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I shoot again and again, and I share my images week after week. There is no end to shutter therapy (lets hope it goes on forever), as I deeply enjoy doing it, and love to share that joy and whatever catch of the day with you beautiful people here. Sometimes people came up to me and told me how amazed they were about my self-motivation to go on and on, and never get bored or tired of doing the same thing over and over again, or shooting on the same streets week after week. If you truly love what you do, if you are truly passionate about your craft, and you seriously want to be a better photographer, you will not tire easily, and you will not run out of inspiration to go on. There is so much more to learn and explore.
After going through some of my recent blog entries, I found a pattern of consistency running through my writing and photo-sharing here. There are similar and repetitive messages that played over and over again week after week, some I have written lengthily about, some I have not yet done so but the messages have always been evidently seen. I shall discuss in this blog entry what are the main messages that I hope my readers will take home, and hopefully be a part of their exploration in the world of photography as well.
All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-PL5 with M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 or Panasonic 14mm F2.5
Portrait of Stranger 1
Portrait of a Stranger 2
1) SHOOT MORE
The fact that I show fresh new images week after week, and almost never repeat my shots mean that spending a lot of time shooting out there is very important to me. If you have come into the interest of photography and intended to improve your game, there is no better advice than shooting more and more to get better. I observe many friends who are new-comers to photography, bought that expensive gear (any camera of choice and add on some very expensive lenses) and spent plenty of time doing research on the Internet, reading ridiculously expensive books written by ridiculously famous photographers, attended some workshops that are priced as high as their camera equipment, but at the end of the day there was not much progress. Why? Simply because after all the reading and workshops and gear obsession, there was not enough time shooting on the field to gel everything together. I think there are no shortcuts. There are no magic to help you instantaneously become pro over-night. It takes immense amount of time to learn, and re-learn, and then master some photography techniques. The only sure way to get there, is to shoot, and shoot and shoot. If your shot is not good enough, you have not been shooting enough!
2) POST-PROCESS LESS
You should know by now how minimal the effort and time I have spent on post-processing my images. All the images shown here were almost as good as straight of of camera, with minor tweaks on exposure, contrast and perhaps white balance. I believe in spending less time in front of the computer post-processing the images, and spending more time out there shooting. The fun is being on the field, making shots happen, and enjoy shutter therapy. Also, I do not believe in over-processed images. There is a fine line (which differs from person to person) on whether the processed image is on the acceptable region, or have gone toward the "over-cooked" region. I have also noticed many of new-comers to photography believed in the power of Photoshop so deeply that their Photoshop can move mountains (like, literally made mountains disappear from the background of the image). It is extremely crucial to get as much right as possible in camera, before pressing the shutter button.
Baby and Chillis
Portrait of a Stranger 3
3) Size Matters. Larger Cameras Does Not Equate Better Cameras
I have been shooting with Olympus system for many years now, and I am a strong believer in the smaller camera system. One of the most annoying things I have heard from people around me is how smaller cameras are inferior, and having a smaller sensor is like a disease that should be avoided. Seriously, the religion of full frame worshippers often see me as a leper. Their reasons? Smaller camera systems (eg Micro Four Thirds) can't do shallow depth of field. Smaller sensors have worse image quality, and low light performance. Smaller cameras are not for serious shooting, and just for fun. I am proud to say that the existence of this blog alone is a testimony that all those statements were FALSE. I do not deny the advantages of having larger cameras (with whatever larger size of image sensors, really, it does not matter that much to me) but can you honestly tell me that I need to change systems to improve my photography? I see photography a lot more than that, and to be entirely frank I find shooting with smaller system liberating. I do not have to break my back walking all day (with two cameras and many lenses in a bag). Shallow depth of field, yes, full frame cameras are better but looking at the images in this blog entry alone, I never wished I had shallower depth of field, in fact I stopped down my aperture to F2.8 or F3.5 (to get more zone in focus) instead of shooting wide open at F1.8 all the time. I may not have an example to show you how on high ISO shooting but never have I found the OM-D or PEN to be inadequate. Embracing all the goodness that technology brings, such as 5-Axis Image Stabilization, superbly fast autofocus, sharp lenses that I can use even at wide open aperture (yet very small and light) and (insert all the useful features of your choice), I am pretty much a happy camper. Oh, and by the way, I rarely do get into arguments with all those big boys, and when they ramble on and on about how great their cameras are, I just nodded along and shifted my attention to my own shooting. Like I always said, show me your photographs, not gear.
