Learning by mistake

“If you don’t succeed, try, try again”

Photography, like many things in life… requires practice. If you look through the beginnings of my flickr stream, you can probably see how much my photography has evolved in the past 4-5 years.

With the rise in popularity of digital cameras, especially digital SLR’s, I see way too many people taking pictures of their living room or their desk at home. These people rattle on and on about all the features of their camera, they upload jpegs straight from camera and complain about the smallest little details. “Oh no, the images from my 5D mk3 don’t seem as sharp as the ones coming from my mk2, look at this 300% crop of my coffee mug….”

In order to take good pictures, you have to go outside.

It’s not just that, you have to go outside often, and to different places.


The overlying montra of photography is rather simple actually. If you see something you like, then take a picture of it.


The thing is, in order to improve, you must review your images

Is it exposed correctly? Is it in focus? Does the image convey the message I want it to?

Focus and exposure are probably the most common problems with pictures, even pro photographers face these issues everyday. The difference however, between an beginning photographer and a seasoned photographer is that the more experienced photog will have seen a particular setting more than once and will generally know what to do.


For example, you’re taking a portrait:

  • First off you have to have a person who you generally like and want to take a picture of.
  • Then there’s the location… you need to pick out an area where the subject can be separated from the background. If the background is too bright, the viewer’s eyes will be directed to the background and not the person.
  • Third, you need to get the exposure correctly. For this you have to know your camera, and it’s little quirks.
  • Forth, composition. Even though rules are meant to be broken, I think the rule of thirds is a great place to start.
  • Fifth, focus… generally for portraits these days we enjoy using a very wide aperture (read my aperture review!), which creates a very shallow plane of focus. In my opinion, portraits are centered around a person’s eye or face. You need to get the eye in focus.

This checklist is one of many that should be in a photographer’s tool belt. You should have one for every situation from landscape to street photography.

Missing an image

I distinctly remember getting off a flight at SFO, and seeing a long line of flight attendants for Japan Airlines lining up for security checks… they were all so orderly and uniform… I was hesitant to take out my camera due to it being a security zone. It might have been my favorite image… ever.

I use this mistake to motivate me to bring my camera out every time I get the “itch” to take a picture. In turn, losing that one image has motivated me to take many more pictures.

Dropping an image

The hardest thing to do in my opinion is to drop an image, I think we’ve all experienced a special event where we tried to capture the essence of it, but in the end the image did not convey the feeling at all. After hours of photoshop manipulation the image still looks off and flat… We have to drop images like these, since more moments will come later. You have to reflect on what you did wrong and come up with a more innovated solution next time.

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