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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pro Tips For Better Photography

There are no commandments in photography, but these simple tips will make an immediate difference in your shots

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Dawn clouds, Great Salt Lake, Utah. The previous evening’s news predicted a storm moving over the Great Salt Lake early the following morning. Having scouted this spot before, Tal planned to be there to see what Mother Nature had in mind. Even such simple planning can greatly improve your odds of witnessing and photographing nature at its best. Canon EOS 5D, Canon 17-40mm ƒ/4 L
Bullet Five: Don’t Force It
If you’ve been to a beautiful place and didn’t capture great images, you’re still better off than if you hadn’t gone at all. If you let your lack of photographic success on a given trip make you bitter and frustrated, only then will you truly have wasted your time.

Keep in mind the reason you wanted to photograph these places to begin with—you were likely inspired by their beauty, moved by their timeless majesty and touched by their raw spiritual powers. None of these should change just because on a given day conditions weren’t conducive to photography.

Savor the experience for what it is. Otherwise, it can be a dangerous catch-22: The harder you try, the more likely you are to become frustrated and to miss the very things that inspired you to begin with. Let the place speak to you; let its beauty—both grand and subtle—touch your soul. Images will likely present themselves when you’re in the right state of mind, and even if they don’t, you’ll be doing a disservice to yourself and cheapen the very experience you set out to find by hanging your enjoyment on whether or not you manage to get a “keeper.”

If you’re not enjoying yourself, your work will suffer as a result. While many aspects of good photography have to do with technical proficiency, those intangible little things that distinguish “good” from “great” are all about emotion. If you don’t feel it, you likely won’t be able to express it. Natural places can do wonders for your spirit—they can put your mind at ease, inspire inner peace, make you forget about the mundane drudgery that makes up so much of our lives and give you a chance to be transported into a simpler, more beautiful world where things just make sense.

Make it your primary goal to immerse yourself in the experience. Don’t over-burden yourself with the thoughts that you must find something, anything, to photograph. Remember you’re there to make images of beautiful experiences. Make it a beautiful experience first, and you’ll have something to photograph.

Bullet Six: It Doesn’t End With The Click
You went to great expense to buy your gear, you spent your time traveling and finding the best light and composition, and you captured a timeless miracle of immense beauty—you put all this effort into building toward the moment of sharing something incredible with your viewers. Now what? It’s not over—not by a long shot.

Much has been written (and will continue to be written, including by yours truly) about the importance of the photographer’s vision and creativity. What often surprises me, though, is that so many of us fail miserably when it comes to the ultimate test of the image: presenting it to our viewers. Some might even say this is the most important and critical point in the proverbial life-cycle of an image—its raison d’etre, its ultimate test, the point where all our efforts, our vision, our skill, our expensive gear and our desire to share something with the world culminate into one singular experience.

Your work in the field is only the beginning. It’s where you gather the raw materials, the inspiration and the concept of your final image. All images require postprocessing to achieve their final look and to optimize them for a given presentation, whether in print, on the web, in a slideshow or in any other medium.

Postprocessing techniques are just as important to the success of an image as composition, exposure and fieldwork. Take the time to master your tools, whether you prefer a wet darkroom or digital editing or both. If your postprocessing skills don’t measure up to your camera skills, your images always will be half done.

Ask yourself honestly why you make images in the first place, and if anywhere in there is the desire to share something with others—be it beauty, ideas, inspiration or story—you owe it to your art to make sure it’s dressed up to the nines before you strut it in front of those you wish to impress. Don’t quit before the finish line.

To see more of Guy Tal’s photography, visit http://guytal.com.


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