Photography is defined at the art or process of producing images of objects on photosensitive surfaces, the art, practice, or occupation of taking and printing photographs, or a body of photographs.
A photograph is merely defined as “an image, especially a positive print, recorded by a camera.”
Like many of you, photography has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Every family event or gathering we all crammed together for the “say cheese” moment with most of those images going into an album or old shoe box and relegated to the top shelf of a closet or something.
For more than a decade now, we no longer fill albums or shoe boxes with printed photos from the little booth in the parking lot – now we fill up hard drives to maximum capacity with all of the images we take with our digital cameras and, most recently, smart devices.
While the equipment and the development processes have certainly changed, photography itself has not – a good image is a good image and the basics of light, composition and focus still reign true to the form as much today as it did around the turn of two centuries ago.
So what makes a good image a great one and do you really need to lug around cases of camera equipment to capture once-in-a-lifetime images?
Much of this can boil down to three “Ps” – Preparation, Practice, and Patience.
Preparation will break down into the areas of having the right equipment and making sure that equipment is in proper working condition when you need it. This can be something as simple as having fully charged (and backup) batteries when you need them most. Do you have recording media with enough storage space? The higher resolutions of today’s devices use a lot of space on memory cards and internal drives.
Doing your homework for the locations where you will be shooting will take a lot of headaches out of your time at that location once your arrive. Are you going to a wet climate? Moisture and electronics don’t mix well so prepare to guard against that. Will you be able to get close to your subjects or will you need special lenses to take a proper image of something in the distance? Will you need a good wide-angle lens to take in that stunning vista?
Let’s get to Practice, shall we? Don’t rush out and by the newest gear on the market without using it before the big trip. First of all, you can be certain it is working properly. Secondly, you don’t want to be the one looking down at your camera wondering why it won’t take a picture of Old Faithful or that breaching whale. Everyone around you got it, you want to see their pictures?
Practice proper composition and focus techniques. If your device uses autofocus, great, just be sure you know how tell the device where the point of focus needs to be.
Composing a photograph is sometimes a bit more difficult to grasp. Everyone has taken those images of the subject matter dead center and for the most part they are BORING. Move the subject off-center, to the right or left. There is a rule of thirds in photography that divides the scene with a tic-tac-toe-like grid. Placing your subject matter along the right or left vertical line will (usually) add a bit more interest.
And use those horizontal grid lines for your horizon. Don’t stick the separation of terra firma and the sky or water smack dab across the middle of the viewfinder.
Patience? Well, you can take a photograph anytime you want usually, but some of the best images ever recorded came from the photographer having a lot of patience. Enjoy the time you are waiting for sunrise or sunset by taking in the wonder of all around you. Meet other photographers wishing to capture the same scene as you and perhaps you can bounce ideas off each other to better your shots.
Don’t arrive at a scene and stand or set up right where everyone else is. Maybe there is a better or unique angle they have not thought of as they did not have enough patience to look around when they arrived.
There are many things that go into the recipe for making a good image a great one but sometimes it just comes down to being in the right place at the right time and if you are one of those lucky few whose photography stars have aligned just right congratulations.
For the rest of you, following my three “Ps” will hopefully allow you to come home from your trip with more than just stories.
Next time I will show you what you can do with all of those great images you bring back.