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From the moment I walked into the ‘frugal studio’ of Buffalo, NY, I knew a genuine experience was about to happen. This past week I was invited to be a guest on the Life Hack Podcast - hosted by the humble and friendly Jeffrey Perry. We talked about life, podcasts, and of course, photography. Jeff’s podcast is an open ended exploration of everyday ‘life hacks’ we can all use to live a more positive, healthier, and more efficient life. He asked me to come on the show to discuss tips that his listeners can use to improve their photography.
Snapshot vs Photograph
Photography to many is considered a form of artistic expression. But is every photo a work of art? We would like to think so! In my opinion, there is a difference between an everyday snapshot, and a photograph. This understanding came to me from one of my favorite sources for photography knowledge and education: FStoppers. A snapshot is still technically a photograph, but not much thought goes into it. When someone hands their camera to a bystander to take a photo at Niagara Falls (a common occurrence in Western New York) - the photo is often taken at eye level without much thought put into it. It works well enough for most people looking for a quick social media update, but these photos can be so much better!
A “photograph” has 4 key aspects to it. Each aspect systematically increases creative options we have - giving us more choices to make for an interesting image. Pay attention to these and you will be well on your way to elevating the quality of your photography!
The most common way of seeing the world is at eye level. Taking photos at eye level is fine, but changing up the angle of view can boost your photography by making the scene more interesting to look at. Try moving your camera around! I can often be seen laying on the floor to achieve a dramatic upward angle - what my wife calls a “Jeff photo.”
Landscape (horizontal) or Portrait (vertical) orientation is something to consider. What are you trying to capture in your scene, and which orientation allows you for the best composition? If you aren’t sure - take one of each!
The main light in most scenes is the sun - and it is often extremely bright! Pay attention to where the main light source is relative to your subjects. If there is a bright light behind your subjects, the final image can end up with background that either takes over the photo, or shows up without detail. Pay attention to how the light hits your subject’s face, and consider moving to the shade or blocking the sun in your composition.
The dirty secret to all of the grand and exciting photography on instagram? - it's all edited. Some of it is edited so much that hardly any of the original image is left! It is no wonder that when you look at the results on your iPhone you might be perplexed. You don’t need fancy editing software to make a big difference in your photography - simply tap the edit option on your picture. Play with the different options that are provided until you get the results that look good to you.
Aside from the fundamentals I outlined above (in a very brief way), two major concepts need to be considered to take your photography to the next level: Vision and Persistence. To really create a special image, you need to see something that no one else does. Wether you see it first in your head, or something sparks a creative idea as you are walking along with your camera - all great images are built upon the vision of the photographer. Translating that vision into something beautiful obviously requires understanding of the fundamentals of photography (mainly light), but it also requires something often overlooked - Persistence. Never give up on a photo. When you have a creative thought - exhaust every single option you can think of until you are sure you have tried everything. At that point - review your results, reflect on your vision, and select the best available options! You will be surprised at the results you didn’t even think were possible when you started taking pictures that day! Each time you go through this process you will become better and better.
Thanks for reading! Let me know if there is anything I can help you out with, and don’t forget to check out the Life Hack Podcast!