Sunday, January 6, 2008

When I Press The Shutter....

Nothing makes my day more than sharing my photographs with others. I adore the entire process of photography. From the moment of pressing the shutter....to the perusing of the digital files....editing and cropping....to printing or sharing online. Each step of the way brings me a certain amount of joy, however, none so much as seeing the final product, and hearing the thoughts of others.

Fairly often I am asked, "What camera are you using?" This question alone is a reasonable one, and I am more than happy to share my thoughts on my camera. However, when it sandwiched between these statements, "I love your photos!" and "I would love to get photos like that!", I get my back up a tiny little bit. Recently, I stumbled upon the following little story, and it struck a cord. I was finally able to put words to what has been bothering me.

When Jack London had his portrait made by the noted San Francisco photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with effusive praise for the photographic art of his friend and fellow bohemian, Genthe. "you must have a wonderful camera...It must be the best camera in the world...You must show me your camera." Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London. When the sitting was finished, Genthe could not contain himself: "I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter."

You see....wanting a nice camera isn't a crime. However, hoping that a certain camera will suddenly create the photographs you have been admiring, is a mistake. In fact, it is an error I have witnessed many people make. I personally know several people who purchased a specific camera solely based on that fact that they knew someone who had that exact camera, and admired their photography. These same people have not seen the results they were hoping for, and now regret having purchased said camera.

When choosing a camera, it is very important to know exactly what you are looking for, and understanding your personal desire to pursue photography. Bigger does not always mean better. More money, doesn't guarantee you fantastic photos.

What, then, should you do if you want to improve the quality of your photos? I'm glad you asked (you did right?)! My advice is to take the camera you currently own, and just start snapping, and I mean really snapping. It is through practice that one starts to see improvement. Learn your camera....take it to it's limits. Read great books on photography, or take a class. It is through understanding the basic principles that you finally will understand what is going wrong, or right for that matter, with your photos. When this happens....you start having some control over your outcome. Keep at it. At some point, if you are really, truly getting into this photography stuff, you will realize that you have reached your camera's limits, and will start looking at upgrading. It is at this time that asking advice and doing research becomes important. Just remember, it isn't the EXACT camera that makes the photographs you love. Someone is behind that lens....and has some natural talent, or worked hard, or most likely....BOTH! I have come a LONG way in this process, but I certainly have a lot to learn, and even more to practice. It is a challenge I thoroughly enjoy.

Last August I set out to take some 2.5 year old portraits of Miss Sugar Bear. I'd love to share my process, as I am also often asked, "How do you get her to sit still?" People often think that Sugar is just easy to photograph. Honestly, that is partly correct. She is easy, because she is used to the camera being attached to my hand, but she certainly doesn't just sit there and take direction. I have to keep her distracted and entertained.

On this day, we set out to one of our favorite parks, and features a lovely Japanese Garden. Sugar likes to explore the surroundings, and everywhere we turn the scenery is nice. I led Miss Sugar to the pond, and basically sat her on some rocks, and proceeded to just talk with her about the water, the plants, the ducks...and anything I could think of to make her look around. At certain moments I would grab her attention with a silly remark, or a funny sound. Yes, people, I am not above snorting in public! It works, she looks at me and laughs. If she attempts to leave, I just follow her, and redirect her to another spot.

I snapped approximately 50 shots in this location in about 10 minutes or so. Here are some of the results:

I like to call these the "Okay Keepers". They aren't bad...but not the portrait I was looking for. About 50-60% of the photos I take fall into this category.




You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it. ~Author Unknown





People are so wonderful that a photographer has only to wait for that breathless moment to capture what he wants on film.
Weegee



The pictures you want tomorrow, you have to take today. - Kodak advertisement



Then we have the "bloopers"! Now I have to admit, as a mom...these are some of my favs. The bloopers are not the mistakes. They are just the ones that make me smile, let out a giggle, or just plain crack up. About 15% usually fall into this category, however, on this particular day, Sugar was a total ham sandwich.



A good snapshot stops a moment from running away. ~Eudora Welty





There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer. ~Ansel Adams






Lastly, we have "The Ones". These are the photos from session that meet the purpose. Depending on the goal in mind, the amount of photos in this category can vary greatly. If portraits are in mind, I usually only get about 10%.



When you find yourself beginning to feel a bond between yourself and the people you photograph, when you laugh and cry with their laughter and tears, you will know you are on the right track. ~Arthur Fellig



Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter. ~Ansel Adams



So for those of you doing the math...the remainder of the photos from the shoot are mistakes, or undesirable in some way, so they are deleted.

Lastly, I'd like to leave you with one of my favorite "clean" jokes. I imagine my Sugar would very easily share this little girl's assumption.

A little girl walked to and from school daily. Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to the elementary school. As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up and it started to thunder and lightning. The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school and she herself feared that the electrical storm might harm her child.

