- How to Find Your Unique Voice As a Photographer
- Troubled Dirt Bike Photoshoot Turns Epic
- Interesting Photo of the Day: Palestinian Refugees Wait for Food in Syria
- Comparing the Nikon Df and Nikon D4
Posted: 26 Feb 2014 04:51 PM PST
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It’s not just enough to be good – you’ve got to find your own unique voice. The question is – how?
This article will take you though several things that you can to do help you discover and carve out your own one-of-a-kind path as a photographer.
1. Focus on what interests you
This may seem obvious, but there are still a lot of people who go about this all the wrong way. They ask themselves, “What field of photography has the most demand right now? What area will be the most lucrative?” And then they go out and try to fit themselves into that picture.
But you will never be as successful doing this as you could be taking pictures of what interests you.
Why? Because when you are interested in something, you will enjoy it more. You will go out of your way to portray it in a good light. You will be more creative and want to try new things. This is so important and yet most people don’t even think twice about it.
If you love food, take pictures of food. If you are an animal whisperer, maybe you would adore being a pet photographer. If there’s nothing in the world that feeds your soul like going for a hike, you would probably make an excellent nature or landscape photographer.
When you are passionate about what you do, it is a simple fact that your joy will propel you forward. You will not be dragging yourself out of bed, you will be leaping from the mattress full of excitement and enthusiasm, and that in turn will carry over into your work.
2. Ask yourself: “How could I do this in another way?”
This powerful question will get your mind working on new possibilities. Though you may not have an epiphany each time you ask yourself this, you are always encouraging your brain to make new pathways and connections. And every once in a while, you will have an “ah-HA!” that makes it all worthwhile.
If you are serious about photography, you should always be taking pictures of what you are most passionate about. But it’s also just as beneficial to try new things and take pictures of different subjects, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean forcing yourself to take pictures of things that you aren’t interested in, but finding ways of taking pictures of anything in such a way that you find it interesting. It pushes you to always stay fresh and always continue learning and growing. Reading books and taking classes is fine, but I believe that the best teacher is firsthand experience. If you are continually searching for new subjects and new ways of photographing them then you are keeping yourself on your toes, and you work will never become stale.
Passion and excitement are the fires that fuel brilliance, and in order to keep that flame stoked you will need to look for ways to keep your own interest pulsing within you. I know from firsthand experience that when I go out and do something I’ve never done before with my photography I take a giant creative leap and everything that I learn carries over into each project I take on next.
3. Avoid the #1 creativity killer
Contrary to popular belief, reading more books and taking more classes does not always make you a better photographer. Don’t get me wrong; they can be incredibly helpful tools that help you learn and grow – to an extent. However, there is a point that most photographers reach where studying and learning stops being helpful and becomes counterproductive. How do you know that you’ve reached that point?
When you find yourself critiquing and criticizing your work more than you are simply enjoying it.
You might be thinking, “Now wait a minute. Hold on. Critiquing helps me to get better! That’s how I learn. I see what worked, what didn’t, and I can correct and improve.”
Yes, in an ideal world. And usually this works in moderation. However, I’ve seen more photographers shut themselves down long before they ever truly delved into their potential because of this #1 creativity-killer: perfectionism. They over-analyze all of the details of their photos, attempting to make everything in each one of them just right.
Photography is not supposed to be perfect. There are technical tools that we can use to improve our photographs, but they are only that: tools – not rules. Just like people, photos are technically imperfect – and yet that’s what makes them so beautiful. Each photo is an impression of a moment in time that will never again be recaptured. And only you, from your unique viewpoint, have the ability to take that picture.
Some of the most famous photos, considered by many to be the best of the best, have imperfections! In fact, most of them do! Not only that, everyone has different tastes. Something that one person might call a “problem area” might be the reason that someone else LOVES that exact same photo. Are you going to deprive dozens of people the enjoyment of your art simply because one person said “this part isn’t in perfect focus.” Screw focus! Seriously!
If you take the picture and you like it, then what anyone else says doesn’t matter. The “rules” are great to a certain extent, and then after that they start to hinder you. You may discover that you like those blurry abstract photos more than the ones in crisp, clear focus. And you might just find that there are a lot of other people out there who love this type of photography and would even hang it on their wall. But if you stop after that first blurry photo because some teacher or even just random person said that it makes it a bad photo, you may have just shut down the possibility of an incredible photography career because you limited yourself to the same box that everyone else lives in.
