Take More Pictures

It was a bit late in coming, but I have decided that my New Year’s resolution is: Take More Pictures. Let’s break that down one word at a time.

Take: Perhaps I should be saying “make”. I mentioned last post that I am reading Scott Kelby’s excellent and informative Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers, and one of the points he makes is that people have the impression that pictures are made in the camera, and whatever happens afterwards is…well…maybe they don’t even think about that. It would be too knee-jerk of me to blame that on the culture and ease of the point-and-shoot and camera phone; this attitude has existed as long as anyone with a camera could send their film away and magically receive prints a few days (or hours) later. Instead, Kelby goes on to explain, capturing the picture only takes a fraction of a second, even if there is some amount of forethought about it, and the processing takes the bulk of the time, by far.

Now, I can be lazy about my processing. I reach the point where I say, “Hey, that looks pretty good,” pretty soon after the first few tweaks are made. So I am committing myself to more time spent massaging the images into the best shape possible, trying out different editing approaches, presets, sliders…you name it. But that’s only a third of the equation.

I also endeavor to simply press the shutter button more often. I would love it to be on a daily basis, but that is not always practical, or worthwhile. And it’s also not just about releasing the shutter–it’s about shooting with different techniques, with natural light, with off-camera flash, on-camera flash, long exposures, pans and panoramas and all measure of things. By taking more exposures, I’ll far more stuff to throw out, and I don’t mean that as a joke; it means that, as I have heard Joe McNally say, I have to learn to be a better editor of my own photos. If you take ten shots and keep ten, then you are keeping the good, the so-so-, and the bad; if you take 100 and keep ten, then you are only keeping the top ten percent, which is considerably more ruthless. Take 1,000 shots and keep the best 10, and you now have only the best 1% of the shots you take, and that makes you look pretty good. I don’t want to keep more images; I want to have better images to keep. So I will throw away more.

Pictures: Again, I waffle between words. Should I say “images”? Or is an image the end result of taking a picture and then working with it? There are always so many things to work on when taking pictures. Composition is an easy place to start; I need to become increasingly more aware of compositional opportunities and options, and shoot enough photos to have this awareness become even more instinctual. Subject matter. Portraits. Landscapes. Still lifes. Architecture. All of it. All the time. Taking a picture is not simply a matter of aiming the lens and firing away; making a picture, making an image, requires thoughtfulness–whether the result of cogitation or a split-second reaction–about all the camera does, and the more images I take, the more familiar with my camera I become. Which results in better pictures, which results in new challenges to learn, which result in…and so on.

The above shot comes from a photowalk I took yesterday through the (yet again) Wissahickon. It’s a photomerge of three images, and I think it’s good. It’s not 2:3 ratio. It’s not a snapshot I’ve doctored up to look snazzy. It’s not under studio light. It’s not brashly colorful. It’s an image I learned a little bit from.

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