For a while now, I’ve been thinking about what we, as photographers, need to be doing to enhance our skill-sets.
We all need to be able to work the controls on our cameras, even in the dark, it should be second nature to change an ISO, or an F stop, or a shutter speed without even having to think how to do it – and the only way to achieve this is to practice.
We also need to know how to ‘see’ a photograph before we even press the shutter button, and it’s these skills that can separate the terrific, from the merely competent.
With the advent of new digital cameras, it’s actually quite hard to make a really bad exposure. Even harder these days to achieve an out of focus image. Cameras are very clever these days, and have built in exposure settings, and shake reduction in either the camera body, or lens.
However, on top of all these things, I think that photographers need another set of skills outside that of just ‘taking’ an image.
1. Computer Literacy – software is the mainstay of the post image taking process. We need to be able to email images, to resize them, to compress them, and send them to storage sites such as Dropbox. To do that, we need to be able to type, and express ourselves in a clear and concise manner.
2. We need to be able to competently edit, and select images. These days, we don’t go out and shoot a roll or two of film. We go out and come back sometimes with hundreds, maybe thousands, of images. We need to be able to select which are the best ones, and the ones that our ‘client’ will like, and not just ones that are our own personal favourites. We need to be clear that the sharpest images, are not always the best ones compositionally, and conversely the best composed ones, won’t always be the sharpest – we need to be able to make that distinction and choose wisely.
3. We need to be aware of art history, and photographic history. If you are asked who your favourite photographer is – it’s not just going to be the chap down the road who takes amazing bird photographs – he might be the one impressing you at the moment, but who in history influences the images you take? Art and photography are inching closer and closer together, and soon, you will have a hard job telling the difference.
Melbourne Photographer Bill Gekas photographs his daughter in the style of all the old Masters. Take a look here
Google for photographic images of ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer, and see what others are up to.
you need to understand art now, to understand photography.
4. The art of conversation – There are times when you need permission to shoot. Either a person, or a place. The need for access can sometimes be smoothed over by a polite conversation with owners, or guardians. After photographers have trespassed on land, you can’t blame the owners for being angry at finding ‘yet another’ on their property. Go in first, ask the questions – I think you’ll be surprised how forthcoming people will be, just for asking.
5. And lastly – filing and organisation – there is no point in having the worlds greatest image if you can’t find it on your hard drive. So, keep your drives tidy, split your images into sections or groups, back them up externally, and don’t rely on your website either – if your provider goes out of business – you could be left high and dry with no images.
If you use Lightroom, avail yourself of the catalogue and make sure your images are correctly sorted, tagged, and keyworded. Sure, it might take you a week (or more) of hard work, if you’ve not started yet, but in the long run I think you’ll be pleased you did.
For example – I sold an image at a craft fair 5 years ago – it was mounted but not framed. The client decided to have it reframed, and the picture framer damaged the print. He contacted me, and asked if I could supply a new one, so that he didn’t have to tell his client; and because I’d got a good catalogue, I was able, within an hour, to send him a file, so he could get it printed again. Job done.