I have been taking a lot of photos lately, and wanted to quickly jot down some thoughts on what I think is important to think about when I take a photo. You might find this useful, who knows.
Wowsers, I have been taking a lot of photos in the last few months - maybe 1500 photos in the last month (shhh…maybe 200 of which were worth keeping…). This photo-fest has made me think about the things I think about when I take a photo. For me, taking a good photo boils down to 5 simple factors:
* **Subject** - What or who am I taking a photograph? Is there any merit to this? Do I already have this photograph?
* **Attitude** - What is my relationship to the subject? Am I trying to capture a moment without intruding, or do I want them to connect with me through the camera? Should I be taking this photo?
* **Position** - Where am I standing? Should I move closer, or move away? Can I put myself in a position that makes this photo easier to take or better to look at?
* **Composition** - What am I putting into this photo and more importantly, what am I leaving out?
* **Light** - Is there enough light to take the photo? Where is the light coming from and what colour is it? Should I move? Should the subject move?
Now, that's not to say that I am conscious of thinking of these things when I take a photo; some of this is just a habit - but usually when a photo doesn't work it's because one of these 5 things is out of balance.
The Camera is a Just Useful Constraint
The type of camera I use definitely has a role to play in taking a photo, but mostly in the way it influences these 5 things; it's a happy constraint, a useful set of parameters to work within:
- The camera changes the subjects I'm able to photograph - if I'm not able to move myself, then the subjects within my range of vision are the subjects I'm able to photograph.
- The camera, by influencing my physical position changes my attitude to the subject. If I am far away and out of sight then the subject is observed - this is a statement of intent and of how I see the subject. If I'm close to the subject, and they're aware of me, then that establishes a relationship of some kind.
- The camera encourages me to frame things in particular ways - the ratio of width to height lends itself to different subjects, the placement of the subject in the frame influences how the story of the photo unfolds when its viewed.
- My camera enables me to expose the photo correctly - or incorrectly/poorly - in the light I have available or the light I'm able to control. The photo is possible in the time I have, with the light I have, or it's not. The light is the photograph quite literally; from the light-source, to the subject to the lens and the sensor/film.
So, whatever camera I use will impose constraints, but ultimately I'm happy if I can get to understand these constraints and work within them to produce a good image.
Letting the Equipment Go
When I was a child I took piano lessons, but I never really got to the point where I wasn't conscious of sitting at a keyboard playing a thing. If I had been better, then the piano would have been a constraint, but the quality of the music and performance would have been my concern. The piano as an object melts away, the music is left. Maybe that's the point with all hobbies or skills - the goal is to get beyond the point where the equipment/interface is a concern to the point where the quality of the outcome is a happy by-product of the fun you have doing the activity.
I think that's where I'm starting to get with basic photography - I'm starting to think more about what's going on out there, what I'm trying to communicate, and less about the camera. It's very easy, and sometimes fun, to get caught up in the equipment - but the more I think about the gear, the less I'm thinking about the important stuff; the image, the fun.
Everything else is just practice I suppose.