"There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs" Ansell Adams
In Making Photographs I I discussed the need for developing your visual literacy. It is an ongoing process which once undertaken will continue for the rest of your life. In this essay I will discuss some hints for taking snap shots that will have the potential to be made into photographs and a couple of tips to make the process a bit easier.
1. Walk, don't ride. Whenever you can walk, apart from being great exercise you will see so much more. A leisurely stroll around your neighbourhood, once your visual literacy has starting to kick in, will reveal hundreds of opportunities to take pictures that can be made into photographs. If you must ride, as at times we all must, try to be the passenger and make note of those visually interesting scenes you pass for a return visit in the future.
2. Hold your camera. Whenever you are out and about with your camera, hold it in your hand, don't sling round your neck. It is much quicker to bring it too your eye if it is already in your hand than if you have to crab it and then bring into play. I wrap my camera strap around my wrist and have my camera turned on and in my hand whenever it and I are out and about.
3. Take lots of shots. Why settle for 1 shot when you can take 6? This will increase your chances of getting that shot that can be made into a great photograph. Small changes made by your subject can make big differences in the photograph.
4. Move about. Don't be static whilst taking your shots, move in a little closer, step back, crouch down, move to the left, move to the right, as with subject changes so to different angles can make for big changes in the photographs. Don't worry overtly about the composition, as your visual literacy grows so your subconscious will compose your shots for you, trust in yourself. Concentrate on the scene you're trying to capture, try and become one with it. The tilted horizons etc can be corrected in the editing program if indeed they need to be.
5. Shoot RAW. If your camera will let you shoot in RAW mode. It adds another suite of tools to your editing program that allows you fine tune your photographs. Although they can be fine tuned within the editing program, and if you're restricted to shooting in jpeg this is the way you will have to go, it is just easier in RAW to play with exposure, white balance etc.
6. Don't rush home. It is a great temptation to get the results of a shoot up for viewing as soon as possible. Resist this and let your shots rest for at least a day or 2 before viewing. Your critical facilities will be less influenced by the excitement of the shoot and consequently more accurate. Street Photographer Garry Winogrand is reputed to have left his exposed films for a year before developing to get this distance. Also hang on to shots that don't make it through the first cut, come back to them in 6 months time, there may well be un-noticed gems in amongst the dross. Some of the photographs that have pleased me the most are ones I found when trolling through the also rans.
7. Flip the pic. While you are working on your photographs from time to time flip them through 180 degrees, either horizontal or vertical, it will enable you to see the picture with fresh eyes. Painters often turn their works upside down whilst working on them to see how the abstract elements are working within the picture frame, photographers can employ the same trick.
8. Play. Modern editing software offers a dazzling array of tools you can use on your photographs. Experiment, what happens if I push the exposure to its limits? What happens if I change the white balance? What happens if I push the contrast? Let your imagination jump outside the box.
And most importantly have fun; remember bored photographers make boring photographs.