How to be a better photographer       Graham Dainty 2002               Photo Fiordland home

Overview – How to make warm images out of cold steel.

Forget about the camera – expensive gear will make your photo’s better but won’t make better photo’s.

First is the mental approach – technical side is easy.

Set goals

What sort (how good) of photographer do you want to be? - competent , family snaps , NZ’s best , artistic.

To set a goal you have to goal post to aim for. We all have favorite photographers of work you look up to. Take that person on as a mentor. Mostly you will never meet them so you have to study them to find out why they are so good. It is usually their philosophy on life etc that shapes their photography. This is as important as pushing the button.

( For years I have looked up to Freeman Patterson for his simple approach and art of seeing, Galen Rowel for his outdoor landscapes, Robin Morrison has always been there in his style of portraiture and approach to people. I saw Craig Potton’s photo’s and decided that I could make images as good as him, that drove me on for the last 4 years or so. )

Read - all the answers are in books. Read more on the photographers them selves than on pretty picture books. Take time to look at the earlier photographers like Edward Westen and others in his era at the beginning of true photography. 

The internet is the best library out there for finding all about what makes photographers, but takes time.

How to be the Best:

Be passionate about it: Passion is the fuel which should drive you , its high octane and = CREATIVITY.

its when you look in the viewfinder and that great shot appears – YES YES and you start fizzing. It makes these next tasks very easy.

If your passion is photography the first and foremost you are doing it for yourself, because the desire is inside of you, it isn’t a " I take nice pictures of what the judges what to see". What others think and like should have no relevance on your work. The need to show pictures is another thing, its getting acceptance from fellow people and building your confidence that your vision and skill is on track.

Concentrate on the task. Find a task I’d like to photograph this or that. I’d like to explore this concept. Organize yourself to work towards that task. Time frame is irrelevant as long as you are focused.

Be Selfish. Try not to be compromised by others, you have to organize enough time to achieve what you want to. If you have to compromise that will only mean that the goal will take longer but don’t loose sight of it, compromises may be family or financial or something else which are all very valid and important , but don’t loose sight of what you need to do.

Do it by yourself. Quality photo time.

Preoccupation is the greatest barrier to photography.

You will be clouded by others and won’t be able to concentrate solely on the task at hand. Group photography is great for a social outing and for learning if you are all discussing and showing each other what you are doing, but by your self is when you start photographing from within, you start taking photo’s of what feels right to yourself.

Try going out early in the morning if other commitments take up most of your time, sunrise light, where there is good light there is good photo’s.

Visual Awareness You will probably have to train yourself to do this, some do it naturally

At all times you should be seeing photographs or blinks of images. You will glance (seeing images) at something and it will register as a nice image or you will see a small part of that overall scene that will register as an image. You have to be able to Pre Visualize the finished photograph before you even grab your camera. So you need to know your lenses very well and what they are capable of. The beauty of this is that even if you haven’t got a camera on you or you don’t stop, you carry around this lovely image in your head.

Create an inspiration scrap book: or a visual dairy. It can be hard to create an idea from cold. Cut out photo’s that inspire you and photos that make you think about other techniques or ideas.    It isn’t copying because your images will turn out very differently from the ones you look at.

Ideas can come from other photographers,

Have a good look at photographs that inspire you: -Speak to the work ,

dissect them, composition, colour, form, content. try and work out what it is that inspires you about that image.

Look a different way: Photos should be more of how we feel not what we see. Look at the familiar, look at it with your senses, not your brain, when you look at a candle , don’t go candle, go flame, heat, light. Study what you are looking at. The photo will make it’s self.

Look at different mediums: look at paintings, You have to dissect them as you look at them , work out the composition, the use of colour, how it all works together, look at sculpture for shape and form. 

Think of Yourself as an Artist - your goal is to make a good art piece. Something that states ‘this is an image I am very proud of at this point of my life’. Art is simply a creative act to evoke an emotion.

At some point in time you will be recognized as a photographer: Defining Moment! this is when your self doubts are gone and you find confidence in your own ability. It may be a big event or it may be a comment from a stranger, but it is when you are happy with your own style or the direction that you are heading.

Effort Vs Luck: we all know that to get that one in a million shot is usually good luck,  but you have look at how you got so lucky. You have to maximize the possibility of luck.

EFFORT - just going out photographing luck scale 1

pre sorting out what you want to photograph luck scale 3

Making the effort to be there at a special (right) time luck scale 4

Learning about your subject, event, place, technique luck scale 5

narrowing your ideas on the perfect photo luck scale 6

Repeatedly returning to get a particular photo luck scale 8

Be very critical of your own work: you have to be your own hardest judge, if you think you can do better and 9 out of 10 times you can, then don’t show it, do better.

Develop a theme: It keeps the interest up and is a fun thing to do.

Play with photographs: cut them up make montages, get the pastels and oils out and paint them, print them on

different paper,

Keep it simple: Keep your approach to photography simple, you don’t need to clutter yourself up with being a gear freak, sort out only what you need, and use it to it’s best advantage. Good composition is simple dominant lines in the image, photo’s that break rules and are out of the ordinary are usually quite simple shots.

Take risks: take your camera out in a storm, on a windy beach, on the rocks with the waves breaking,  Don’t be careless, just don’t ignore the moment. A memorable photograph is one that is very different from everyone else’s.

Be very happy with personal favorites, not show stoppers. Photos that appeal to you only, very important to feed your own satisfaction. keeps you as an individual.

Be happy with your own style that pleases you: don’t do all your photography for competitions, judges or other people. You have to be true to yourself or you can never get pure creativity.

Discuss photography with others: talk details and specifics, ask questions, feed off others as well as give what you can. Show your stuff and ask for advice, comments. Seek out people that can help You. Don’t worry about were was it taken, worry about how they managed to convey the feeling of the subject to the final image.

Only improve through productivity: take lots of photo’s, unless you are constantly seeing your results you can’t see how to improve. Look for photo’s everywhere .   Take photo’s everywhere.    To be taken seriously. Only show your best images. Be professional, display your images well etc.

Have Fun: If your not having fun, what’s the point.                                                                                                            Photo Fiordland home