If you’re like me, you bought your camera thinking it was going to take your images from average to WOW!
You’re also like me if it didn’t. Yes, quality gear helps, but it’s only one small part of creating a great image.
Then after a while you thought to yourself, “Well, if I could just learn how to edit using fancy software then my images would be great because that MUST be the reason that photographer whom I admire (read: Jasmine Star) gets their images so clear. Great gear and expensive software.”
After a while, though. You realize that a great image is SO much more. It’s not just one thing. It is an amalgam of many factors.
Learning how your camera functions and having post processing skills is just a small part of it. We need to have a clear understanding of how lighting works, how to properly compose a shot, and how to properly focus.
There are way too many photographers out there that are just looking for the next cool location and awesome prop. We need to be looking for good lighting and reading more about photography.
Are you guilty of picking out a really cool location, getting there at noon in the midday sun with your practice subjects, only to pull those images up on your computer to see faces that are half overexposed and half way underexposed?
I know that we are all always learning. It takes time for our eyes to be trained and to be more critical of ‘good’ photography. I’m no exception. However, there comes a time when we need to be more critical of our own work. Take a look at some of your own images. Are they properly exposed? Are they in focus? If so, where does your focus fall? Does it fall on the intended area? In order to get better, we can’t get too comfortable. To the untrained eye, your picture is a “nice pic”, “cool shot!”, but is it a good image? There is certainly a difference and if we want to call ourselves ‘photographers’ (in any capacity), we need to learn what it means to take good images that are (among other things), in focus, well lit, well composed, and convey a message. I challenge all of you to look at your 10 most recent images and ask yourself, “Is this a good image?” If not, how could you have made it better?
You won’t have to do it alone, though.
I’ll kick off our photo challenge with a recent image of mine:
At first glance, this is a decent image that could use just a bit of tweaking in post processing. It’s well/evenly lit, properly composed, it’s certainly conveying a message, but it isn’t properly focused.
Here’s a cropped portion. Upon closer inspection you can see that my focus fell on the leaves and not the couple’s faces.
As we grow as photographers, we should, in general, be able to tell why we make the mistakes we make or how and why our image is flawed.
I’m going to break it down here, but I hope I don’t lose anyone. Try to stay with me.
Here were my settings SOOC (straight out of camera) using my D700 and my 50mm 1.4: ISO 200 (I hate noise), 50mm (obviously), f/2.2, and my shutter speed was at 1/500 of a second.
(one of the awesome features of Lightroom is that you can see EXACTLY what your settings were for any given image. This is a huge help to those who are learning)
I can almost immediately tell you why this image is out of focus or ‘soft’ and how I know it.
When I pull up a soft image in Lightrrom, I consider at least 3 factors:
1. What was my shutter speed? Was it possible that my shutter speed was so slow that any movement at all would render this image blurry?
A: For this image, no. 1/500 of a second is plenty fast enough for 2 subjects who were standing still.
2. What was my aperture? Is it possible that my aperture was so wide open that only part of my subject is in focus and anything not on that focal plane is out of focus?
A: No. While 2.2 is rather low, there should have been no reason I couldn’t have got their 2 faces tack sharp.
3. Where did my focus eventually fall?
A: On the leaves. This tells me that the problem is probably either from not toggling my focus points quick enough and pressing the shutter down too soon or moving the camera after I already composed the shot but before the camera re-focused on their faces.
What could I have done different? (this is what I want you to ask yourself when you critique your 10 mot recent images)
In this case, I should have slowed down. Simple.
This was the tail end of this part of the day and we were moving quickly to the reception site. I remember seeing this arbor as we left and quickly asked the couple to stop, face each other, embrace and kiss. I spun around and fired…too soon.
Point of note: I still included this image in the client’s gallery. Yes, it has a flaw, but in my opinion was still worthy of showing. With a little sharpening later in post process I can salvage it, but editing should not be a crutch. It’s there to help us take our images to the next level or to save a very important photograph. It is not meant to foster laziness while shooting.
Do you know another photographer whose opinion you trust? Ask them to critique a few of your images. Do your best not to get defensive. Consider their advice and keep an open mind.
Buying the camera was the first step, now let’s get better at using it properly. Have a great weekend everyone!