Saturday, 14 September 2013

Shutterbug ©

I’ve got really into photography over the past couple of years. I remember looking at the photos of some Facebook friends and being amazed at the quality and professionalism. Some of these photos weren’t even photos to me but works of art. I believe that good photography really can stir up emotions as the photographer decides what they wish to evoke and little things like the lighting, the people caught “accidentally” in the background and the tone of the photo all contribute to the end result. When I compared my own uninspired photos to theirs, they seemed a million miles away but then a close friend of mine started “One a Day”: an album of everyday objects and scenes with the intention of seeing the magic in the ordinary and unleashing latent creativity. I loved the concept and began one of my own and it didn’t take long before I became accustomed to seeing everyday life through my own personal lens.

Since then, I have changed camera several times, moved away from Auto mode into myriad and sometimes baffling settings and begun to take much more of interest in photography as a hobby. I have also become passionate about the very act of photo taking and I often find myself rushing impatiently towards the scene of a photograph, anxious to get started. Through a combination of intelligent cameras, diligence and the inspiring photos of others, I have begun to take photos that I feel proud of and am continually amazed what our cameras are capable of if we really use them to their full potential.

I’m now considering a photography course to get to grips with the technical side of my DSLR and start taking people photos, something I’ve always shied away from before due to the trial and error approach I usually adopt. Trial and error is, however, a great way of finding out what works and what doesn’t. Here are some of the most useful things I have picked up over the past couple of years:

1)   How good is your camera? I’ve laughed with some friends over the past couple of weeks discussing how horrendous we’ve looked in certain people’s photos. We’ve all been there. We’re tagged on Facebook, we click with trepidation and are greeted with a less-than-flattering picture from a night out where we thought we looked nice.  Fear no more. It’s not you – it’s the camera! Good cameras have settings that are designed to flatter rather than deform, and they’re not even particularly expensive. I swear by my little Canon Ixus that I purchased a few years ago for around £120 on Amazon.

2)   The settings are crucial. Even inexpensive cameras take excellent photos these days but the Auto setting is only ever going to take what’s in front of you in the cold light of day with nothing to highlight or soften. Explore the settings, however, and you will be surprised at the difference it makes. My Ixus has a brilliant setting where you can highlight or accent one colour and turn the rest of the photo to black and white; this was a great feature to have when photographing London buses or New York cabs. The miniature setting which softens is also great for taking the edge off of a harsh scene. Other settings include black and white, super vivid and nighttime.

3)   Is it straight? It sounds basic but when I look a lot of my worst photos, they’re completely wonky which distracts the person viewing the picture. If you have a flash camera or photo editing software, this can be edited afterwards but either way, before publishing a photo, check how straight it is.

4)   In the same vein, when you look through your lens, what does the scene look like? Is there a dustbin or some other eyesore on the edge of your photo? Has someone hijacked it? Is a huge expanse of grey sky or concrete visible in the photo? If so, zoom, wait until the scene is clear, re-focus and take it again!

5)   Photo editing software may sound like a cheat and maybe it is but it’s amazing what a difference it makes to photos and in all honesty, how likely is it that professional photographers send a photo to a client without fiddling with it beforehand? There is always something that can be corrected and since I’ve started using iPhoto I’ve had a lot of fun altering the colours and changing the tone and feel of my photos. Again, I don’t really know what I’m doing and it’s all trial and error but it is an excellent tool.

These days with fantastic phone cameras, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like, everyone is documenting their lives and people are taking much more of an interest in photography. While Instagram has its critics, I think anything that encourages people to experiment with their creativity is great and I’m sure many an amateur photographer will turn professional thanks to their exposure on social media.

Happy clicking shutterbugs!

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