Beyond happy snapping

This week I thought I’d turn back to the subject of digital photography to try and explain how one can progress from being a happy snapper.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being one, if all you want is to do is record your experiences to show other people and to remind yourself about them in the future. It is sufficient if happy snaps are reasonably well exposed and more or less in focus, so that you can recognise the subject.

The fully automatic mode on most cameras is good enough these days so that most people can use it to take pictures and easily learn how to download them from the camera so that they can be stored on computer, or printed.

The less technically gifted will also be able to get up to speed very quickly by getting some help from their retailer, going on a short course, or consulting a tech-savvy friend.
The whole ballgame changes, however, when you decide that you want to go beyond the happy-snapping thing and create something that won’t be just of interest to the people involved with the subject.

At that point you are essentially moving into the realms of art, where the aim is to create pictures that will have an impact on the viewer, even if they don’t know that particular baby, bit of scenery, or teen on her way to her matric dance.

At this point you’re at the beginning of a lifelong learning curve and the first step is to find out more about the camera you have at your disposal. Some only offer a fully automatic mode but most allow you at least some control over how the picture is taken.

If you were taking a picture of a footballer, for example, you could chose to have his foot blurred as he kicks the ball, to give a feeling movement to the picture, or you could freeze his foot at the point of impact and blur the background behind him to make him stand out more.

There are plenty of choices like that in taking any picture and you have to know how the camera’s controls should be operated to give the effect you want. The best way to get to grips with this is probably to go on a short course or, as I did, to get a couple of books on basic photography.

Photography is all about varying shutter speed and aperture and, once you understand what the effects will be when you take a picture, it is easy to find out how to adjust your particular camera for the effect you want.

Working the camera is the first step and the next is to develop your eye for a picture by looking at lots and lots of them. It is highly unlikely that you can become a good writer without reading plenty, and it’s just the same with photography.

The idea is to read every book and magazine you can find on photographic techniques and on famous photographers. There are plenty of pictures on show on Internet photographic sites and, with each one, the trick is to try and decide why you like or dislike it.

All this info is filed away in your mental databanks and will hopefully have an effect on the way you take pictures in future. You also get to see lots of pictures by joining a camera club. and there is the bonus that you get feedback on your efforts from fellow enthusiasts.

The next step in learning photography is by going out and doing lots of it. It might be quite interesting and informative hanging out with friends, or in Internet chatrooms, and discussing the latest photo gear, but it’s by taking pictures that you improve.

Ken Rockwell, of kenrockwell.com, put it best when said that photography is not a spectator sport. So get out there and plunge in.

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