Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

The best advice for a photography beginner

“The book “On Being a Photographer” by Magnum Photographer David Hurn and Bill Jay (this only seems to be available as a Kindle download unless you are prepared to spend about £140 for a paperback! Worth buying the Kindle)  helped me more than any other book about photography I have read. One of the main things I learned is the importance of picking a project rather than just walking around looking for pictures. And it is important that the subject matter you choose be continuosly accessible. This translates for most people into picking a subject close to home. It is harder photographing your own day to day life. You don’t need exotic places — and often they are deterrent because the photographer does not know the exotic place well enough to capture its essence. Showing what is beautiful (or not beautiful) in your day-to-day environment is infinitely more interesting.

Decide on one or two qualities that you will search for. Perhaps that quality is “symetry”. Find all the photographs that use symetry as a dominate quality. Churches are often symetrical. People can be symetrical. The ocean can be symetrical. A car can be symetrical. So, spend a day just looking for this one quality. That is alot cheaper than spending money on taking pictures, at first!

When you use your camera, try to emulate or use this quality of “symetry”. After looking at symetrical objects in magazines, go outside and find an object, like a sign or a newspaper rack or a telephone, or an apple, and make a symetrical photograph of it.

 

Is that exciting? Nope. But either is playing on a piano with 1 note. But now you really know where that 1 note is. You can pull it out and use it anytime you need to in the future.

I took a course in photography for 3 weeks. This is how I learned. We were given assignments like: “shadows”, “near and far”. We did about 5 different qualities. As a result, I was somewhat equipped to do assignments for the college newspaper and I did PR for the college as well. Therefore, I became professionally almost immediately. All I knew was 4-5 qualities. But I knew the qualities that would help me as a beginning professional, and I didn’t fail.

Decide what it is you like in life. Having a *passion* for old motorbikes, landscapes, flowers … is the real driver to making good photos. I find it almost impossible to shoot good images of things I have no interest in, but I can happlily spend a whole day photographing what I love.

I suggest to you that you would concentrate on one quality of a good photograph at a time. Spend a week just looking for this one quality, and take about 40 pictures of things or events that have this one quality. A good picture usually has 4-5 good qualities. However, there may be 100 good qualities out there to choose from. The rule of 1/3rds is one quality.

Another, is “diagonals”.

Another quality is “near and far”.

Another quality is “shadows”.

The way I started, my first picture was of stairs. I pictured the stairs diagonally across my frame. And with that, I learned the first quality. You must spend one week on your assignement to learn about each quality. Then after a month or so, you can combine qualities.”

My advice echoes this, to get better at photography always consider composition, you could even take our composition course and practise one feature at a time, spend hours or even days just looking for and photographing using one compositional device like rule of thirds. When you start seeing images even when you do not have a camera with you then you are on the right road

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera”
Dorethea Lange

Working to projects rather than just aimlessly wandering around with a camera sharpens your eye, helps you see better and if you come across the slim paper back “On Being a Photographer” by Bill Jay and David Hurn snap it up

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One response to “The best advice for a photography beginner

  1. Pingback: How to Use Natural Frames to Enhance Photographic Composition « { Sunday Photographer }

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