I have recently been working on digitizing all of my film negatives and going through all of them I have gotten to see how I have grown as an artist over the years. A lot of the first rolls I shot were bad, like really bad, so I thought I would start a series were I could give some advice for beginner photographers on how to avoid a lot of the mistakes that I and many other new photographers have made in the past.
The biggest mistake newbies to photography make is taking photos of interesting things instead of interesting scenes. Pouring over my old negatives I found plenty of frames filled with such things close ups of statues from the park, bird fountains, and wild animals like ducks and squirrels. These photos were horrible, they weren’t composed well, the animals in the shot were too far away and too small, and the whole photo just came across very blah. The reason was because I was too concerned with just finding interesting things to photograph instead of creating well composed scenes to capture.
I think that when you are a beginner you are just so eager to get started taking photos that you just don’t pay enough attention to what you are actually shooting. You have a new camera and you are excited to be out taking photos so you shoot whatever looks interesting in the moment. Out on a walk you see statue in the park so you take a photo of it without ever trying to visualize what the final photo will look like. You see a flower growing so you bend down close to it, zoom in and snap away without putting anymore thought into it, like what angle would be best or if the light is right.
My advice is to stop and be more patient, don’t just look for interesting objects to shoot. Think about what you would like to see in a photograph, would you enjoy looking at a photo of a statue? a statue hundreds of people walk by a day and has probably been photographed thousands of times? if the answer is no than skip it. If the answer is yes, than start to think how you would like that photograph to look. How you would like it composed, how much depth you want in it, what you want the photograph to say. How can you shoot it different than any of the other photographers who have captured it before? Your beginning photos are still going to end up being your worst over the long run but doing this will help you get to making better photographers soon.
In addition, spend time looking at photographs by good photographers. This will help train your eye to what a well composed photograph will look like. Stay away from Instagram and Facebook, there are too many bad photographers on those sites and you don’t want to confuse a photo that has a lot of “likes” with one that is actually good. Social media is great but people will hit the “like” button on just about anything that pops up in their stream. Don’t believe me? try this, take a few minutes and search random photos on Instagram, find some that you think are awful and see how many of those have 1,000 plus likes. If you want to find good photographs do a simple Google search for famous photographers and pour of what they created. Go to the library, or my favorite the used book store, and dig through the photography section. Find artist you like and you’ll find new inspiration and train your eye at the same time.
I should mention that of course you do not need to limit your search to photography and photographers alone. Studying any art form will help you see better as an artist despite the medium.
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