Thursday, December 26, 2013

Learning and Practicing: The Keys to Better Photography

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Earlier today, I made my rounds of the photography group pages I frequent on Facebook. A number of people had already excitedly posted some pics that utilized some new piece of gear they had received as a holiday gift. On one particular group page, a photographer posted a very pleasing portrait of a young woman, head-shot framed, fairly traditional one-light lighting, one where he had tried out his brand-spanking-new beauty dish he received for Christmas.  Another photographer in the group suggested that, in his opinion, "short lighting" would have improved the portrait. The person who posted the portrait responded with, "Thanks. What is short lighting?"

I jumped in, being something of a Mister Know-it-All and all, and offered a brief explanation of short lighting. I went on to also offer a short definition of broad lighting. I then noted that the lighting style the original poster had used for their portrait, purposely or without knowing it, was an example of "butterfly" lighting.

The original poster thanked me for my educational contributions.  I mentioned to him that the surest way to become a better photographer, especially if you're shooting portraiture, is a two-fold process:  learning new things and then practicing what you've learned. I told him that learning, coupled with practice and repetition, is the surest way to improve one's photography regardless of any new gear he might suddenly be employing.

Personally -- and this is kind of a side bar discussion -- I'm already developing my lists for New Year's resolutions. I have two lists: one is personal stuff regarding things like my health and more. Besides the usual New Year's stuff like losing weight, exercising and all that, I'm toying, for instance, with the idea of shearing my locks for the new year. My hair is quite long. I've worn it long for much of my adult life. I've always related to the notion of letting my "freak flag fly," as David Crosby sings about long hair. But every so often throughout my life, I get a wild hair (pun intended) up my you-know-what to cut my hair short. I'm currently having one of those wild butt hairs about my wild head hair. (Well, I don't actually think my head hair is wild but some people do, especially when it's not tied in a pony tail.)

My other New Year's list has to do with photography, that is, my photography and whatever I'm doing under that broad umbrella of "my photography." First off, I need to motivate myself to get my next ebook complete and released. I've written much of it already but still have a bunch of photos to shoot for it. I've been dicking around and not getting it done and my #1 New Year's resolution is to get the book done! Another resolution is to try things out I've never tried to do much in the past, snapping photos wise. I'm not going to go into detail on what those particular things might be although I will say they revolve around lighting. Some of them involve new gear and others are new ways to employ gear I already own. It's going to take some learning and, more importantly, practice and repetition to nail those "new things to try out" down.

Anyway, to somehow connect my comments on Facebook today with my New Year's resolutions, leastwise my photography resolutions, I'd like to encourage all of you to make learning a big part of your photography plans in the new year. No one is so good at this photography thing we do that they can't benefit from learning new techniques or ways of doing things or that there aren't things they still have to learn. Whether you prefer learning by watching instructional videos, by reading books and ebooks, attending workshops, one or all of those things, learning is as important, make that more important, than any new piece of gear you might acquire. Equally important is practice and repetition. Practice what you learn. Practice it till it become second nature. That's how you improve your photography better than with any new piece of gear, whether it's a camera, a lens, lighting, or something else.

Yet another reminder about Dan Hostettler's terrific posing guides. If you're at all interested they're still on sale till end of the year.   CLICK HERE to learn more about Dan's guides or to purchase them. Use Discount Code PGS33 to receive 1/3 off at checkout.

The gratuitous eye candy in her birthday suit is Ash.

1 comment:

Bill Giles said...

Yep, you gotta do it if you're gonna learn it. Reading about it only gets you so far. If you're going to learn, then you have to be deliberate in what you try to do. You need to set up the lighting to produce the style that you want to achieve and then change it to see what effect that it has on your subject. For all this to happen, you need a pretty patient and understanding subject. It's probably best not to try to be a Pretty Girl Shooter until you've mastered the basics. I do enjoy your musings and explanations.