Some of the common questions I have been receiving lately, and not exclusively particular to me only, but those questions are also generally being shot everywhere, especially the online forums would be:
1) What are the best camera settings for this camera (eg E-5 or E-P3) that you always use?
2) How do you take a good photograph? What are your recommendations and advise?
To be honest, those two questions are extremely subjective, and there are no fixed answers !! If I were to sit down and started to type on what goes on in my mind and how to do what I am doing now, I probably need days to finish, and by that time, I can compile a book out of it. Many people are searching for easy ways out, and shortcuts. There are no shortcuts in photography, which I have stressed many, many times in my many blog entries.
All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digitial lenses: 50mm F2 macro and 25mm F2.8 pancake
Worried and tired
Leaning on the hood
There are no Magic Camera Settings
Camera settings are not something that you can just strictly follow by a string of guidelines, and expect to get away with consistent results every single time. Lets say I give you a set of settings as a guide (ISO settings, metering, techniques to focus, flash control, etc) but every single shooting condition varies, with different lighting, subject conditions, and the list of deviation goes on and on. If you are talking about studio shooting, where you get to control every single detail of your photography outcome, then of course you can just perform every single action out of a checklist. In my form of photography, especially when it comes to street shooting, everything can be rather unpredictable, and I do a lot of fine-tuning and setting adjustments to quickly suit the specific shooting condition. Lets say I want to do a panning shot, I will switch to shutter priority, off the IS, and slow down the shutter speed. But when I want to shoot a portrait of an old man, I will prefer aperture priority to gain control of the depth of field. When I am shooting a scenery or landscape, I will narrow down my aperture (stopping down). I change my ISO settings when I come into a heavy shade area. When I am faced with extremely difficult lighting, I do spot metering, and I carefully pick the specific point of interest. Even I have different set of composition styles that I use from subject to subject. There is no one specific guide to what you should do.
There is no one magic setting that fits into every single shooting condition !!! Of course, there is Auto, but lets not go there for now.
It is crucial to understand the exposure basics. Know what ISO, shutter speed and aperture are, know how to control them, and how they can affect the outcome of your photographs. Learn the relationship between those three important parameters, and how to effectively control your camera to create the outcome that you want. If you just follow what other people tell you to do, you are not shooting what you want to shoot. The more you shoot, the more you will understand and have better confidence in executing your settings.
By the road
The Visual Interest
When people ask me on tips on how to shoot a good photograph, it is rather difficult for me to give an answer. Firstly, I do not even know how they would define a good photograph. Could it be, a technically correct (right exposure, accurate focus, balanced colours, etc), or something more towards the artistic or creative side of things?
And again, there is no universal rule that applies to all form of photography. A good portrait photography handbook will surely be useless when it comes to sports photography. And a wedding photographer might find himself struggling when it comes to insect macro photography. What works for me, may not necessarily work for you. My own sets of tips and tricks may only apply for my own photography style, and it may not be the applicable for general shooting.
In most (take not I did not say all) photography genres, visual interest is very important. You need to have “something” in your photograph, an element that draws the interest of the viewer. Something that may be extra-ordinary or even ordinary but presented in an unusual and outstanding manner. Something that makes the viewer wants to see the photograph and explores it more. It could be something that the viewer has not seen before in his life. It could be something that the viewer did not expect to see at all. This visual interest is the single reason that your photographs may stand out from the rest. Instead of looking for advise and tips on how to take a good photograph, pay attention to the visual interest. It may be something as simple as a smile of an old man, a spider resting at the tip of a grass blade, or white trail of smoke from a blown off candle. The point is, find something “interesting” to shoot, and you will get an interesting photograph. If you are shooting that ugly pair of slippers that you have been keeping for 5 years, no matter how you compose, or light the slippers, at the end of the day, when people view your photograph, what they would think would be nothing but the ugly pair of slippers.
Coffee, to end the session.
Not everything in life can be taught through books, or schools. This is true for photography. You have to pick up the camera, do your own experimentations, find out how the camera works, and find out what works for you and what not. There are no quick methods to improve photography. You have to go out and shoot. The more time you spend on the field, the more familiar you are with your camera, the more comfortable you are handling the settings, and the more confident you will be when you execute your next session.
Photography is not all about numbers. Yes, technical side is significant for you to nail your shots down accordingly, but a good photograph goes beyond that. To find that visual interest, you need to use your imagination, find things that attract your attention, shoot the things that touch your emotions. Photography is a way of sharing your vision. You see something, you capture it with your camera, and you share it with your viewers. If you cannot see that interesting subject in the first place, how the heck will your photographs come out interesting at the end? Concentrate on visual interest. It may be due to repetitive beautiful patterns, interesting long shadows, the burst of sun in a beautiful cloud formation, anything that speaks out to you visually, it will appear wonderful in your photographs.
If you are truly interested and passionate in photography, you will surely do a lot more than just ask those two questions I have posted in the beginning of this entry. Have patience, and shoot more, you will surely find the way. Above all, enjoy shooting !!