"Photography Lesson 1- Introduction" Personal Page by John195123
So, welcome all who are interested in learning more about photography. This course is, by it's nature, going to be in part visual and in part written. I will try to provide example images for each subject/lesson so you can see what I'm talking about, but I would also like for you to take pictures as well and upload them to one of your travelogues or albums. This way I can look at them, critique them, if you like, and others can also look at them, especially if they are particularly good. I may also refer to some of my pages, as I don't have any of the original image files on this computer, though I'll try to just copy them over.
Getting to know your cameras:
Some of you have expressed interest in simply learning how to use your camera... the technical details of operation. Getting to know your camera is one of the most important aspects of photography. If you don't know how to use it, it won't do you any good.
My advice is to look at the camera. Just look at it. Look at the symbols and try to think about what they mean. If the manual seems too complex and confusing, which it often is, set it aside and start pushing buttons.
The basic features of most cameras are fairly similar. For a compact, here are some of the symbols and features. The power button is the most important of these! Turn your camera on! There's the shutter release (the button you push to take the picture), there's probably a zoom switch (this is either a rocker switch with "T" and "W" (I think) on it or a ring around the shutter button that has one pine tree (or person) and three pine trees (or people). To zoom in, figure out which of these does what. There may be a flash button (looks like a lightning rod) and a macro function (looks like a flower) that allows you to take close-up photos. There is probably a button that is for ISO, your digital film speed, and it has various options.
That's about as much as you need to figure out to be able to shoot. Some compacts will have other features like M, A, P, S and a bunch of what some call "styles"... like the symbols for mountains, the person, the soccer player, the... those are useful, but if you are really just beginning to learn your camera and you have those options, just set the camera to P (Program) and it will take care of everything else for you.
SLRs are a bit more complicated, if they're digital. There are similar features, but they have different controls. You probably don't have to worry about autofocus, but zoom is often a ring on the lens, not a switch or buttons. The shutter release is the same, and is typically on the right side of the top, in a natural position. ISO may be changed using a button and scroll wheel combination. Generally, D-SLRs have a greater range than compacts.
I hope this course helps you, and if you have questions, don't understand something, or need extra help, please let me know!
Being a photographer is more than the simple capture of a digital image or the exposure on film.
Each release of the shutter tells a story, and you can determine what story you tell by what you shoot. In the news media, this is, of course, known as bias. In travel photography, we have more freedom to show just the deep blue of the ocean, shooting over the garbage washed up on the shore at our feet. We can use filters to set a mood, create and idealize a scene, or pick specific subjects to juxtapose.
Personally I don’t like using filters or Photoshop much. I will use a haze filter or a polarizer mostly for film, and Photoshop to spice up a digital image. (I highly recommend a Haze/UV filter for any lens that can take one as it protects the lens and will save you money if the front of the lens gets hit.. let's put it this way, Have/UV filter $10-$30. Front lens element $100+).
Filter and Photoshop forms of editing may make the image more evocative, or make the scene more beautiful, but they aren’t always what you are really seeing. And, as I have a background in news photography, I want to just show what is. “What is” differs for us all depending on how we see the world. So you need to find your own way of seeing. How you do this depends in part on what you like to shoot. If you like landscapes, people, animals… the reality of travel photography is that we must learn to shoot them all. To get an idea of how different photographers “see,” look at photography books or look online. Try to notice the style used by each photographer. Does she like to use a lot of lights and darks? Does he use lines to make the image interesting?
So what does it take to make good travel photographs?
First of all, it takes respect for your subjects. They often aren’t just statues or buildings, but people, which brings us to the first topic,
Have Respect for People
The subjects we choose to photograph may not like being photographed. In Turkey, I was shooting some camels that two men had at a tourist site. The idea was that you pay them money to get on the camel and have your photo taken. They didn’t like me shooting free photos of the camels. So be it, but it’s a public area and they have no rights to say who and what I can or cannot photograph. However, have respect for those people who don’t want you to shoot them. Remember that it would be just the same if they were shooting you. They aren’t just quaint people in quaint villages who just love to have their picture taken by tourists. Here in China, many tourists (Chinese) want to take a picture of me. I don’t want them to. And so, I’d be hypocritical if I didn’t acquiesce to their request for me not to shoot them. However, my students want to take pictures of me and I don’t so much mind that, because we are friends and we have already established a rapport…
A good photographer with plenty of time will often meet with human subjects first to get to know them and so they get to know the photographer. That way he can establish a relationship and a rapport. Get the camera out later, after asking permission.
