Why do you take photographs? This is a question of often ask students and occasionally ask myself. It seems a bit of an odd question when first asked but I find that the answer can be surprising and for many people there can be multiple reasons. Why you take photographs or what you want to photograph effects the techniques you need to learn and the equipment you might need to buy.
You never know when Spiderman will appear
Where do I want to sell my pictures?
Always a sensible question to ask yourself when taking a photograph. Composing photos that sell is not always easy. My article Photographic Composition covers the basics but this article looks at composing for specific uses and markets.
Let’s start the right way up
I have sold a lot of pictures for use on covers. Book covers are generally vertical. How often do you see people trying to photograph the bride and groom at a wedding holding the camera horizontally? Most people are taller than they are wide. Mobile phones work just as well horizontally as vertically so why do people shoot video vertically? The last time I looked my TV and this computer screen were both horizontal. If the subject will fit why not shoot one horizontal and one vertical picture and maximise your chances of a sale.
Grab your reader’s attention
How many times have you sat in the dentist’s waiting room, opened a magazine, read the first paragraph of an article and flicked over to the next page? Now think about the times that first paragraph grabbed your attention and you carried on reading. When writing articles grab your readers attention. Here’s how.
What lens have you got on that?
I hate talking about gear when I am using it. As a long suffering wedding photographer I used to dread the approach of the serious looking old gentleman with a scuffed brown leather cased, 50’s vintage, camera round his neck. Usually he had just been fiddling with for at least ten minutes to take one photograph of his rather overweight, and definitely bored, wife in her best hat. I knew the inevitable question was coming.
‘What sort of lens have you got on that?’
‘That’ was usually a 6×4.5 Bronica film camera. We used to use medium format cameras because no one believed you were a pro with a 35mm SLR
My reply was often a completely genuine, ‘I don’t know.’
I could see him debating as to whether to rush off and exclaim to the bride that she had booked a complete idiot to take her wedding pictures, or whether to tell me not to be such a sarcastic bugger.
Many years ago, when the only things that were digital were your fingers or your watch, I won a photographic magazine’s cover girl competition. Not me personally you understand – one of my photographs.
A couple of weeks later an excited young photographer and his girlfriend, who just happened to be the scantily clad subject of the winning photograph, arrived at a posh Park Lane hotel for the prize giving. I don’t remember much about the event apart from one rather disparaging comment from the editor. ‘Your picture won because you were the only one who left space for the title.’ This was probably not the most tactful thing to say to an aspiring young photographer about his first competition win.
Taking better photographs depends on a lot of factors. I recently took part in a critique where a photographer put up a technically perfect but aesthetically boring picture of a nude. He commented that he had no concept or message when taking the picture but would like to do more ‘artistic’ work. I suggested that if he worked on having the former then the latter might naturally flow.
Street photography isn’t always about accosting strangers or sticking a camera in an unsuspecting subjects face. The most useful talent a photographer can possess is the ability to observe and predict the subjects actions. To wait for Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment.
The most important piece of kit a street photographer needs is – a camera. Always carry one.
Camera exposure settings are taken care of by the Auto or Program features on your camera most of the time. Sometimes the auto system get confused and need a little human help. Download these free PDFs to find out how to set your camera for the optimum exposures.
The art of composing a picture. Read more for free downloadable PDF
A lot of people feel that they are missing something if they do not know about the technical aspects of photography. They worry what all those f’s and hundredths mean; is there some black art to which they have not been initiated? What you should be worrying about is composition.