In recent weeks I’ve been asked for tips on shooting. “How to start?” “Where to start?” “What are the best settings?”
That question: “What are the best settings?” Well that’s a doozie.
In order to answer it I need to ask you my own questions: “What are you you shooting?” “What are the lighting conditions?” “Is the subject moving?” “What camera are you using?”
I’m in quite a few Facebook Groups covering photography (surprise surprise!). It’s very interesting when people post two versions of the same image. One might be the original brightly coloured pretty photo and the other one has been converted to black and white, dark with heavy contrast. It’s the same composition. They ask “Which is better?” My answer is “What story are you telling?”
If you are telling a happy story about a happy joyful experience you want a photo that reflects that. By comparison the B&W most likely evokes feelings of being cold and gloomy.
Photography is very subjective, but there is only one right answer, in my very humble opinion. And that is: “Does the photo tell the story YOU want?”
GO FIND YOUR OWN OPINION!
I study other photographers. I marvel at their skill and ability. The photos they produce become my learning material. Do I like all their photos? Nope. That doesn’t mean the photo is wrong. It doesn’t mean I am wrong either.
In studying other photographers' works I am not looking to replicate their works. I am looking for new ways and different techniques to try along with inspiration and motivation. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But I still learn something - and that’s the point.
As an example, we recently visited the "I Speak for the Trees" exhibition by Len Metcalf and three fellow photographers at the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre. Walking through the exhibition we naturally commented on and in a way 'critiqued' the images - both preferring some image over others, and individually disagreeing on the merits of some! I did say photography is very subjective!
Getting out and taking an active interest in other photographers’ work in various genres and styles inspires new compositions and a different way of looking at how to capture something new. You don’t need to be a beginner photographer to have your eyes opened by fellow artists.
SO, WHAT ARE THE BEST SETTINGS?
That comes down to what YOU are shooting and what YOUR story is about.
These two photos have vastly different settings. What were they? I can’t really recall. Is it really important to you? Probably not. It could be a good reference point for you to start with, but that’s about all.
It’s not like you could go “Oh awesome, set and forget! BAZINGA - perfect photos!” When you go to shoot something similar the conditions have changed, your camera performs differently… you get the idea.
Without getting all technical in answering how to get started, or what the best settings are, there is one piece of good advice I can give everyone. And that is...
Shoot. Shoot often. And then shoot even more!
Photography is like any other profession, trade or sport. If you don’t practice you will not improve. I can tell you the best settings for a particular shot at a particular time in a particular location with a particular camera and lens. The problem is in 5 minutes it can all change and those settings are no good.
How do you get the perfect picture?
You need to be able to adapt. To make the right selection of settings for the story YOU are trying to tell. Not the story I am telling.
When you practice often you get better. You get better quicker. You get to know your camera. You also get to know what your camera can or can’t do. With practice you also get to learn and develop YOUR STYLE of photography. And that is something that nobody can teach you. That is yours and yours alone to discover, nurture and share.
Shooting often is the best advice I can give. You won’t get every shot right (hell, even I screw up from time to time), but you WILL learn what doesn’t work and then know what not to do again!
So grab your camera (the best camera is the one you have) and SHOOT F@RKEN!!!