As a Derby photographer and lecturer I am in regular contact with people who are interested in getting into photography in Derby, either as a hobby or career. A lot of people think that to take better pictures you need to splash out on a fancy SLR camera. If that’s what pleases you then go ahead but it’s worth stopping for a moment to think about what you actually want to achieve. In this article I will offer a little photography advice, focusing on the picture rather than the camera.
Now that DSLRs are so sophisticated there is no reason why anyone should take a photo that is either out of focus or suffering from camera shake. However, owning a multi-pixel state of the art camera does not magically make you into a sought after Derby photographer! What separates a snapshot from a quality photograph is something more than technology, it’s the ability to “see” a good picture opportunity, and to transform that into a successful image.
Learn from the masters
Your first aim should be to study the work of successful, professional photographers and to ask yourself what makes their images successful? Is it the fantastic equipment they own, or is it that they have learned to see things in a particular way?In my job as a photography lecturer I have noticed that some people believe they are a photographer because they own a camera and they’ve posted some snaps on Instagram or Flickr. While I think it’s great these sites exist for photo-sharing it’s worth remembering that truly great photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson were trained as artists and schooled on how to really look at their subject in detail. They learned to draw before ever picking up a camera, so they already possessed the all-important visual skills before learning about shutter speeds and f stops.
Look at some great photos and learn from the work of others. As a Derby photographer I am blessed with living in an area that could be considered one of the UK’s photography centres, but you can find books and magazines on great photography anywhere. I’m talking about collections of images, rather than the “how-to” manuals. A good example is the magazine Black+White Photography, full of amazing photos that will inspire you to try ideas out for yourself. There is some technical stuff in the magazine, but the emphasis is really on the pictures themselves.
Get out and visit a Derby photography exhibition!
If you want to improve your photography Derby is actually a good place to be, with frequent exhibitions of work in all styles, both at Derby Quad, the University and the Museum & Art Gallery, as well as the smaller galleries and even some pubs. You cannot beat seeing real photographic prints on display, a better experience than viewing everything at reduced quality on a computer screen. Spend some time studying photos and ask yourself what it is that you like about them, is it the subject itself, the light, the composition, the colours?
Think about the whole picture
It’s easy to focus your eye on the one thing you’re interested in and forget there might be all sorts of other things going on within the scene your lens actually sees. The camera does not discriminate between interesting and uninteresting subjects: that’s your job! Successful photos make use of the whole picture space and use elements within the scene to direct the viewer’s gaze to the main point of interest. A simple example would be to use an archway or the branch of a tree to “frame” your portrait, a technique I use sometimes for Derby photography in some of the city’s many beautiful parks. In the photograph above the man and the cat are very small elements within the frame but our eyes are drawn to them by the converging lines within the photo. It’s sometimes easy to forget when you’re concentrating on your model, but the whole picture is important.
So, what’s my photography advice?
To conclude, being a better photographer is firstly about learning to look and think in terms of photographs. If you can do that then you are on the way to becoming a true photographer, and you’re ready to learn how to use your camera! That’s the best photography advice I can give you. If you have any comments or questions about this article or Derby photography you can use the box below to leave a message, or contact me via my website here.