Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Consistent

One of the many important aspects that I believe is extremely important in anyone’s growth in photography, particularly for learning/amateur photographers is consistency. I have seen many people trying too hard, and exploring too many things, with their minds scattered all over the places without proper focus and concentration towards a clear and aimed direction to lead to. Being consistent in every aspect of photography, may it be technical execution, photography vision and choice of gear can influence your overall pace of improvement. Of course, if you are a professional photographer or have been practicing photography for many years, you know what works best for you, but for many new-comers to photography, they do not even know what they want to do, and what works for them, or what not. Therefore, my sharing here is only valid for mostly beginners and new-comers to photography, the group of photographers that I can relate myself to better.

1) Be CONSISTENT with your Choice of Gear

Jumping ship from brand to brand will not improve your photography that far. Upgrading to that more powerful lens does not necessarily upgrade your skills either. Shooting with too many mediums all at once, trying too many different cameras and setup will lose your focus and screw up your learning process. Pick one main camera system, with some basic lenses to begin with. Start simple, and learn to master your simple setup before you progress further. Learn how to bring the best in your equipment, manipulate its weaknesses while exploiting its strengths to bring out the maximum potential of your setup. How can you decide whether your camera is bad or good, if you have only been using it for a few months, with very limited hands on shooting experience with it? I shudder at the thought of some friends upgrading straight from an entry level DSLR to a full frame (or even more advanced the rangefinder such as Leica) but they could barely control their basic camera system well enough. How do you know if you have maxed out the capabilities of your camera, and not explored the power that is stored within it? It is often prudent to stay with one camera and one system, while consistently shooting to know the system inside out. Only through countless shutter clicks that you will come to reap the benefits of your consistency of camera choice, and see the stark improvement between the photograph you took with that same camera now, than a year ago.

It does not matter which choice of camera you want to shoot with, the important thing is to stay consistent with it. No camera is perfect. However, being able to deliver consistent results with the camera you have known very well, makes a huge difference than using a powerful camera that you can barely master.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520

Public display

Street of man and birds

The shoes walks.

Reading or thinking?

Waiting for business

Hidden

To shield from the weather, or to use as a weapon?

Broken cover

2) Be CONSISTENT in technical execution

Before exploring really advanced photography techniques (such as multiple strobes/wireless flash, HDR merging, etc), it is more crucial for a photographer to at least be consistent with basic technical execution. Focusing must not be an issue. Often I noticed how some photographers attempted panning photography (getting the moving subject clear while having motion blur background), but they did not even understand the basic concept of focusing, or how to achieve tack sharp focus on still subjects in the first place. When I questioned them further, the grasp and knowledge of Depth of Field were almost non-existent. Photography is a technical art, you cannot run away from learning to master the settings and controls of the camera. There are many basic controls that cannot be skipped. Is your focusing confidently accurate all the time? Are you able to nail consistent white balance? Can you set your exposure parameters properly corresponding to different ambient available light conditions? Do you even know what spot metering does, or how efficiently can you get it to work for you when you do need it? Only being consistent enough with those controls and settings can one photographer move on to more advanced techniques. Yes, I am a little old school. I do not discourage new-comers to explore advanced techniques, but seriously, if you want to shoot extreme macro, how can you get a decent photograph if you cannot even set up a properly diffused flash, or even understand the meaning of TTL (through the lens)?


3) Be CONSISTENT with your choice of genres

Choose a few photography genre to explore. Pick the ones that attract you the most, and you know you will enjoy shooting. You do not have to try everything!! Being too adventurous and ambitious won’t be good, but start with moderation, and most importantly, be consistent with your choice of genres. So the National Geographic magazine has nice photographs of lions and polar bears. It would be ridiculous just to make a trip all the way to South Africa or the North Pole to explore wildlife photography, when you can’t even produce decent shoots from your pets. Do what you can do often, and can spend time doing. I personally chose insect macro and street photography as my main genres. Some people love shooting portraits, some people do landscapes. The common mistake I noticed is trying to do too many things at the same time. How can you be good in anything if you are only touching the surface of everything? Stay with one genre, go deep into it, learn the tips and tricks to produce amazing photography, and practice, practice, practice all the way until you get it right. Keep going and going, always shoot consistently, until you achieve the standard that you are happy with. Then break your own limitations, and soar to new heights. You can only succeed, if you never give up, and stay consistent all the time.

Take-away food.

A man and his trishaw

The pulling act.

Outside a glass panel

Affection

Walk

Worried

Jason Lioh and Banana Leaf Rice !!!

All the images in this entry were taken with my old Olympus E-520 (in 2009 and 2010, before I got the Olympus E-5), one same camera which I have used for almost three years. I have been hitting the streets almost every single weekend (I would do so everyday but hey, I do have a full time job) and after each session, I would select a series of photographs to update on this blog, without fail. I have been doing so for more than two years now, and I am still doing it consistently. I admit, I have many flaws and my photography is still far from being anything great or qualify as “magazine” material, but I love what I am doing with my photography, and I do it consistently.