Although it hadn't begun to rain, thunder and lightning began cutting through the sky. Full of concern, the mother quickly got into her car and drove along the route to her child's school. As she did so, she saw her little girl walking along, but at each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up and smile. Another and another were to follow quickly and with each the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile. When the mother's car drew up beside the child she lowered the window and called to her, "What are you doing? Why do you keep stopping?"

The child answered, "I stop and smile because God keeps taking my picture."

26 Live It or Love It:

Beth said...

Thanks for sharing your process and your thoughts on photography and as always,your pictures of your daughter!

I need to start trying to take more natural pictures instead of the "cheesy" kind!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Corey! You have totally spoken my mind and heart on this. I agree with everything you have said. Like the saying goes - cameras don't take pictures, people do.

I am constantly inspired by the pictures you share because I love to see the way you capture moments. It's really helping me to look at things differently and think about how a scene would translate in a shot.

Thanks for these words of wisdom and THANK YOU for taking the time to share with us like you do. I have much to learn about the art of photography and you are one of my favorite teachers!

Terry said...

Corey, Of all of your posts I have read through I like this one the most. Admittedly I am one of those who have asked you to post what camera that is and what lens you use but you have educated me as to what may be the possible problem with my own photos...I have a nice digital camera but my photos don't look like yours and I think I now know why. I think I am not taking my camera to the limit it can go. I will work on this a lot more and just snap away. I often wonder why I don't do that more because it is digital and therefore, the photos can always be deleted. No harm done. Thanks for the awesome post.

Summer said...

That's such a cute story at the end.

This is a great post! My camera is 6 years old now and I definitely need a new one to do what I want to do. But that will still be a while in coming with finances the way they are.

Lis Garrett said...

I believe you are correct, Corey, in that it takes more than the right camera to take a great photo. I love that you put so much thought and research into the entire process, and how great of you to share with your readers.

My husband and I got into a discussion the other day about the direction in which photography is heading. With more and more people using digital cameras and online photo editing sites, what will become of old-fashioned photography in which one truly understands the entire process of taking great photographs - light, exposure, lens, etc, and then using dark rooms to develop them. I don't consider myself a photographer at all, but even I can take a decent photo if I edit it. I would like to know your opinion.

PS - I liken it to my personal writing (and this may ruffle the feathers of some). I can publish online, either paid or unpaid content, but I won't be truly satisfied with my portfolio until I have been published in print (which is what I am pursuing).

holly said...

1) okay, so my pictures being crappy - it's my fault?! crap crap crap! okay fine...

2) i'm a software engineer. we are lazy. i don't do 50 or 60 of *anything*. if i think i'm going to do something more than 2ce, i write a program to do it. so now i'm away to make a program to take 50-60 pictures. oh wait...

Juliana RW said...

Hi Corey,

What digital camera do you use? It is very clear and nice to see :D

Oh, btw. I added you to my blogroll. Will you add mine also :D See you around

Keara @ Now I Know... said...

Hey Corey!

It is funny that you wrote this. I just took out my old Nikon Coolpix E5400 last night. I have not used it since June and lost my uploading cord during the move. I had always just used it as a point and shoot and got some decent pics with it. I have ALWAYS wanted to learn how to focus on one thing and have everything somewhat blurry in the background and thought I had to buy an expensive camera to do that. Well I took my old camera out last night and started messing around with the manual settings and........ I DID IT! WAHOO! I know I have a ton to learn but I am so excited for my new found love for my old camera. Maybe that new camera can wait for awhile. :)We will see. Maybe you could suggest some sites that teach you how to learn manual settings?!?!?

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

I think what is so wonderful about the photos that you share is that they capture the essence of Sugar Bear, in all her expressions, moods and activities. And that is what is so important about having pictures. I keep reminding myself of that when in the quest for the 'perfect' picture, that as long as it shows my kids and how they were at that point in time, then the picture is 'perfect'.

Although I would love a 'better' camera, I find that I can do a lot more than I ever thought possible just with my 'point and shoot', especially since I started paying attention to what I was photographing instead of just well, pointing and shooting, LOL. I loved reading about your process and seeing the different photos that you took of Miss Sugar on that day - every single one of them is a 'keeper' in my opinion! :)

Julie said...

What a wonderful post today, Corey! Your advice about taking lots of photos to gain experience is right on! The photos you shared of Sugar are precious, too! I think the bloopers are my favorites! Thanks for such wonderful blog content each day! I look forward to visiting here.

we are reilly said...

Loved this post! I like seeing all your 'types' of photos: the good ones, the bloopers...but, I would have liked to see the mistakes that you deleted -- so that I will know that even a wonderfully talented photographer like yourself takes some photos like the rest of us that don't turn out!

I would say mine are mostly 'okay' -- once in a great while do I get that 'perfect' shot -- but, it's also in the eyes of beholder....

we are reilly said...

