What does it take to be a better photographer?

Richard Charpentier Notes from Rich, Photography 6 Comments

meinpocket-1With a title like that a great number of expectations are set.  Personally, I look for titles like this all the time.  In the case of this title on this blog, I hate to say it, but you’re going to be disappointed.

Yesterday I received a really nice comment from RG Coleman regarding my photography.  For those who don’t read the comments, here’s what RG had to say:

Your jawdropping photography consistently amazes me. Amateurs (ok, me) are always moved by scenic beauty but our snapshots NEVER do it justice. When I see your pictures I imagine that they are representative, at the very least in spirit, of how that landscape looked and felt. They feel like they capture what inspired you point your camera there.
Is it time for me to upgrade my point and shoot to an SLR? Do I need a digital darkroom? Will better equipment even help…or do I just need you to follow me around on vacation and take the pictures for me? : D

Big thanks on the compliments RG.  And I did respond to his comment as well.

The question led me to ask myself, “What can I say about this?”  I do have a few insights, but I’m no expert by any means.  I spend my mornings reading other people’s web sites who are experts in order to keep learning and keep improving my own work.  But here we go……..Rich’s take on getting better pictures.

  1. Educate yourself on photography, post production, and what other people are doing.  There are tons of resources out there (I’ll provide links in this post), and if you ask questions on those sites you’ll get more concise, less goofy answers than on this blog.  😉
  2. I’m going to lay a lot of my improvements at the feet of one man.  Scott Kelby.  This guy has done more for my photography than any one person.  I’d known about Kelby for a long time, but not until I really wanted to take amazing pictures did I start reading this guy’s work.  After reading “The Digital Photography Book, Volume I” I found that a lot of what I did changed.  Then I checked out his “7 Point System for Adobe Photoshop,” and that blew me away.  The first book told me more about shooting while out, the second book finally helped me to understand where to start when I used Photoshop.  Since those 2 books I’ve signed up to Scott’s training site, read books by people that work with him, and find myself impressed with everything I’ve read and seen.  As Zack Arias said in his video “Transform”, Scott Kelby helps the rest of us suck less.
  3. Find those photographers who are doing work you like, and learn about what they’re doing.  Years ago I wanted to learn about HDR photography.  I found Trey Ratcliff and Ben Wilmore.  These two guys provided more inspiration then I could possibly ask for.  They were also kind enough to explain techniques, offer tutorials, and even provide amazing training DVDs (Ben’s High Dynamic Range Mastery was amazing).
  4. While you’re doing all this reading and finding inspiration you should be doing one other thing as well.  Shooting.  Grab your camera and go out and shoot.  Enjoy yourself.  It doesn’t have to be all serious.  You can goof around with your camera too.  9 times out of 10 the goofing will lead you to interesting shots!  Shoot like a maniac!  It’s digital after all.  You can delete later.  And you can learn what works and what doesn’t.
  5. Get to know your camera.  I mean really understand your camera.  What does that mean?  Read the manual!  The more you know about your gear, the easier it will be to capture the moment the way you want to.
  6. Shoot in RAW if you can.  Oh, here comes a gear recommendation.  Most point and shoots don’t do RAW.  But some are starting to.  RAW allows you to retain all the image information.  Shooting JPEG?  Yeah, JPEG tosses out a lot of information.  RAW leaves you a lot of room for post processing.  RAW also takes more card space, but it’s worth it, I promise!  Don’t want a Digital SLR?  That’s ok.  Check out cameras like the G10, it’s a smaller camera that still shoots RAW.  How about Sigma’s latest offering?  You get the idea.
  7. Surround yourself with other photographers when possible.  I have some amazing friends here that push me to improve.  Josh Gosell, aka “Mr. Manual, Mr. get it in the camera”, is a great photographer!  And he always leaves me wishing I’d taken what he took.  I think 80% of Josh’s work is in the camera, the other 20% is post processing.  Check him out, you’ll like what you see.  Also, I have friends like Bert Gildart, and he inspires me all the time.  Finally, meeting Robert Jamason recently has inspired me to try new things.  Rob uses HDR and other techniques on “portrait” type work.  I’ve never seen a good HDR with a person in it until I saw Rob’s work.
  8. Learn the software you’re using.  Whatever you use, learn about it.  In my case, Lightroom2, Photoshop CS4, Photomatix, and the Topaz Suite.  There’s everything I have.  You wouldn’t believe how many books I read on Lightroom, Photoshop, and Photomatix.
  9. When shooting, don’t get tunnel vision.  Some of my best photos came from 180 degrees behind me.  When I get all fixated on getting a particular scene I’m missing out on other great stuff going on around me.  So, look around.  Put the camera down.  See where you are.  And when you’ve taken it all in, pick the camera up and capture what you like.
  10. Find great resources and learn from them.  Every day I start off reading the news, and then reading photo sites.  You already know about Kelby, Trey Ratcliff, and Ben Wilmore.  What else do I read?  Bert Gildart, Zack Arias, Photo Walk Pro, Lightroom Killer Tips, Interviews by Crash Taylor, PixSylated, CanonBlogger, Paul Burwell, Joe McNally, and a few more.

Well, there’s my super random list first thing in the morning.  And I left something out.  Photograph places that are interesting to you.  Your enjoyment of the place will show through in your images, I promise.

Finally, if you want a “quick start” and don’t have time to deal with everything on the list you can do one thing.  “The Digital Photography Book.”  You’ll see a difference when you close the book and pick up your camera.

As I’ve said before, I don’t work for Kelby.  No kick backs (I wish), no discounts, nada.  I tell you about his books for one reason.  They’re great!

Comments 6

  1. Didn’t you forget one? Shouldn’t you go out and drop thousands of dollars on the best possible gear? Certainly that will make you a better photographer.

    Plus you’ll look cooler, which is just as important.

    .-= Tombo´s last blog ..Lights out for a bit. =-.

  2. Post

    LOL Tombo! Gear helps to a point, but I’ve been amazed by photos taken with very simple gear.

    In my case I use a 40D and a 5D Mark II. I’ve also used a 10D (6 megapixels) and a 30D (8 megapixels). Personally, I’d like a little G10 because it would be so much easier to carry!

  3. #9 – So true – one of my best received images ever was from a shot that I ended up getting from doing a 180 and got lucky.

    On another note – thanks for the props! 🙂

  4. Post

    Bert, you’ll always be on my list! Can’t wait to show you and Janie the Buttes, White Pocket, and the Grand Staircase Escalante.

    Jason, no thanks needed on the props. Been following you for a while before I started commenting over at your site. And yup, tunnel vision is no good. Turn around, cool stuff is going on…..or somebody is sneaking up behind you!!!

  5. Your tip about tunnel vision is exactly the remedy I needed…thank you Rich!

    I’ve been following your blog since I left and I can definitely say you are coming into your own. Absolutely stunning and beautifully composed shots. Truly, an inspiration!

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