Improving and growing as a photographer Part 1


When out in public, people should have no expectation of privacy. I made sure this young couple knew I was there and they didn't object.

When out in public, people should have no expectation of privacy. I made sure this young couple knew I was there and they didn’t object.

Don’t you love when you predictions are correct?

I remember a particular student in my beginning class mentioning that she was only interested in landscapes, and nothing else.

Didn’t care for making pictures of people at all.

I met up with her 4 Years later.

Keep an Open Mind

The first words out of her mouth were, “You were right.”

During class, I playfully kidded her about her narrow-mindedness.

I said she would outgrow her ‘Ansel Adams’ period and move on to portraiture.

It’s a very normal evolution.

I started like many of you pointing my camera at inanimate objects and things that didn’t move.

Then as I figured out the controls, I got bored and needed to be challenged to grow.

So I stalked ‘people’ but from a distance with a long lens next. ;)

When Photographing People, talk with them

As expected, stealing a shot of a stranger  from a distance with a long lens became easy after a while.

The next step though, was a lot tougher.

It required me to get used to approaching strangers.

When I worked as a news photographer, taking the picture was only half of the job.

I had to go up to them and ask for their names afterwards so that I could identify them in the caption.

Clearly, their cooperation often depended on what they were doing when I took their picture.

Without names, the picture would not see the light of day.

That, by the way, is great training for anyone who is an introvert and shy.

Even today as my technical skills have improved, I rely heavily on this skill.

It’s the difference between getting an average picture and a nice portrait.

If I’ve establish a rapport, my subject trusts me to make them look their best.

They’ll be amenable to suggestions like moving to another location that has better light, giving me more time or  even striking an unfamiliar pose.

Study Your Metadata

Shooting with a shutter speed of  1second with a 100 mm focal length lens is usually disastrous but I used a monopod and I also lit Danielle with my Speedlite. The more you study your EXIF info against your successes and failures, the better you will know your handholding abilities.

Shooting with a shutter speed of 1second with a 100 mm focal length lens is usually disastrous but I used a monopod and I also lit Danielle with my Speedlite. The more you study your EXIF info against your successes and failures, the better you will know your handholding abilities.

Installing the Add-on "EXIF Viewer" if you use the Firefox Browser is a simple matter and it opens up a lot of info about pictures you find online. Even GPS coordinates can be read and from there, Google Maps can pinpoint exactly where your picture was taken.

Installing the Add-on “EXIF Viewer” if you use the Firefox Browser is a simple matter and it opens up a lot of info about pictures you find online. Even GPS coordinates if they weren’t stripped before uploading to the web can be read. Scary enough for you? Just by clicking Google Maps, a map will load and show exactly where your picture was taken.

The best thing about digital photography is how you can teach yourself not to repeat your mistakes.

The EXIF information is there embedded in your images.

All you need is to use Adobe Bridge or Lightroom or even use “Finder” or “Windows Explorer” to read the info about your focal length, white balance, shutter speed, ISO and aperture.

Even if you don’t have access to Adobe’s software, if you use the Firefox browser, you can install a free add-on so that you can read the EXIF info about any picture online.

The lessons here aren’t so much about techniques but more about your own capabilities like ability to handhold slow shutter speeds or focus.

If you find you consistently have pictures that aren’t sharp, check those images against the lens it was taken with, then you can narrow down the culprit especially if you are using a high enough shutter speeds to freeze action or reduce camera shake.
Peter Phun Photography

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3 thoughts on “Improving and growing as a photographer Part 1”

  1. Sabe,
    The picture of Danielle was shot in a basement.

    I pulled back in the shot below so you can see what the scenel looks like.

    Those are the stairs leading down to the basement behind her.

    As you know when working in dark environments, autofocus still needs light to function.

    I placed a small lantern on the circular table where she sat so I could see to confirm focus.

    The small lantern doesn’t put out enough light to affect exposure at 1sec, so I just had to be sure it wasn’t producing an unwanted color cast.

    My Speedlite was fitted with a Lumiquest Softbox and placed just outside of the frame on the top right.

    I usually set the power of my Speedlite to 1/8th manual power and move it closer or further to give me f2.8 especially in low light to get the highest shutter speed possible all the while weighing it against using high ISO versus digital noise. In this case. I knew I had to shoot a lot because of the very slow shutter speed of 1 second. Camera was on a monopod.

  2. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for stopping by and commenting. That’s a good idea about using a wide angle lens. Thanks you also for sharing that wonderful portrait with your comments. I hope you like this new feature I added to allow for commenters to include pictures.

  3. Great write-up Peter.

    One way I helped students get over the hard part of photographing strangers is to make them shoot portraits of strangers with a wide angle lens. Also, to shoot candidly with a wide lens. Definitely helps them.

    Thanks again for reminding me why I love photographing people!

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