Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don't Box Yourself In Photographically

One of the hardest things to do when you are interested in an area of photography is to be creative, at least in the sense that you look at things differently. Sometimes I am out shooting and find myself overlooking subjects that I have shot before, with the mindset being that I have shot them before. Then I remember that my technique and skills have improved with time, which means I may very well be able to get better shots of that subject than in the past. The Red-Winged Blackbird in today's image is an example of that, a subject that I shot numerous times in the past, but ignored recently.

Red-Winged Blackbird

I look at many of my bird photos and they have one thing in common, subjects that are either grounded in the landscape or totally isolated. Neither of those things are bad, but does that mean that I need to be more creative in my shooting? I often ask myself if there something I can change to make my shots more interesting? The answer is yes, there are things that I can do to make my shots more interesting, but that will take time and some experimenting.

One way to get out of the box photographically is to shoot new or old subjects in such a way that you need to think about what the subject is. That could mean focusing on part of of the subject rather than the entire subject. Sometimes to change the look of our photos we need to think about how we edit the photos on our computers. Trying different amount of saturation and contrast can dramatically change the feel of an image. Using difference effects can also play a role.


This photo is of the same Red-Winged Blackbird found in the first shot (it flew off and returned), but I edited the photo differently. The bird pops out of the background more than what can be achieved with narrow depth of field alone, because I used doge and burn effects to isolate the subject of interest in the image.

Another way to change your photography is detail, learning how to best capture the detail on your subject. Because light is an essential part of photography think about how the lighting conditions will effect the level of detail in your shot. Extremely bright light does not just blow out highlights and cause strong shadows, but it also steals detail. I've found that days with high thin cloud cover, or golden hour times are the best for capturing detail. Having the patience to shoot under the right light can be hard, because sometimes we just want to get a few shots and move on.

Machine gun photography (continuous shooting) is a tool to help a photographer capture shots of a moving subject when one shot is unlikely to achieve the desired results due to possible miss focus. What continuous shooting should not be used for is a means of making up for poor technique. Learning how to shoot your subject will improve your image quality far more than rattling off dozens bad of shots. This is especially important when you are shooting film, because you'll go through roles of film (and money) like there is no tomorrow.