Most of the famous and successful photographers that I admire have been shooting all the time, consistently maintaining considerably high standards of work. They stay true to themselves and their passion, and have the courage to walk on. They have a vision, and aim to accomplish, and they will never stop until they finally obtain their goal. They do not run out of inspiration to shoot, and they never get bored shooting. They do not burn out. They do not contradict themselves. That is what truly differentiates a great photographer from an ordinary one: they are VERY consistent all the times, when it comes to strong motivation to shoot, and having persistent photography philosophy and ideologies.

18 comments:

  1. Robin...nowadays with digital camera..it is very easy to learnt the technique cos can see instantly and try and try and try with different setting...barely no extra cost.however, I seen many people just take for granted..because they shoot a lot and delete it if dun like..and didn't bother on learning the setting & basic features..Sadly. Happy to see yr blog and i m confident it will help a lot of people

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  2. Voon,
    Just sharing some thoughts and hope they can benefit some people out there. Of course, everyone can feel free to disagree, there is no right and wrong. It was a very gerenral and crude guideline, but we all know that to go far in anything at all, it takes discipline and persistence, am I right?
    I just see that consistency is lacking in many new-comers these days. Nobody wants to "learn" photography anymore, everyone wants to be superstar and just produce award winning photographs.

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  3. I love my food and that's my gene, although I am getting sloppier these days or since forever.

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  4. Jason,
    You are not sloppy la, you are just having early mid life crisis or something.
    How come never bring me do food photography one?

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  5. Dear Robin,
    Can I only say that I fully agre with your philosophy of photography as an art of expression.
    I think you already have inspired us a lot and your text explains more your ways of doing photography and of learning from it.
    Thanks for the speach, dear professor..
    Daniel M from Montreal, CDN

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  6. Thanks Daniel !
    But I am just sharing some thoughts, did not mean to sound like a "professor" !!

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  7. But in fact you are teaching us a lot of interest things and that is highly regarded by many of us.
    See it as a very positive way of sharing a passion you have.
    Daniel M from Montreal, CDN

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  8. Thanks again Daniel,
    Sometimes I think there are too many things going on in my mind I just had to blurt them out somewhere. So yeah, writing them here would be my way of recording those thoughts.

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  9. Early mid life crisis. WTF.

    Why is my name link to your blog? Haha.

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  10. OOps sorry Jason, rectified the error. It must be the coffee I was drinking.
    If it was not early mid life crisis then what was it? LOL

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  11. Very good advice Robin, it takes effort to master any passtime. Also agree with you that few people want to learn but all want to star. Your blog has encouraged me to take a lot more photos and I love the term "shutter therapy" lol. Keep up the good work !

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  12. Hello Jan,
    I am glad you find the sharing helpful, and yes, do shoot more, and more importantly, enjoy "shutter therapy" !!

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  13. It's called sucking in photography. :P

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  14. Hi Robin,
    Great article. To draw an analogy to a different type of shooting, "Beware the man with one gun."
    I've been using an E-PL1 a bit over a year, and intend to keep using it until there is a massive gain to be had from upgrading.
    I live in Qatar, am from New Zealand, my wife is from Johore. We recently had a one night side trip from KL to Muar. For once, we traveled light. I just took the 20/1.7 with me (bought from that shop in Pudu Plaza). Loved the pics I took. I used the grainy B&W filter a lot, because Muar is that kind of place. Taught me a lot about composition, being constrained by the one focal length.
    I used to train on an old bike and race on my better one: you do learn more when you have to push harder for results!

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  15. I've read your blog for quite some time but I haven't seen these e520 pictures before. They look amazing.

    I must admit I have lost some motivation to shoot recently (although I will be doing some amateur underwater shots tomorrow. I feel that I have too many cameras and need to downsize. E1, e510 and e620. Hard to choose one to get rid of though. Like you said I haven't pushed any of them to the limit.

    What do you think of the corporate turmoil at Olympus right now? Myself I am sad to hear of the possible corruption and hope the company can pull through.

    Andre

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  16. Hello Dontom,
    I really like your analogy on "train on an old bike and race on my better one", it speaks so clearly on why we should stick to basics and never forget them, practising them consistently.
    Wow you have that 20mm F1.7, what a splendid lens !! I would save up for one, but not at the moment since my focus is still on my DSLR system. I am sure the lens will open up a world of possibilities for you, and the focal lenth of 20mm is really useful for most general photography scenarios.

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  17. Hello Andre,
    Thanks so much for the compliment. Those E-520 photos were unpublished before, and I have been digging out old photographs. Some of them did not appeal to me back then, but somehow they had a new life as I gained different perspective through more shooting sessions over one or two yeats.

    Don't get rid of any of your cameras, those are all great cameras !! You are still staying with one system anyway, so nothing wrong with that.

    I am aware of the issue Olympus is facing, and am quite worried over Olympus' future. I sure hope the problem will be resolved soon. It is interesting to see how one disgrunted employee can possibly destroy everything with a simple, single action.

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