Stop trying to make your photos adhere to everyone else’s rules, and they will stop looking like everyone else’s photos.
The true “greats” in any field not only break the rules, but reinvent them.
4. Take photos every single day
Most photographers believe that searching for the problems and imperfections is not just the best way to improve, but the only way to improve. I disagree. Although this can be helpful to an extent, it is way more beneficial to just go out and take photos.
In fact, this is the best way to get good at anything: do it. Over and over and over and over and over again. By doing it, you train yourself to see the beauty in things and intuitively find the best angles. You get to the point where you don’t even have to think about it any more because it comes so naturally.
Take hundreds of photos. Don’t limit yourself. Yes, you can ask yourself as you are taking the picture, “How can I make this better? How can I frame this in order to enhance the features that I want?” But in this day and age, there’s no excuse not to take a photo if something catches your eye. With a digital camera, there are no negative consequences for filling up your memory card (unless you don’t have another one and still need to take more photos.) The more you take, the more selection you have to choose from.
Some of my very favorite photos that I’ve taken were simply on a whim. I saw something and thought, “hmm, I like that. I don’t know if it’ll make a very good photo, but there’s only one way to find out.” Click, click, click, click…. click. I’ll take the same picture from a few different angles. I’ll zoom out, zoom in, try different things. And often the one that I took as an extra is the very best one.
Try different things! Take the “technically correct” photo. Then break ALL off the rules! That’s how you step outside of the box and do new things.
Oh, and avoid those stupid forums where photographers sit around critique each others’ work. Well, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but I’ve learned to stay away from them. People spend more time critiquing photos than they do taking them, and they’ve gotten so good at looking for problems that they see them everywhere. I’ve uploaded pieces of my best work to those sites, pieces are well loved by my agent, the design industry, my followers, and gotten critiques like, “Sorry, but there are parts of this that aren’t in focus. It’s just confusing and the photo doesn’t work.” Then other people rave over it and hang it on their wall and treasure it.
Just because one person says it doesn’t mean it’s true. Don’t let yourself get discouraged. Photography should be first and foremost, fun!
5. Don’t worry if you “miss” opportunities
Every photographer experiences those moments when we miss that perfect shot. That rare species of eagle (so to speak) flies over our head and we weren’t ready, or the exposure wasn’t right, or we got the shot, but it was blurry, and so on. I’ve seen a lot of people spend hours, and even occasionally days, agonizing over what they missed.
Photography isn’t how many shots you get or miss, it’s about how many you take – and keep taking. I have missed thousands of great shots – and screwed up thousands more. I take more “bad” photos than good, and though I do feel disappointed sometimes when I really wanted to get something and it didn’t work out, I always shrug my shoulders and say, “hey, it wasn’t meant to be.” Then I get out my camera, and go take some more pictures.
I can’t even tell you how many times I tried to get pictures of a bird of prey feasting on it’s dinner, and the shots didn’t turn out. I had so many “missed” opportunities. And then one day I looked out my grandmother’s kitchen window and just two yards away was this hawk eating a mouse. Because of the window between us, I was able to get as close as I wanted without scaring the bird away. There are always more opportunities.
When you have the attitude of not worrying about whether you get a shot or not and just enjoy the process, you invite more opportunities in. Life becomes magical.
6. Take photos because you love to – for no other reason
The #1 most important thing you can do to improve your photos and find your unique voice is to HAVE FUN!
Is it really that simple? Yes, yes, and yes!
When you are having fun and trying new things and exploring and enjoying yourself, you are naturally more creative. Ideas will occur to you that you never thought of before. Things will naturally fall into place. Having fun is the key to being good. Seriously.
Taking beautiful photographs is something that comes from the heart, not the mind. So many photographers spend all their energy researching the perfect equipment and collecting fancy lenses and filters. They strive for the technically perfect photo, and if they don’t achieve it they criticize their own work and hide it away.
Before I started photography, I don’t think I ever truly saw what was around me. In a sense, I was walking blind through my world, never noticing how pretty the cracks in the sidewalk were, or just how many colors there are in a single flower. To me, that’s the gift of photography; not the end result, but the ability to see the beauty of the world around me in a new way, and have the chance to capture it and share it with others. I do it for the joy of it, and if other people can share in that joy then it is wonderful. Still, even if others don’t, photography has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.
