There are many ways in which you can improve your photographic skills.
Go out and shoot more? Yes.
Learn how to use your equipment? Yes
Do a course or workshops? Yes.
Sit on internet forums and debate the sharpness of an image? No.
Post images to Facebook and count likes? No.
Look at other people’s images for inspiration? Maybe.
I wanna explore the last point a bit because yes, looking at other people, especially people whose work you admire, is a great way to boost creativity and get some ideas as to different approaches or techniques you can try.
That being said, saying you like something is just not enough. You need to look deeper and figure out, even if just for yourself, why you like it. Once you start figuring our why you like a particular image you will have taken the first step to understanding more about how to approach your own photography.
Do you like a particular images because of the content? And for the love of the Mara, having a leopard in a frame does not necessarily make for a great wildlife image!
Do you like the way the photographer used a shallow depth of field to isolate a subject and shift your gaze around the frame?
Do you like the way the photographer kept some of the shadows in the frame to capture the mood?
Do you like the way the photographer combined various compositional elements?
The moment you start looking at images like this you will inevitably start looking at, and for, these elements in your own photography.
Initially, until you get used to looking deeper, you will look at what you like in your own images retrospectively.
Once you start getting more comfortable with the process, and it is a process, you will find it gets easier to see the various components of a scene – what you like – when you are out in the field. As with anything it will get easier with time and practise.
In the Rain
Nikon D7000, 1/500, f/4, ISO 1600
When we saw a troop of baboons on the bank of the Chobe river we started shooting.
I knew and saw what I liked about the scene and instinctively went after that both in camera and during my processing of the shot.
I like the way the young baboon is sitting staring at one of the baboons out of the frame as they walk away.
I like the way his hand is draped over his knee.
I like how the out of focus baboon in the front ads to the story by making the subject part of a group rather than just being a lone baboon.
I like how the streaky rain and background sets the mood for the frame and echoes the mood of the young baboon.
I like how the low angle and out of focus foreground makes it feel like I am part of the intimate moment.
I like how the diagonal bank of the river draw me down to the right hand corner of the frame.
I like how I then jump back to the baboon’s face and follow the gaze back to the left of the frame.
I like the crop of the frame which enhances the side to side visual energy in the frame.
Now that you’ve read all that, scroll back up and just look at the image for a while. Do you find you look at the image slightly differently?
Looking at other peoples’ images is a great way to learn more, be inspired and improve your own photography. This, to me, is what a photography workshop should be about!
When you are next looking at other people’s don’t just think to yourself – I like it.
Take a moment to look deeper and figure out why. If you don’t feel you want to verbalise it to the photographer that’s ok, but let your mind run and see what you come up with for yourself.
Only saying you like something is just not enough.
Until next time.
Gerry van der Walt
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