However you go about it, some cultures have beliefs about photography that make them uncomfortable having their picture taken. Respect their culture and if they say no, stop. I wouldn’t start getting in the habit of paying people for photographs either. The camel guys… they were just about the money.
And I know… there’s the perfect shot of some beautifully exotic person doing something really interesting and you just have to have the photo. If you don’t risk taking it, you’ll never get the shot. For that type of shot you can always apologize later. But if you are asked to stop shooting pictures of a person, then stop.
Professional tip: Often I will shoot from the hip, which requires some practice, or I’ll shoot the subject and pretend I’m looking at something else when I take the camera down from my face. I might look beyond them, for example. They’ll turn around to look at what I’m looking at and not think they were my subjects. It works more than you might think.
Have Respect for Places
Some places prohibit photography. Should we have respect for their wishes? Maybe. But I hate being told I can’t photograph something. On the one hand, certain places may best be remembered in our minds. On that hand, we can look at the prohibitions as follows: In a church, for example, the no photography rule may be so that those wishing to worship may do so in relative privacy, without flashes going off every few minutes. To this extent, it is respectful of us not to photograph. They may provide post cards for purchase as an alternative. On the other hand, we didn’t travel thousands of miles to see someplace and pay admission only to be told we can’t take pictures there. Photography is an important… nay, essential part of travel! In that context, we can look at their no photography policy as a money-making scheme… buy our postcards! It’s a fine balance and often takes some thought before acting.
I can’t say for sure whether a flash will really affect or damage a painting. But if a flash will damage a painting, do as they ask and don’t use a flash. Have some respect, because there are many others to follow you, and with digital cameras, you can select the ISO/film speed. I can’t tell you how many tourists stood in front of the Mona Lisa flashing away despite the “no flash photography” signs. Don’t use a flash if they say “no flash” or soon they’ll just outlaw all photography of the painting.
You’ll have to develop your own ideas on photographic respect. Again, I hate to be told I can’t shoot. It’s angering since I’ve often paid admission. But rules are rules and if you like to follow rules, you won’t have problems.
Being a good photographer takes patience. Sometimes you just have to sit and wait for the right light or the right moment. It’s much more than, “Oooh, pretty. CLICK!” The many aspects of a good photograph must be considered, and we’ll get into composition later, but also consider the scene… would it look better if a person were in the scene? Would it be more interesting to wait for the sun to come out from behind the clouds? Would the sky get deeper red if I waited ten minutes?
A good photographer doesn’t just snap a quick photo and move on. Take time to make a good image. This means thinking about the image you want, or “seeing” the image in the camera before you take the photo. I don’t mean on the LCD screen, but you should have an idea of what you want the image to look like before you click the shutter button.
Sometimes you only have seconds to get a shot. This is where familiarity with your camera comes into play. Take the time to either read your manual or simply to play with the camera. Know what the buttons and dials do. You will thank yourself later when you have the image you want because you got familiar with your camera. It doesn’t matter if you have a simple Point-and-Shoot or a complex pro-digital. Take it out, use it. Change the settings.
Good photography isn’t learned in a day. So be patient with yourself and your camera. Be patient when shooting as well. And be patient with the results. Think about why a given image didn’t come out like you wanted it to. If it’s too dark, why? If it’s blown out, why? Try to correct the problem or ask me for help. The more you practice at home, the better you will be and the more fun you will have with photography while traveling.
Being patient doesn’t mean you don’t take a picture because you are waiting for the right moment. I means that you don’t just click one shot and move on. Take the first shot you see. It’s better than nothing. But then take a few more.
Next lesson, Choosing a Camera. I know many of you already have cameras, but for those in the market, I wanted to include this. We'll get into photography techniques soon!
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