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To Become a Better Photographer Look at Photography Critically

A tip for improving your photography

Do you ever look at the photography in magazine and on websites and think “why does this image look this good”?   Are you wondering why your photographs seem to lack the impact that you see in  professionally made photographs?   Let me first say that if you are asking these questions, if you are thinking critically about your photography – Congratulations!

 

Good photography is thoughtfully conceived and executed.   Devoting time looking at other photographers work and finding inspiration and insight in those images is an important way to improve you own photography.   Now, I am not suggesting that you mimic or outright rip off the work of other photographers.  My advice is to develop your critical eye, to learn how to find the qualities in an image that make it successful.  Use that insight to inform your own creative process and approach to image making.

How do we define an image as successful?  My standard for success is very straightforward: the viewer response.  If you make a photo that engages the viewer, which captures their attention and elicits a response, you are successful.  If the viewer is distracted by a technical flaw or bored, you’re not.  A response can be cognitive – your photo makes them think, emotional it evokes a feeling or perhaps they become engrossed in narrative the story in your photo.

Good photography engages the viewer, it captures their attention. Good photography also inspires, entertains and is a catalyst for action.  For example the photography of Lewis Hine (1874-1940) who used photography as tool of social reform.  His photography directly led to child labor law reforms because of the impact they had on the public awareness of the issue.

When you look at photography made by others begin to deconstruct the visual elements and creative techniques employed in its creation.  Break down the building blocks, the creative components of the shot. Analyze lighting sources  – quality and direction, subject features, composition, optical choices, camera position, color, tone, mood, emotion and all the features of the image.  Consider the relationship of these elements and the impression they have on you – the viewer.  Use those insights when you make your photography.  Identify the elements in your scene and use your critical assessment skills to arrange them in your camera frame.

Photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine of Test of Time Photography  in Nashua, New Hampshire. ©2012Daniel J. SplaineABOUT the AUTHOR:  Photographer Dan Splaine has more than thirty years experience creating original photography for corporations, institutions and individuals. He operates TEST OF TIME PHOTOGRAPHY in Nashua New Hampshire, a commercial photography and corporate assignment photography services company.  A live action and location photography specialist, he is most noted for his photography of people.  His assignments have involved travel to dozens of countries and at locations throughout the United States. ranging from tropical rainforests to the hall of Congress.

Dan Splaine is also a photography educator and  he presents a program of digital photography workshops and photographer tours.  The tours and workshops are held in New England and at international locations.

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