Friday, April 27, 2012

Shoot Your Passion


Photography can be very simple, yet complex at the same time. It can be interpreted in so many ways. For some people it's a "hobby", for others it's how they make a living. And then there are the folks who fall somewhere in between. No matter where you fall on the scale, having a passion for what you do has to be a part of it. More on that in a bit. I don't really have an outline of what I want to say other than to share some thoughts and things I've learned. This is not a technical how-to post and, as people who know me can attest, I don't think of my own photos as all that good. I'm always learning and have much to learn. I just had a few thoughts bouncing around in my head and I wanted to share them with anyone who cares to use up two minutes of their time.






I'll start by saying you should know your equipment, but don't get hung up on equipment. What do I mean by that? It doesn't matter what you use to take your photos, but it's important to be intimately familiar with your gear. Owner's manuals are some of the most boring pieces of literature to read. On the other hand, they can be very useful. When I bought my last camera, I forced myself to read through the manual several times even though I was somewhat familiar with the system. I didn't do it all at once, but I read through it several times over the course of a few weeks. It paid off because I picked up some things I wouldn't have figured out until much later. Being intimately familiar with your camera means being able to make adjustments and changes without dropping the camera from your eye. Do you know how to change exposure, shutter speed, or aperture settings without looking at the menu? I realize some of this isn't possible with some cameras, but if you use a DSLR, you should know the shortcuts available on your particular camera. Cameras are tools, nothing more. The more familiar you are with your tools, the better you will be able to use them.


I said you should know your equipment, but not get hung up on equipment. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you need the most expensive camera or the biggest lenses to be a good photographer. That's hogwash. The most expensive camera in the world can't walk outside and take a picture by itself. Like I said, cameras are just tools. Do some cameras have more features and functions than others? Of course. But that doesn't mean the photos are better. Like all tools, they're only as good as the person using them. If a novice starts out with a top of the line Canon or Nikon, his or her photos are not automatically publication worthy just because the camera cost thousands of dollars. It doesn't work that way. The best camera you have is the one you have. Learn it intimately and your photos will reflect that. There's nothing wrong with having expensive gear. Upgrading and adding equipment is fine and a natural progression. Just don't get hung up on seeing what other photographers use and think you have to have the same gear in order to be successful. 






Another trap I think we sometimes fall into is seeing the photographs of other people and wishing ours were like theirs. Don't start comparing your work to the work of others to the point that you get discouraged. It's fine to look at the photos of others to find inspiration or ways to improve yourself, but if you spend too much time looking at other photographer's work instead of taking your own photos, you're doing yourself a disservice. Photography is about you on a personal level. Don't take pictures based on what you think other people are going to like, take them based on what you like. Unless you're being paid by someone for a specific assignment, it shouldn't matter what anyone else thinks.


This brings me to what I think is the most important element in photography and what I mentioned at the beginning - passion. Shoot your passion. Whatever that is. I have a passion for wildlife, nature, and outdoor photography. It's what I enjoy. Some people have a very specific passion. For example, some photographers enjoy shooting only birds, or landscapes, or flowers. That's what they enjoy. Most people already know what their photography passion is. If you don't, take time to figure it out. If you are passionate about something, you will enjoy shooting it and your photos will be much more meaningful to you.


Having passion in your photography is important. That doesn't mean you can't occasionally step outside your passion zone and shoot something different. I've shot some cityscapes, other non-wildlife subjects, and, a long time ago, did weddings. I found out quickly I didn't like shooting weddings. There was too much stress. I learned some things, though, and that made me better at what I really enjoy. Don't be afraid to take on subjects that you may not particularly like. Those exercises can broaden your knowledge and skills.








Cameras and all of the associated gear are just tools. The person using them is the one who makes the photos. It's your vision, your creativity, and your passion that produce great shots. Follow your passion and shoot your passion. I've said before the more photos you take, the better your photos will become. You do have to have a desire to learn and improve. If you don't think your shots are very good, but you don't have the desire to improve, it will be a much longer process. There are lots of "rules" in photography, but a couple I truly believe in are to always have a camera with you and to take photos on a regular basis. I sometimes take pictures for no other reason than to practice. I take them and then delete them. People practice all the time for lots of different things. Photography is no different. Just because you take photos doesn't mean you have to show them to anyone or even keep them. The point is to improve and get better at whatever your photography passion is.


Many of us participate in link-ups or memes and those are great ways to practice skills. And why not give yourself an assignment? If you're having trouble finding something to photograph, challenge yourself. You could document the progression of something like a flower garden. Or photograph all of the historical sites in your area. Try taking pictures off all the moon phases. Visit parks or wooded areas and look for unusual trees. Make a long term goal of getting photos of all the birds common in your area. Experiment with light. Take photos early in the morning one time, mid-day another time, and in the evening to finish it off. Look at how the light changes and affects your photos at the different times. That forces you to pay attention to your camera settings and how you need to adjust them depending on the light. There are countless ways to challenge yourself and it gives you a goal to work toward and the satisfaction of completing it.


Learn your camera intimately. Don't get hung up on gear or the work of other photographers. Practice. And most importantly, shoot your passion. Photography should be enjoyable!




(On a side note, I'm going to be quite busy for the next several days and won't be blogging during that time. Unfortunately, it means I won't be able to visit your blogs. I didn't want anyone to take my lack of comments over the next few days to mean I had stopped visiting their blog. I'll be back to business as usual as soon as I'm free.)



38 comments:

Carole M. said...

Great feature article Brian and super photographs, thanks for sharing your tips and encouragement through your writing and own photographic experiences. Till you're back on blogging deck again ...

Betty Roan said...

Excellent advice here. I need to take most of it to heart. I still haven't finished reading the book that came with my camera and am not familiar with all its bells and whistles. Love the pics, too. At least I do know what I like to take pictures of—nature and people. Not portraits, people seemingly unaware they are being photographed during activities or quiet contemplation. Mostly my grands, but I'm not allowed to post those pics on my blog. Thanks for the info, appreciated.

Coloring Outside the Lines said...

Fantastic advice Brian- I am enjoying learning more about photography, and I think memes help me tremendously because they all make me think about what I am doing. On the other hand, I just enjoy the outdoors and want to capture what I see. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Debbie said...

oh brian, i feel like this entry was written for me, it's just what i need right now.

i saw a heron the other day. i had the right lens on, i made my way to him before he flew off. i made adjustments to the camera as i walked.....but my pictures, are not so good. as he flew off, i had the click, click, click engaged and the shots would have been gorgeous had they been in focus!!

yours are magical and your subject performed very nicely for you!!

i bought a book, for beginners, it will be wonderful for me!!

barbara l. hale said...

That's great advice altogether! I have to remember to restudy my camera more often since I can't seem to remember stuff if I don't use it all the time. Thanks for the probe.
Hope you have something good happening on your time off. In any case, looking forward to seeing you back in a few days with more great bird pics. Love that heron, btw!

Linda said...

What beautiful photos...and a great article.

Grandma Barb's This and That said...

Great advice Brian! I keep saying I want a camera with a longer zoom. But since I can't afford one right now, I am trying to learn to use the camera I have. I think I do know my passion is for photographing flowers, landscapes, and nature. So I will work on improving those photos.
I hope you have a good few days off. Look forward to your wonderful photos when you return.

TexWisGirl said...

thanks for the push to the back (as i lurch forward and stumble). i know i need to take off the big zoom lens, slap on a smaller one, and really study my camera for a change.

unlike you, i may have some extra time over the next week or so, so maybe you've inspired me to spend some time getting more familiar with my pal, nikon. and his damn manual.

Leenie said...

I didn't read every work of this most informative and worth while post but it looks like you may have left out a very important part of your fine photographs. That is patience and a willingness to tolerate some cruddy weather conditions.

That heron shot is outstanding!

Meggie said...

Thank you, Brian, for this post. My camera is a relatively inexpensive one. I try to get the best that I can from my camera. I also take care in what I see through the lens. "Just be the best that you can be" is good advice. As always, your photos are exceptional.

Linda said...

Perfect words of wisdom, Brian! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts in a clear and informative post. Hopefully we both will be back blogging soon!

Linda said...

Perfect words of wisdom, Brian! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts in a clear and informative post. Hopefully we both will be back blogging soon!

Andrew said...

A wonderful post to read my friend and with so much passion.
You really have hit the nail on the head... taking pics should be fun.

Rita said...

You are just fooling yourself if you do not believe your photos are better than good. They are outstanding. Fantastic even.

CameraCruise said...

Great and interesting post.
Stunning shots as always.
Thanks for sharing this great post.
Mette

Pamela Gordon said...

Hi Brian, that is great advice! Thanks for this encouraging post. Enjoy your blog break. Pamela

Gillian Olson said...

Your pictures are wonderful, you seem to get the "personality" of your subject too!

bailey-road.com said...

Great article Brian! I love the photos too - especially the praying mantis.

Eko said...

Kauniita ja mielenkiintoisia kuva-sarjoja blogissasi.
Tervehtien Eko
Suomi/Lapland/Kuusamo

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Very well written Brian and many good tips shared. People say often what a wonderful photographer I am. It is not about me as a photographer, so much as seeing something special to my heart, photographing that and then simply putting it out there. There is always room for improvement, but we should not beat ourselves up. I am not technical savy at all. I have read my manual, highlighted it, taken notes and also took my new owners 3 hour crash course, and I still have no clue about many of the finer aspects of my camera. I am not ashamed to admit it and soon, will attend a wildlife photography class and I am really looking forward to filling in a few more blanks in my understanding of my passion and the ability of being able to share even better quality images in the future... Thanks again, well done~

Faye said...

When I first started blogging focused on writing because it was what I was trained to do and probably did best. After a year or so began to feel that my posts were too wordy--most people don't have the time to wade through even good writing in the blogosphere. Then became interested in photography as another element on my blog and Facebook.

Now I follow your advice of daily practice and I am quite passionate about the creativity you can develop. Big mistake for me is not to have studied my camera--I'm sure could do a lot more if I did.

Liz said...

Brian, this is a fantastic post. Excellent advice, encouraging and brilliant photos too.
I really do need to study my camera manual and read some great articles I have on photography in order to get the most out of my camera. While I'd love a longer zoom for bird photography to capture the elusive birds that don't like to allow humans close, I can't afford one right now and as you said, it's probably best to learn how to set my camera for every condition first anyway.

I am sure I have found my passion in landscapes & nature (birds in particular). Joining in with Project 366 rewind this year was my way of forcing myself to take at least one photograph a day.
I don't mind jumping out of my comfort zone from time to time as I know it develops my skills for other things.
I will miss your lovely comments and great encouragement on my blog but there are times when we need to take a break. I'm kind of back from mine but taking it slowly as my family needs me at the moment.

I look forward to your next post... Take care :)

darlin said...

Fantastic photos Brian and excellent advice, now where's that manual that came with my camera? Hmmmm :-) I hope you're enjoying your time away and it's not all work. Cheers.

Anne Payne said...

I really appreciate the time you take to educate about photography. Your post is very educational and encouraging. I only have a point and shoot camera, but I am going to take more pictures! Thank you for sharing your lovely duck photos!

Coy Hill said...

Well said! I couldn't agree more.

The note about the owners manual is very good however let me add this. I keep the manual in the camera bag at all times. I never know when I will need to refer to it to find some seldom used function burried in the camera menus.

rainfield61 said...

I did try once to shoot the macro of a little mantis.

It looks as great as yours.

Andee said...

Oh I love this post. I felt like you were talking to me. My camera is used and my lens is used. I don't have any new equipment, but I have tons of passion. It is oozing out of me. I attended a one day seminar for Canon. They basically reviewed the manual from front to cover. I was amazed at the information I picked up. Other than that I've been figuring out photography as I go. I really really really enjoyed this post. Thanks for the encouragement to just keep shooting! I'm glad to hear it is okay to just take pictures to practice and it is okay to delete.

aquaFire Fishing said...

Thank you for this great advice! I will remember this when taking my own photograph's.

Amila Kanchana said...

Hi, I agree with everything you said here. I practice them my self and they work for me. I currently use a point and shoot for my photography, and I wouldn't go for a DSLR till I'm absolutely certain that I have gone all the way with it. Wonderful photos you've posted here, that praying mantis is unbelievable!

BlueShell said...

I like the way you talk about photos... And the photos are really nice. Kisses
BShell

Madge Bloom said...

That first shot is marvelous!

Tanya said...

great post and beautiful images....i keep telling myself to sit down and read the manual...i have 3 different cameras and don't know the ins and outs of them because i'm too lazy to read the boring manual lol...one of these days i will though because i get annoyed myself when i am trying to get a picture a certain way and don't understand what i am doing.

Nancy said...

Lots of good information, Brian. Thank you. And for the record, I think your photos are amazing. See you when I do. :)

StreetLounge said...

Wow, very nice article and very true actually! (And I love the first photo :)

StreetLounge said...

Wow, very nice article and very true actually! (And I love the first photo :)

Michelle said...

Well said...I couldn't agree more!

Your photos are stunning! I can definitely see your passion through the lens. Awesome preying mantis!!!

Rustic Vintage Country said...

I can only echo all the other comments you have received. Excellent advice, I found it fascinating, you now have me hooked as a new follower. I'm here via Meggie on the Prairie.

Kerri said...

EXCELLENT post!