4) Do Not Be Afraid to Break the Rules
God knows who invented to many rules. You must watch out for the highlights and must prevent clippings (highlight burns). You must make sure the white balance is perfect. You must keep the horizon perfectly straight. You must prevent perspective, barrel or any sort of distortion. You must only shoot one frame and do not fire your shots carelessly. You must not chimp. You must shoot RAW. You must use this lens or that lens for this and that shot. You must not do this, and that. With all these rules in the head, how can you focus on the more important elements that made the photograph shine, such as, subject content, the expression of ideas and emotions? When composing an image, attention should be paid more on the subject itself, not too much emphasis on the camera technicalities. Having too many rules to abide to just takes away precious attention from the subject. I personally break many rules, sometimes multiple rules, but I always ensure the main subject is in the best condition I can present in my photograph. It does not matter to me if I have highlight clippings, or imprefect white balance, or having my images tilted to one side, or having heavy perspective distortion. Often I shoot a LOT of frames to ensure I get the best moment, or the best composition, not just firing one time. I ALWAYS CHIMP, and made sure I get the shot before moving on. If I was not happy I will continue shooting until I get the shot that I wanted. Screw the rules, and take control of your photography. Do what you want, and know that your photography is your photography, and you define your own rules.
Portrait of a Stranger 4
Portrait of a Stranger 5
5) Know Your Gear
As I have mentioned earlier, it is important to focus on the subject while shooting, not the technicalities of the camera. The only way to be able to control the camera subconciously without using too much brainpower when shooting, is to know the camera inside out. It is one thing to know the photography basics, you may fully understand how shutter speed, aperture and ISO works and how to manipulate them to achieve your goal, but if you do not know your camera well enough, you won't be able to efficiently execute your shots. You do not know the limitations of the camera, how to overcome its weaknesses and exploit its strengths. I have been staying with Olympus system since 2008, the menu system (including that awesome super control panel) has remained the same throughout the years, and having used the same system so many times I can confidently shoot with any Olympus system. There was a rumor going around that I can make good images with any cameras, how untrue that was! I think there was a saying by Bruce Lee that goes something like this "I am not afraid of an opponent who knows 1000 different styles of kick, but I will fear an opponent who has done one kick a thousand times." Staying loyal to one system has its benefits. Are you sure you know everything about your camera before you complain how it is not good enough for you? Have you fully utilized your camera and maximized its potential before having considered to upgrade or buy into a better and more expensive camera? Is there nothing more you can do with your camera to improve your photography? You will be surprised at how little people know about their gear, and yet so quick to decide what they want to buy next in hopes to improve their game.
6) Good Photographs are Meant to be Seen
Do not be selfish, share your work! There is no shame in displaying your photographs, after all, they belong to you, and photography is a medium of communication after all. Not having an audience to view your photograph is just sad. Sure there will be critiques there and here, sure there will be some trolls hurling unwanted insults and meaningless comments, that cannot be helped. Hiding your photographs will not get you anywhere. This also applies to so many photographers who were told only to show their "best" work. Now tell me, if you have just started photography for a few years, you seriously think that all your work are so good that you do have the "best" to show? I personally think that we all (no matter how professional, or how new you may be) have rooms to improve. If you are very new to photography, hiding your photographs because you cannot take the feedback (or showing the best just to get praises and positive feedback) may not be the best way for you to improve. I am not saying show all the failed shots and mistakes you have made. I am merely suggesting not to "hide everything". Take some pride in your work. Who is to say whether your shots are good enough? Even if your shots are not "award winning" or worthy of any exhibition, they are still your photographs, and you have made your effort, and the photographs meant something. By sharing that with an audience, a little positive feedback can go a long way, and that is your constant inspiration and reminder to continue shooting and improving yourself.
7) Enjoy Photography, Always
Last but not least, my main message on this blog, which is a constant actually, is to enjoy photography. That is what shutter therapy is all about. You take some time to go out and shoot, and you just enjoy the whole process of shooting. Let the photography process be a therapy to your soul.
So far these are the items that I can think of, when I have read through my blogs. Do share if you have picked up any other messages that you think is worth sharing when you read my blog. I am curious to know what you think of me, and my blog!
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