Loved this post! I like seeing all your 'types' of photos: the good ones, the bloopers...but, I would have liked to see the mistakes that you deleted -- so that I will know that even a wonderfully talented photographer like yourself takes some photos like the rest of us that don't turn out!

I would say mine are mostly 'okay' -- once in a great while do I get that 'perfect' shot -- but, it's also in the eyes of beholder....

Jo Beaufoix said...

Corey, you are so right about this. I have never thought of your pictures being anythng less than an amazing skill, but I am guilty of asking mates what cameras they have f their shots are particularly clear etc.
The shots you take are always so much more than pictures, and I really think your warmth and love of your subject, shines through.
Although I've only known you for a little while I have seen your skill growing and you have taken some of the most stunning and interesting photos I have ever seen.

Keep it up sweetie. You are an amazing photographer, as well as an amazing person.

Jo Beaufoix said...

P.s. I adore the Sugar picture on your header. It is so gorgeous.

Megan (FriedOkra) said...

SO O O Cute!

Driving With the Brakes On said...

Loved reading about your process, and the story about Jack London - what a wonderful lesson. Oh, and the joke - too cute.

As always, Sugar Bear is too freakin' adorable - I can only imagine the fun that you two have on your photo expeditions.

Nap Warden said...

Wow, do you take great pictures! I need to take more, I need to work on photography more...I have a great camera, but it seems I always grab the easy camera instead. Truth be told, I am scared of the Nikon...It's smarter than me, it knows it and I know it. Must get smarter, now!

childlife said...

I love this post Corey - very well said. And maybe it's the mom in me, but my favorites are your 'bloopers' - love the one of Sugar sticking out her tounge! : D

Pam said...

Great post! Great quotes! The way you feel about photography is the way I feel about baking!

I will definitely have my hubby read this post. He has a photography bug in him. He loves to do research on the internet to glean new information, and he even checked books out of the library...a BIG deal for him! He did all he could with our old camera, and he started asking me about getting a new one. Lucky for him, our camera died, so it was time to get a new one and upgrade anyway!

Lindy said...

lovely photographs!

Aisha said...

Oh wow! Those shots of the little girl are really awesome! She also looks so cute and pretty on the camera. Nice work! I love it!

Working mum said...

You are so right. I've bought a new camera. A posh SLR one. But I know I have much to learn before I can take really great photos with it. It's the difference between giving a child a musical instrument and giving the same instrument to a professional musician. Same instrument, different outcomes!

Carolyn said...

Great post. I agree with every word. I once heard someone say, "Owning a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner."

Practice, study and some built-in natural creative talent are the paths to great photos. I'm having fun learning and exploring and getting better with you Corey!! Thanks for the inspiration.

Mary said...

Hi. I stumped onto a link to your photos over on SarcasticMom's page. Awesome photos. I'm not gonna ask about your camera, I'm find with my camera. What I'd really know to know how to do is put my name on the photos like you have done. What software program does that? Thanks and keep clicking!
Mary
memcooper64@yahoo.com

Susie said...

Hmm, now I get it. Jack London's genius was nothing about a typewriter.
What a fantastic way to explain yourself.
OK, while I am tempted to purchase your camera--mine officially broke this week and I need a new one--I will also have to add more of your tutorials, some books, and lots of practice before I can expect even half the results you have--you are certainly talented with your art. and I truly love your photographs.

I think the fact that you are sharing your knowledge on the web is AWESOME! Kudos to you Corey! And I'm totally telling Soph that God is taking pictures during the next storm. How cute is that?

dana said...

Okay, this was the perfect post for me to read right now. Thank you for sharing such wonderful thoughts and for that first story. What a brilliant way to put it. I agree as well that my newer camera does make my photos look better, but I'd like to think that my eye for composition, lighting, capturing the candid moment, etc plays into it too. And you stated that all so well.

I have the Canon Rebel XS and have so much still to learn. I hope when we move to Texas I can take a class at the local college to improve my knowledge.
I guess where I lack fulfillment is with the sharpness and clarity of my pictures and I think it's more than a focus thing. I look at photog blogs and their photos contain so much definition; much more than mine. And I think this has to do with the amount of pixels? Perhaps I wish I had more. But as you stated so beautifully, I have much to learn on this camera so I'm going to try mastering this before moving on.

Sorry for the very winded comment. You just struck a cord with me. Thank you for sharing great photography info. I'll be checking in your blog often!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Blog Archive

Love It!

Adoring Fans

Recent Reads

For a list of books I read from 9/14/09 until 9/14/10 go HERE!


For a list of books I read from 9/14/10 until 9/14/11 go HERE!


For a list of books I read from 9/14/11 until 9/14/12 go HERE!

Books starting 9/14/12


“Monsters of Men” by Patrick Ness

“Gregor and The Prophecy of Bane” by Suzanne Collins



Visits to my blog

Blog Styled by:

Analytics

Blog Styled by: NW Designs

  © Blogger Template by 'Photoblog II' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP