5 Things I Learned About Photography in 2014

Despite not getting enough time to spend on photography in 2014 I did get some images I am pleased with and learned some new stuff as well. Here are five things that come to mind as being most significant and which I am finding to be most helpful with my photography.

Thing #1: The fisherman and the hunter.
Steve Gosling told us this one on the Olympus workshop I attended run by him and Neil Buchan-Grant in Venice last summer. It alludes to the two types of outdoor photography, mainly I guess practiced by him and Neil. The fisherman is the photographer that is prepared to wait for hours until the right shot develops. Primarily applies to the landscape photographer who waits whilst the right set of weather conditions comes together and the right image forms in front of their camera (though in the age of Photoshop possibly less patience is needed). The hunter meanwhile stalks her prey getting ready to pounce and quickly goes in for the kill! Typically the style that works for street photography of people as practiced by Neil and the likes of Joel Meyerowitz.

Thing #2: Stop going to workshops.
Said somewhat tongue-in-cheek at one of Trevor and Faye Yerbury’s portraiture workshops I attended in Manchester. The point being of course you can only learn so much by sitting and watching, or listening to, others. Ultimately you need to get out there and start making images yourself; after all your first 10,000 are going to be your worst (or not) so you’d better get on with it.

Thing #3:The four things.
So this one gives actually gives you four for the price of one. I love Ming Thein’s blog, it being both philosophical as well as full of great images. This post is typical of his thinking where he states there are four things to consider in making an image that ‘works’: light, subject, composition and the idea and goes on to expand on each of these and how you should think about them in every image you make.

Thing #4: Be the subject.
Whilst at the portrait workshop I mentioned in thing #2 I got selected to have my portrait taken. Something I was not particularly comfortable with but probably something you should do at least once in your life if you are setting out to be a portrait photographer. It’s good to know how your sitter feels as well as to listen to the calming words that a professional photographer like Trevor uses to put their subject at rest. The key to a good portrait is rapport with the sitter. Lighting and camera settings etc should all be thought of beforehand so they do not distract from your interaction with the person you are photographing. Digital cameras, for all their amazing features, are probably a bit of a step backwards in this respect. The temptation for a bit of “chimping” (i.e. looking at the back of the camera at the image you’ve just taken) is something you should never do. Keira Knightley (someone who knows more than most about being in front of the lens) in this interview makes a very pertinent remark in her discussion with the photographer Patrick Demarchelier: “I’ve noticed that the people who started on film still have the ability to see the person in front of them. Whereas for a lot of photographers who have only ever worked in digital, the relationship between the photographer and the person who they’re taking a picture of sort of doesn’t exist anymore. They’re looking at a computer screen as opposed to the person.” Something to avoid doing at all costs.

Thing #5: Use what you’ve got; photograph where you are.
Probably the most important thing of all. You almost certainly already have all the kit you need and you don’t need to travel far to see the world in new ways. One of my all time favourite images is by the French photographer Jeanloup Sieff called Cafe de Flore. This picture positively oozes Paris and ‘Frenchness’ and was a place visited by Sieff most days for breakfast. In other words it was somewhere local to him but which he was able to capture in a very enlightening way. He also just used one camera most of the time (okay mainly a Leica) with a couple of lenses. Similarly Vivienne Gucwa has made her name by photographing her local neighborhood (New York City) initially at least with a cheap point-and-shoot camera. Her book NY Through the Lens (see my review here) is full of great images of her cityscapes.

So, there you are; five things I learned from reading blogs, attending workshops, visiting galleries, and yes even taking some images, last year which I plan to put into practice this one. Here’s to another year of great image making.

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