Ways of Seeing

So what makes a good photographer? How do you turn an ordinary reality into an image that’s a bit special, that makes people go ‘Ooooh, I like that!’?

I suppose you’re hoping I will give you a lovely definitive answer, a foolproof equation, that when executed will mean you get the most amazing images every time you click that shutter. If that’s you, stop reading!

It’s a little less defined but for me the challenge is always about how I can see something differently. It doesn’t always come to me straight away. Sometimes I have to take lots of photos of the same subject before I get one I like. It’s about getting low, getting high, lying in the mud, zooming in, climbing up. It’s about looking a little (sometimes a lot!) silly in public. It takes work!

For a good example of what I mean let’s go back to day 42 of my 365 Project. I was visiting my cousin down in London and had only got my little Panasonic DMC-TZ18 point and shoot camera on me. This is important because it shows that you don’t always need a big fancy D-SLR to get a fantastic pic.*

We went for a walk along the Thames and on our way back I saw a whole bunch of seagulls perched on the railing. Hmmm, that could make a pretty cool pic! I snapped one and checked it out…totally flat and boring (as you can see below). The light wasn’t great, there was no contrast, the river was brown and lifeless. It’s easy at this point to give in and think ‘Oh well, it’s not what I had planned in my head. I’ll just move on.’

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Instead, as my family waited patiently for me, I tried a few more shots. I needed better lighting so I moved to the side, stepped in mud (in my nice new boots! The sacrifices one must make) and all of a sudden the river became dynamic and contrasty. Very exciting! At this point it is worth noting (or confessing) that I had the camera set on ‘Intelligent Auto’. And the result is below. Same seagulls, same river…totally different image.

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But it still wasn’t quite right. I thought it would look good with lots of seagulls all in a row but when I saw it I changed my mind. A bit of zooming in and voila…

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This was the 4th photo I took (the third was very similar to the middle one above). And I knew I’d got what I wanted, so I stopped. In my earlier days as a photographer I probably would have spent another 5 minutes taking loads more just in case! Part of being a good photographer is learning when to stop. You don’t always have to take lots of photos, it just leads to more unnecessary work at the editing stage.

So the final piece of the puzzle is the editing. I generally don’t like to over process my photos and this one was no exception. The most important thing for me was the crop. In it’s present state it’s ok but I knew it would look a whole lot better with the top and bottom of the photo cropped out, especially the chipped paint and old chain around the gate!

I played around with the cropping until I was happy and then upped the exposure, added a bit of black, increased the contrast and then upped the reds and oranges to make their little feet and beaks stand out a bit more. The result was this:

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So be encouraged, get out there, take lots of photos, try different angles and points of view. You will learn what works and what doesn’t. And using the excuse that you don’t have a good enough camera, well, you’re going to have to come up with another one!


* Though there are times where I don’t bother taking a photo with my little point and shoot because I know I won’t be able to capture it the way I would like to.

Posted in Photography
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