At this time of year there are so many “How to Improve your Photography” blog posts out there, that another one risks getting lost in the mélange of suggestions found in publications and on the Internet. However, this blog, infrequent as it is, was started as an exploration of my photography adventure and what I learned or thought about while on that journey. Here are my three suggestions: 1-Get a good tripod; 2-Start a photography project; 3-Print your images larger than 8x10.
Nothing original here. We’ve all heard these suggestions over and over again, but I sometimes fail to follow my own advice. I still argue with myself about dragging along a heavy tripod on a day I just want to go on a “walkabout” with my camera. And, because I have visual “rabbit ears,” I am easily distracted, I seldom stick to a single theme for any length of time. Last year it was twilight. Now I’m considering doing water drops. Next may be astrophotography or butterflies.
However, printing my images in a larger than average size, has made me more critical, thoughtful and appreciative of a good image. Ink and photographic paper are expensive. Now I ask myself, “why” am I taking the image? Am I simply documenting the scene? What should I include or exclude from the frame? What would make the photo a “wall hanger?”
This may be a sad thing to say, but I’ve taken tens of thousands of images and only of a few hundred are worth printing. For instance, I took about 150 images of my visit to the Great Wall of China in 2012. There are only a couple that I would waste any ink or paper on. It was crowded. It was later in the day so the light was pretty poor and there was a haze of pollution in a cloudless gray sky that would take extensive work in Lightroom and Photoshop to correct. That was five years ago.
Recently I was asked to take some photos of a historic house on the North Fork of Long Island. This would be an image that would end up as a print. This changed how I approached taking the picture. I scouted the location capturing pictures on my iPhone, but when it was time to get the actual shot, I brought the “big bertha” tripod, and planned a series of shots for this project to be taken around twilight and from various angles that might emphasize the character of the house, its proximity to the Sound, and its history. I had the luxury of having permission to go back to the site several times over a couple of weeks.
Each time I came home I looked at the images and asked myself which of them would look good as prints. In the end I chose two out of about 25 files. There's something about a print that makes flaws more noticeable than when viewing the image on screen.
From start to finish, the goal was to capture an image that would make a great print. That changed how I looked at the scene and how I captured it. It improved my photographic process.