Photography is a journey. If you are trying to create work in order to sell it, you are probably over-thinking it. If you do it because you love it, you are creating what comes from your heart and soul. Do it because taking photos makes you feel good, and people will see it and like it because it resonates with them, and makes them feel good.
7. Get inspired!
Being truly unique is about getting all of the other voices out of your head about what you could do and what you should do and how things are supposed to be done. It’s about quieting all your thoughts and then listening to the stillness and the silence where all of the new ideas are and getting in touch with your spirit. This is where you will hear the inspiration that will cause you to make uncommon connections and spawn new and great creations.
Do those things that feed your soul – eat delicious foods, read inspiring books, spend time with creative people, listen to music that transports you to a whole new world. It is often in those moments when you are simply enjoying life that the best ideas occur or you have the most wonderful photo opportunities.
Those very things that inspire you are often hints and nudges in the direction that you could take your photography to move it to the next level.
About the Author
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Posted: 26 Feb 2014 01:57 PM PST
When Tim Kemple set out to shoot a pair of dirt bikers with his new PhaseOne IQ250, he had some very specific shots he wanted to capture. After a series of untimely incidents–a helicopter crash, rainy weather, a bike wreck–he had to completely change his plan. That may sound like a defeat, but as Kemple explains in this behind the scenes video, it only made his photos turn out even better than he imagined:
As any experienced photographer can tell you that perseverance is key. Despite all the bad luck Kemple found during the shoot, he and his team were able to improvise and remain optimistic which, undoubtedly, is what kept everyone working to get the shots.
After the loss of the remote controlled helicopter–the shoot’s main focus–right at the beginning, Kemple dragged out Plan B: a ladder. He perched himself on the ladder and pulled off some awesome shots. The PhaseOne handled the situation like a champ, even when the light started fading and Kemple had to start boosting the ISO.
Posted: 26 Feb 2014 11:57 AM PST
The following image was taken in January 2014 by the UN Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA. It shows a “queue” of Palestinian refugees–really more a mass of bodies–in Yarmouk, a district of Damascus, Syria, that has become a de facto refugee camp:
Yamouk is different than most refugee camps, because it was never a camp at all. Despite the crumbling facade, the district has always been residential, with beauty salons and internet cafes. The UNRWA operates 20 elementary schools, and Palestinians have been functioning with four hospitals and jobs such as doctors, engineers and street vendors.
The Syrian civil war has changed that. Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, sealed off Yarmouk in July 2013. The area witnessed intense fighting between the rebels and the Syrian army, with Palestinians on both sides of the conflict. Since then, the UNRWA has given out more than 7,000 food parcels to the camp of 160,000 people in little under a month. There are frequent reports of infant malnutrition, war trauma, and injuries. After Assad ceased all international aid to the camp in early February, he reneged and permitted a smaller number of international aid workers to prevent starvation.
This photo shows what people living there now have to deal with.
Go to full article: Interesting Photo of the Day: Palestinian Refugees Wait for Food in Syria
Posted: 26 Feb 2014 10:23 AM PST
Choosing the right camera can be tricky, especially when the camera manufacturers are constantly putting out new models. The fun, retro looking Nikon Df is an appealing choice to many because of its timeless styling, but how does it stack up when compared to other pro level DSLRs, such as the Nikon D4, which share the same sensor? Watch the following video clip to find out:
Kai pitted the Df against the D4 in a couple of different tests starting with its low light performance. Before he even had the chance to start shooting, he ran into a few problems. Namely, the aperture wheel is in an awkward place, making it difficult to use–it also doesn’t do half step increments. Then there was the issue of the memory card. Its slot is located on the bottom of the camera, so the camera would have to be removed from the tripod to access it. As far as the low-light test, you be the judge:
An increasingly growing necessity in our DSLRs is the ability to record high quality video:
As you can well see, the Df video recording performance is not just sub-par, it’s non-existent.
According to this review, the Df also fell short of the D4 in terms of auto-focus and burst mode speeds. In a nutshell, while the Df is very trendy looking and does have the same sensor as the powerful D4, the rest of the camera’s features appear to be lack luster at the price point. Kai suggests that a more suitable choice for basic features and low-light performance might be the Nikon D610.
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