation whatsoever between the amount of money you have, and the development of skills.

    The exception is when you have earned that money using that particular skill set. However, that assumes that people aren't likely to pay you a lot of money unless you do a good job. That said, if you make jelly beans for a living, you're not spending the time learning and gaining experience with taking photos day after day.

    The number of people who waste thousands of dollars buying "the best" gear when they've got no intention of reading the camera manual, let alone learning "the craft" of photography is astonishing. Don't be like these people. However, when these people finally realize that their gear is going to waste, and they want to sell it.. you can get some pretty amazing deals on Gumtree, local classifieds, and even eBay.

    Instead of buying the "best" gear, it actually often makes sense to do the opposite and start with older, cheaper gear. You won't have all the fancy features, so you'll learn about problems, as well as how to deal with them. This translates to significantly improved skills when you do get "better" gear. It also means you haven't spent much money should you decide that you're not that interested in photography. These last few sentences may well save you enough money to travel with your cheap camera and get some really exotic shots. However, remember what is mundane to you is probably exotic and exciting to someone living elsewhere on the planet. Personally, I'd make sure I'm comfortable with the gear before I travel so you don't miss a potentially expensive opportunity to get nice shots.

    In short, getting better at something, generally requires actual, honest-to-goodness effort. <Cue shock and horror here.... or complete lack of surprise>. Of course, effort doesn't have to mean boring. Think of it as the four P's of success:

    1. Prepare: Know you and your gear are ready for the shoot to avoid discomfort, disappointment, and distraction. Appropriate food and clothing for you, batteries, clean lenses and adequate memory cards for the camera are all part of the battle. However, learning about when, where, and how your subject will behave in interesting (and safe) ways wildly increases your odds of getting a good shot.
    2. Play: Mess about, tinker with settings, have fun! "Push those buttons", and see what they do! Take photos of things that are interesting to you? Do you like cars? animals? food? boats? fishing? travel? hike way off the "beaten path"... take photos of whatever you like. Now here's the interesting bit. Once you've taken some shots, and looked at the finished product, ask yourself: "How can I make these pic look better if I could take it again?"
    3. Persist: Preparing and playing are key, but it's all for nought if you don't keep it up. Start a project to shoot the same thing a differing times of the day, or year. It might be on your way to/from work, or where you walk the dog on the beach. Shoot it in different ways, at different shutter speeds, or with different lenses, or from different perspectives. The more you use your gear, the more you'll find your style, interests, and methods.
    4. Publish/Print: Many photos get taken but then never see the light of day. This is a dead-end, and a waste of time. Publicize your pics by sharing them online (Flickr, or Viewbug, are just two options). If that's too "public" show your photos in your house on an electronic photo frame) I recommend this because it gives you a chance to look at, consider, and monitor your own progress. Printing is another way to do it, you can take it to local photo shops, Office Works, K-Mart, or Big W. Many will even print books, on canvas, as well as your usual paper sizes. There are online printers like Momento and AsukaBooks that allow you to arrange the photos into professionally bound books, which they then print and send to you. They look great on your coffee table, or as a momento from a wedding or trip.

    Myth 3: With so much technical "stuff" photography is "hard"...

    With just some basic knowledge, you can get a lot of improvement from minimum effort. There are whole sites dedicated to teaching you the basics, thousands of YouTube videos, and many of them are completely free. Buy a magazine, read a bit when you get a chance, find the most interesting articles to whet your appetite, and then worry about the "harder stuff" later when you've got a good understanding.

    Practice makes Perfect... or perhaps "Progress, not perfection!", or just "Never give up".

    It's easy to feel like you're "not good enough" when you see amazing images, but every photographer started somewhere. I want you to learn, and improve, not give up because someone gets amazing owl shots, or amazing temple ruins. The reason they might be "so good" is because they just might work in an owl sanctuary... or on archaelogical digs, so they have taken thousands of photos and shown you the best three. Of course the law of averages dictates that you'll get at least some amazing shots. If you take enough photos, you'll get some good ones. A talented photographer learns what they did to get those results, so the odds go up.

    To sum up:

    Remember, a good photographer thinks about their shots very carefully, and takes them with consideration of many aspects. Make sure you know the place, rules/laws in place, the best vantages, and stay safe!

    Take care!

    Ham.


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