Monday, April 07, 2014

Messages From My Blog

Side Note: Olympus users at Asia and Oceania regions! If you have not submitted your photographs to the Olympus Asia Oceania GrandPrix, you still have a few days left before the closing date. Stand a chance to win an E-M1! More info here: http://phc.olympus-imaging.com/?lang=en

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

No Cars



Portrait of Stranger 1

Sleeping Beauty

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

Fish

Moving Carts

Superboy

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

Breakfast

Portrait of a Stranger 5

Meow

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. 

Market Place

White Sheets

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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30 comments :

  1. "...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."

    Robin, I love your blog and think you're a fantastic street photographer... but what kind of people have you been hanging out with that care this much about gear? Photographers are often opinionated, especially on the subject of gear but I've never heard a serious photographer get THAT opinionated. Results matter, gear is only relevant to the extent that it must allow you to achieve the results you want. If anyone calls you a leper or says your gear is a disease (and they're not just playfully teasing you) then they're not a photographer, they're a gear collector... and there is nothing sadder than a gear collector.

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    1. Some of them are kidding of course, and some of them have subtle but evident tone of truth in what they say. It does not matter really, and you were right, they were gear collectors. But they are also friends, and sometimes I can just close my ears.

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  2. Robin,
    Many thanks for the good advice.
    SiewKS

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  3. Good advice!

    If shallow Depth of Field is so difficult with Four-Thirds and micro Four-Thirds, why do I struggle to get *more* DoF with them? Seriously, I don't want to have a portrait with just the nose in focus. Just because you can do a thing, does not mean that you should do a thing. :-D

    I always find people who need "just one other lens" to get those amazing photos they never can, but they always have much better equipment than I have. :-D

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    1. So true, if we keep on wishing we have something better, we do not see what we really have. For most cases what we have are good enough, we are the ones who need improving, not our gear!

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  4. The "Sleeping Beauty" beauty image isn't from a cannibal market, is it? ;-) Seriously, as usual your pics are fine. You have a great way of getting people to pose so naturally. They must be responding to your own warm smile and personality. Hope to meet you someday. ulfie

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    1. Oh my, cannibal market!
      Thanks for the kind words, and surely it would be nice to meet you too if we have a chance.

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  5. Hi Robin
    I have been an avid reader of your blog for some time now yet have never commented...until now. This post has some of the best advice, for the millions of photographers out there, that I have read in such a long time. I'm so sick to death of the negative, winging posts that seem to follow every forum; that if only those people just got out and shot more, focussed on their own images then the photography world would be an increasingly more interesting (and friendly) place. Thank you for all your efforts and the continued positives that you bring to our photography world. Kind regards, Jason.

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    1. Hey Jason,
      Thanks for the comment and I appreciate your kind words. Indeed we should be more positive when we shoot, and put aside all the negativity. Photography should be enjoyed!

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  6. Robin,
    Great photos and great advice, as always.
    A perfect follow-up to what you write would be a look at the amazing photography and interesting personal story of Vivian Meier, a street photographer of 50-60 years ago, whose work with a single good film camera has just been discovered: http://www.vivianmaier.blogspot.com.
    Thanks for all you share.
    Frank

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    1. Thanks Frank for the kind words. And yes. Vivian Maier is an inspiration indeed! The best part of all she did not seek fame or recognition for her work, she was truly passionate about her craft.

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  7. I think you are really passionate about photography...keep it up! :-)

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    1. Thanks Billy! Lets spread the passion around.

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  8. As always, really admire your endless passion, if only I can get one third of your passion :) Having close friend been loyal Canon shooter, it's difficult to argue with traditional DSLR mind, I tried my best to prove how good micro4/3 can be by shooting together with them. Been part of your Pudu wet market walkabout, really enjoyed it, looking forward for another handout like that. Gambateh

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    1. Hey Thomas,
      Thanks for the kind words and I appreciate you joining in the walkabout. Rest assured we will be doing more of such events soon.

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  9. i like "superboy" and "cat" pictures the most :)

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    1. Thanks Ah Lost! Come KL lah we go shooting together. You can use some of my lenses hehehe

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  10. Hey Robin,

    This is one of your posts that I did not read fully. I stopped reading after point 1 ;) That was too much for me to handle. I need to head out and take some pictures!
    Thanks a ton for your posts. Waiting for more...

    Joseph.

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Joseph. That is the purpose of my blog existence, to encourage people to go out and enjoy photography. If that purpose is achieved, it does not matter if you did not finish reading at all!

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  11. Hi Robin,
    Great post as usual, I only want to comment on the post processing part. I think that for the purposes of this blog which involves gear reviews and showcasing what can be achieved with m43 equipment (among other goals), minimal post processing is essential. I also think that you produce excellent results. In fact it was your blog that convinced me to purchase an Olympus system and I am happy I did. With that said, I do think that post processing skills are an invaluable asset for any photographer in search of artistic expression. As any powerful tool, it can easily be abused but I wouldn't dismiss it so easily (the great masters used to post process in the dark room like crazy you know). In any case, no amount of post processing can make a poor image great. Not trolling or anything and not trying to start an argument, just giving my 2 cents :)
    Issac

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    1. Hi Isaac,
      I have always commented that post-processing is an integral part in digital photography, regardless of what camera you use. Nonetheless, I also do not agree with "too much processing" or spending too much time retouching the images in front of the computer.

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  12. Hi Robin,
    Thank you for sharing another beautiful and interesting images from the street. I love reading and thank you for sharing the bits of your thoughts to feed my ever hungry brain to absorb the good info. BTW this Saturday, Apr 12th, I am going down to KL Street to have fun and shoot heading towards Chow Kit.
    May you have a great week.
    John

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    1. Hey John,
      Glad to hear that you are going out and shoot more these days. I hope you have had some great photos from that outing!

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  13. Hi Robin.. as usual, i like to read ur blog. There is so much info and knowledge inside here. Agreed with u Robin.. its not gear will give the best result in the image but it's hardworking to understand and practise more and more to get the best result. Honestly... since i read ur blog, i always do an experiment to understand how the gear work, how to setup the gear, from auto mode to manual mode, and many more. And i always talk to myself " still in learning process "..what i know is there is no shortcut and magic in this field. Like u said. Always do some experiment and we will learn something new on it.. jom shoot again Robin!!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Nik hadi! Glad to know that you are learning and improving even more, and the only way to do so is to continue shooting more and more. Jom, lets go shooting!

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  14. I really like that first picture. The road with its shadows and heavy contrasts. Such a great capture THANKYOU.

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    1. Thanks Timothy. I wished I was using a tilt shift lens!

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