Tag Archives: photography education

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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A photo educator’s philosophy- From simply picture taking to image making

What do I mean when I distinguish between simply “taking pictures” and the photographic method of “mage making”?   Image making is a deliberate process for creating original photography that produces predictable and repeatable results. Picture taking is random and sporadically produces good images. Shooting snapshots can be fun and for the average digital photographer and can provide plenty of satisfaction.  For shooters who have higher photographic aspirations a more skillful and deliberate approach is required.

 

Squid fishing boat passing under the setting sun in Ko-Panang , Thailand. Image by photographer Dan Splaine.©2011 Daniel J. Splaine-TEST of TIME PHOTO

Squid fishing boat passing under the setting sun in Ko-Panang , Thailand. This photograph is an example of the “image making” approach to photography that professional photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine teaches in his photo workshops and tours. Careful observation, composition and timing are the factors that add to a photographic result.

I am constantly referring to “image making” in my digital photography workshops and photography tours.  My goal as a photo educator is to help my students build their understanding and skills so they can fulfill their creative intent or more simply to make the photographs they imagine.  The approach I advocate to photography is all about understanding the mechanics of cameras and photographic techniques in order to achieve the greatest amount of creative control.  Photography is a remarkable melding of art and science and digital cameras are extraordinary tools for personal expression.

 

My objective as a photo educator is to enable my photography students to realize their creative intention.  My approach is to build the skills and technical understanding that allows my students to make photographs in any condition with a deliberate creative objective. Learning digital camera controls, developing an understanding of light and the relationship between the two is the core of the image making technique.

Another element of image making is to develop your photographer’s eye, to begin to see the world photographically.  When we are observing a scene an analysis of lighting conditions, optical choices and design considerations should be made before we raise our camera.  Good photographers are careful observers and good photography should be deliberate in conception and execution.

Photography is a wonderful medium for creatively expressing an individual point of view.  How we understand and adapt all of the photographic tools available and apply them to our observations is at the heart of that expression.   Building photographic knowledge and skills provide creative control and ultimately greater satisfaction in the photography produced.   Reconsider your photographic approach and make to move from “picture taker to image maker.”

Photographer Dan Splaine of  Test of Time Photography in Nashua, NH presents a full program of digital photography workshops and photographer tours for adult photographers of all skill levels. Currently we have several photo workshops scheduled for September and October as well as a 10 day photography tour in Ireland in April 2012.  Our fall program includes a photography weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on October 15-16, 2011. Click on the links above for further information about our upcoming program.  For more information or to answer any questions send me an email at info@testoftimephoto.com.

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