Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

F-4 Phantom

F-4 Phantom
F-4 Phantom

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Three Misconceptions about Photography

As I have stated numerous times, Photography is all about Light.  Light is the key to great photographs...and it is the quality of light that is important...not the quantity.  Most beginning photographers tend to concentrate on the equipment side of the equation and rely too heavily on the camera's mechanical ability to take good photographs.  They often ignore the most important element which is looking for and seeing light...or being able to see photographically.  Granted, there is no substitute for quality equipment, but that alone is not enough.  Even the best equipment will only take mediocre photographs if the person using it doesn't understand what to look for, or have a solid grasp of the mechanics.  More often than not novice photographers grow frustrated because they approach photography from a frame of reference based on several misconceptions.  Having talked with a a lot of photographers of varying levels of skill, it seems to me that three misconceptions are most prevalent and tend to prevent us from graduating to the next level of becoming artistic photographers.  Let's take a look at them.

Misconception Number One: Concentrating on Place or Object...or believing that a place or an object alone will generate that great photographic moment.  Think about this for a minute.  I've often used music as a comparison to photography.  There are a lot of piano players out there...they can play the notes...but...there's a difference between playing the notes and imparting emotion into your music.  Photography is the same.  Many people can mechanically play the notes...take a snapshot...but rarely understand how to impart emotion into their photographs.  They rely on the mistaken belief that the location or object, and their camera will do that for them.  Granted, places like the Grand Canyon offer some potentially wonderful photo ops...but that alone isn't enough.  Do you just want to play the notes, or do you want to create emotional music?

The problem is placing too much emphasis on the wrong thing...the object itself.  I recently had a photo friend of mine proudly show me her first ever photo of a deer.  It was a nice 'note playing' photo of a deer...but only that.  There was nothing exceptional about it, the deer was too far off, and standing in a shaded area.  No thought was given towards how light plays a dynamic roll in any artistic photograph, nor was the composition cleverly thought out.  Without great light combined with creative composition...even a great location like the Grand Canyon, or a wonderful critter like a deer will look...well ordinary.  With great light, ordinary objects are transformed into artistically expressive images.  Always...always...think quality light...combined with creative composition.

Misconception Number Two:  Believing that you must capture a scene exactly the way it looks.   Now the idea of capturing a scene/image exactly how you see it is not always a bad thing...but neither is it always the right thing to do.  This may be one of the most difficult misconceptions to overcome.  Countless times I have had people say to me..."I just want my photographs to look like what I see...but my pictures never turn out that way...and I don't understand why."
I really don't have enough space to do justice to the subject...but you must understand that the camera cannot detect the emotion of the moment...all it is capable of doing is registering the intensity of the light...and your camera sees light differently than your eye.

We can see great spreads of colors, contrasts, differentiate between glare and clutter...but the camera doesn't know that.  Once you understand how the camera captures light, then you can begin to use it as a tool to capture a scene the way you want to express it...not necessarily how it looks visually.  The point here is to get you to thinking about photography from a different perspective.  Use the camera to capture your vision...use your mind to visualize the potential of a scene...look for and use light in such a way as to bring out the unique qualities of the moment.

Virtually all of the images you see on this page in their final form did not look like what I saw visually.  What I try to do is look beyond what is there visually, and try to observe the scene from the perspective of how the camera will see I know it will look in its final form.  Knowing in advance how the camera will react to certain lighting conditions will give you a huge advantage and open up windows of photographic opportunity way beyond what you may be experiencing now.  Sometimes, even marginal visual light can look stunning through the lens of the camera.  Make it a practice to look at your scene from the perspective of how the camera will see it.

Misconception Number Three:  Always shooting on Auto or Program mode...or believing the camera knows best.  This is closely related to Number Two.  Full auto or Program mode will provide a mechanically good photograph and can be a good starting place for new photographers to begin understanding how their camera works.  Photography is actually more of a visual art form than a mechanical process.  If all we want to do is 'Play the Notes'...then program mode will work just fine.  But, if we want to impart emotion into our images and create a work of's going to take a bit more effort on your part to understand of how the camera does what it does...then using that knowledge, capture a moment the way you want it to look...not the way the camera wants to capture it.  

I know an individual who has a solid grasp of the mechanics of photography..could easily teach those mechanics and do a good job of it...but...that person's photographs fall well short of what that knowledge base should dictate.  Why is that?  Well there are probably a lot of reasons, but based on conversations we've had, these three misconceptions play a part in it.  That person simply never looks beyond playing the notes.  Another person I know gets this far off look whenever anyone speaks tech talk about cameras...has not a clue what is being said...and further more probably doesn't care.  But...that person takes some really very nice photos...simply because of not being afraid to break the rules and never wanting to be known as a note player.

Today's cameras are marvels of engineering and they have tremendous capabilities.  I hope by examining at least in definition, these will encourage you to look at what you are doing photographically a little more creatively...

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Great points and ones I'm trying to improve upon!