Did you know that the automated features and tricks built into cameras and computer software can actually stunt your photographic growth and photography skills? It’s true. Unless you are seeking to learn how to achieve specific results from the canned effects used by others, you might be shortchanging yourself.
Think back to what made you take up photography in the first place. Remember seeing the amazing shots in magazines, online, or taken by a friend and then dreaming that you too might produce amazing pictures?
Well, you can and you should. Learn the camera’s basic controls and how to shape your pictures with software tools, and don’t just rely on packaged effects.
Photography skills override tricks
If you enjoy fishing but purchase fresh fish from the market on your way home, are you really fishing? You might bring home a tasty meal but can you really take credit for the catch? You dove into photography to capture great shots and produce gorgeous pictures. don’t shortchange yourself with tricks and shortcuts.
Are you relying on auto settings, presets, and effects to make your shots look special? Do you run your photos through software that pushes your shots through prefab cookie-cutter interpretations?
Perhaps it’s time to put your time into understanding the basics of the photographic process. There’s an artist inside you yearning to learn. Put that artist to work in reality. Let your pride be in your work, not someone else’s.
Stop being predictable.
Those pre-digested interpretations offered by many post-processing software packages are way too easy to spot. The effects should be used sparingly and only when the scene really lends itself to the effect. Presets look good once in a while (I use them myself occasionally). But I want people to see my photography skills, not someone else’s tricks.
Be the individual, not the trend.
Stop doing what everybody else does and start expressing yourself. I grew up in the hippie era and to some degree, I bought into the trend. I wanted to be taken seriously as an individual; a non-conformist who didn’t just follow the masses and do what everybody else did.
But eventually, I realized that all my non-conformists friends dressed alike, talked alike, acted alike, and (frankly) smelled alike. All while proclaiming their individuality.
They conformed to the accepted non-conformity trends. That herd-mentality behavior didn’t make sense back then and it doesn’t make sense now. If you want to express yourself, do just that – express yourself. Just take the time to learn the basics of shaping images. It’s a whole lot easier than you think and it’s amazingly rewarding.
You are a logical person with a good head on your shoulders. You know you can do serious work if you take the time to learn the process. There is more to photography than learning the camera controls. You must understand the why issues of photography, not just the how of the camera buttons.
Your images deserve special attention… yours!
Use your imagination.
Determine today to see life through your own lens and interpret what you see with your eyes and your imagination. Shape your images with a clear understanding of how to command the medium of photography. Don’t see life through the lens of popular automation and trick treatments, learn to control the light and color that your camera captures.
Capture images and shape them into what your mind sees. Don’t try to force your shots into someone else’s prefab, over-used interpretations. If this really is an age of personal expression, take control of your creative life by learning how to control the light in your photographs, both during the capture process and in post-production.
Eventually, you will come to a point where you want to test the waters of photo-creativity, learn the basics of image shaping, and let your images show your talent and photography skills instead of displaying someone else’s. It all starts with taking the time to learn the basics and believing in yourself.
Just the right amount.
One of the most beneficial parts of understanding how to shape your own pictures is knowing how much adjustment is enough and how much is too much. Like a four-year-old little girl playing with her mother’s makeup, your first attempts won’t be works of art, but that’s the way EVERY great photographer starts; over-producing their pictures.
The single most important ingredient in success is practice. Practice makes better, none of us ever get to perfect.
Here’s the first rule of editing. When alterations start looking surrealistic, you’ve probably taken the processing too far. We enjoy special effects in the movies but we live in the real world. Small adjustments to colors and tones sometimes produce big differences. Make your initial moves and then back away from the picture for a few minutes and then take another look at the project again.
Nudging the mid-tones lighter and increasing the overall contrast can improve the appearance of almost every photo. It’s a good place to start.
Because of the linear manner in which digital cameras capture images, the simple process of capturing a scene with pixels produces images that are darker in the three-quarter tones than they need to be. These images usually benefit from shifting the mid-tones lighter simply by making some minor adjustments in the Basic panel in Camera Raw or Lightroom.
Learn to fine-tune your images to bring out the true colors and detail. The process is simple but the results can be profound. Target specific regions of light to reveal to the viewer what your mind saw when your camera captured the image. Our brains compensate for unbalanced lighting in a scene while the camera simply records existing light levels.
Your camera doesn’t know where important detail is located in an image, although your brain located the detail and mentally enhanced the scene. You must learn how to deal with the scene’s lighting and reveal that detail manually. Most of those ho-hum images just need a little TLC to come to life.
The white surfaces of the house above needed a boost to brighten them up without losing the surface detail. The detail in the deep shadow tones of the trees and stair steps needed to be lightened without losing the defining deep shadows.
The Basic panel provided the tools and the Tone Curve panel provided the narrow target for both the highlight and shadow adjustment without affecting the mid-tones.
Be the artist who understands their medium and is in command of their art. Let others see your style and maybe they’ll try to emulate you. Stop playing follow the leader and become the leader. There are only a handful of basic skills you need to develop to break the mold and really control your pictures.
Enough of the grunge, the excessive saturation, the surrealism, and the pre-packaged garbage. Start showing the world your skills and leave the tricks to the those who need them.