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A guest post by Sam Levy, founder of citifari, New York Photo Tours.
In today’s environment, with the development and increased mobility of digital cameras, it has become easy and inexpensive to take a large volume of photos. Compared to the early days of photography when it took a couple of days, required gear weighting tens of pounds and cost a couple of dollars for each capture (or rather, at today’s prices, a few hundred dollars), photography today allows instantaneous results, requires less than a pound of equipment and cost little to no money per take… in addition, the photos taken today are often much better in quality. The future of photography is bright: we today have more than enough tools to surpass the works of the early masters of photography. The bad news is with advanced tools so readily accessible to the average user, much has already been achieved. So what is left in it for you? A lot! More specifically, for many of us in photography, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I would guess that since you are reading this post, you are looking for that self-improvement. Here are two pieces of advice.
When I first heard this advice, I did not fully understand it. I was backpacking in Mexico and had met with that professional photographer who gave me the advice. We met a few days in a row, which made me feel after that I could do much more with that fancy DSLR than with my small point and shoot. I felt the urge to spend what was left of my savings into that ‘toy’ at the time. From toy it became tool but that’s another story. Before we parted ways, I received a final word of advice: “take more pictures”. It did not resonate with me until much later after owning my own DSLR. Even though my now-wife felt that I was already taking too many pictures, my current view is that it is not so much the quantity of pictures taken as it is learning from the trials and errors of many takes in order to perfect your touch. Multiply the opportunities. And, when you have found a subject or setting that you like, keep on shooting until you lose interest.
Unless you are naturally gifted, following the first advice will result in a monster inventory of pictures. You will come back from a long weekend with 1,000 or 2,000 pictures easily. But it wasn’t even your wedding – it was merely a visit to Grandma and you shot everything possible in her garden. What to do then? The easy way is to download the pictures onto your computer and leave them there or share them all. While most of us “sort” through them and send 50 of them to your parents, siblings, friends, facebook etc… that number is still too large. Keeping 50 would often mean eliminating the ones that were identical or poorly composed or exposed. But you still have 50! You need to be much more selective. Try to keep 5. Yes 5 out of 2,000! 0.25%! When exercising this best practice becomes a habit, you will develop your critical eye and you will keep only the pictures that YOU really like.
As you learn to take more pictures and keep fewer, you will begin developing a sense of style – your style. You will start to shoot only those shots that you think you have a chance of keeping. You will begin to understand your tastes and aim for each different shot you take. However, you will still shoot a lot and still keep very few. The feedback loop will feed itself of increasingly better pictures and operate through a tougher selection. As a result, you will have trained a more critical eye and a better shutter finger. In no time, you might keep 1 of 50 photos taken during that weekend with Grandma, but you will love that picture and Grandma will be happy she appeared more interesting than the tomato in the garden.??So, again, what is left for the aspiring photography after the fact that the average camera user can follow these advices too? Well first, this is a disciplined practice that not anyone can put himself/herself through. But, with diligent practice of this exercise, you will certainly improve your photo skills. More importantly, you will develop a better sense for your passion in the way that pleases you.
Sam Levy is the founder of citifari. citifari offers photo tours in New York City. Structured as a 2-1/2 hour practical workshop, citifari tour helps you get comfortable with your camera settings and take great shots in New York City. citifari is launching its newest New York tour: Central Park photo tour.
Images in this post are copyrighted to citifari