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Friday, June 1, 2007

Improve Your Artistic Eye

Two professional photographers offer advice on how to expand your sense of style


"If I were a beginning photographer, I would get into the books and read about how to design a photograph," says Neill. "It’s a good place to start. But it’s also a place people tend to stop. "Using rules is fine, and it’s good to learn them," he adds, "but being willing to push yourself beyond and experiment and try new things is a vital part oImprove Your Artistic Eyef being creative."

There are so many ways to experiment in photography. Take the time to shoot the same scene at varied exposures. Try filters for differing levels of color saturation or effects. Photograph at different depths of field.

"I’ve been free to make my own mistakes," Smith says. "In the beginning, I kept copious notes of camera settings so I could learn how those settings worked for exposure, depth of field and composition. Once I had that understanding, then I tried unconventional settings to learn from those results. Many of those mistakes revealed the creative possibilities, so I’m always willing to try things, just to see what happens. I’ll ask myself if I do 'this’ what will happen to 'that’—to color, exposure, pattern?

"I also like to play quite a bit with motion," continues Smith, "either deliberate camera motion, or a static camera with subjects that are moving, or variations with different shutter speeds, or multiple exposures, just to see the results. It’s moving beyond the actual subject for what it might become artistically."


Improve Your Artistic Eye

Improve Your Artistic Eye
Go With Your Gut

"The adage that I've written about many times," says Neill, "and it applies to composition as well as to the overall approach to my work, is that I’m more interested in asking questions than I am in answering them. A broad scenic kind of answers all the questions. You know, 'Let’s put on a wide-angle lens and let’s get all the information we can in there.’ But by selectively isolating and paring down, you can create a mystery to an image."

He continues, "Using rules is fine; just don’t worship them. If you’re following the rules of composition, you’re going to get a very nicely composed, but not particularly exciting or innovative image. Instead, think about what the important part of the image is. What is the essence of what you’re trying to say?"

"The best shots for me end up being a gut feeling," Smith concludes. "It’s not so much about mastering a particular technique or camera function or technical application. It’s more so about challenging and growing my way of 'seeing.’ It’s "Wow, that’s different! That’s a picture!"



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