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7 Habits of Highly Effective Photographers.
The 7 Habits
If you aren't familiar with the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People it is a business and self-help book first published in 1989, written by Stephen Covey. Since I am playing off the title of that book in this blog I though I should at least give credit where it is due. I also mention Mr. Covey's book because it is one of the few books that actually changed my perspective on life - in a very positive way. I still apply many of Mr. Covey's teachings in my life today.
As I was thinking through the various things I have learned or discovered over the last 40 years or so of taking photos, I found that there are several habits or techniques that are fundamental to all great photographers and their photos.
In this blog I thought I would provide an overview of those Habits, and then address each of the Habits in more detail in subsequent blogs. So here we go with;
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Photographers.
1. Always have your camera.
2. Change your perspective.
3. Edit your photo for added effect.
4. Take A LOT of photos.
5. Plan your background.
6. Fill the frame.
7. Take the road less travelled.
1. Always Have Your Camera.
Okay I know at first glance this seems like a no brainer - right? I can tell you from first hand experience I have lost count of all the amazing photographs I have missed because I didn't have my camera handy. Now that smartphones are common I know it may seem that you are always toting a camera, but as I have mentioned before, a smartphone camera will never be able to replace the quality of an SLR camera.
So why is it so important to always have my SLR handy? Because great photo opportunities don't come along every day. That's not to say you can't walk out your door right now and take some really great photos. But really memorable photos only come along once in a while. Be ready and you will reap the reward.
The photo below was one of those great moments that doesn't come along very often, and I was really glad I had my camera. I was running some errands one fall day, when I noticed an unusually large flock of cattle egrets (the white birds in the photo) hanging out a pond on a nearby horse ranch. Just about the time I pulled over and pulled out my camera the horses decided to slash about in the pond, which caused the egrets to take flight. I was in the right place at the right time to catch the photo. No amount of planning on my part could have created this image.
The following link will take you to my full article on Habit 1.
- Habit 1 for Amazing Photographs.
The first in a series of instructional blogs focused on helping new / beginning photographers take amazing photographs.
2. Change Your Perspective.
The great American photographer Ansel Adams once said, "You don't take a photograph, you make a photograph". What Mr. Adams meant by that has a lot to do with this second habit of great photographers. Changing your perspective has to do with the photographer physically moving around their subject in order to capture the best photograph possible.
That may mean laying on your stomach in the middle of a road, or climbing to the top of a 6 story parking garage so that you can get a better view of the building next door, it may even mean wading out into a stream or river so that you are able to capture the best angle for a photo. This doesn't mean you should be careless, but it does mean you should be willing to go to great lengths to capture the best image.
3. Edit Your Photo For Added Effect.
Capturing a great photo with your camera is the first step in creating a great photograph. The second step is cropping and editing the photo to bring out the best color and quality possible. I know that Ansel Adams was proud of the fact that most of his photos were never edited. He prided himself on getting the perfect composition, lighting and exposure with his camera so that the image that came out of the camera was perfect.
Although I am impressed that Mr. Adams had developed that skill, I would also mention that Mr. Adams was primarily known for taking black and white images of landscapes. I think if Mr. Adams had been trying to catch a hummingbird in flight he may not have been so concerned with making each shot perfect.
One thing I do want to note is that when I say photo editor I do not mean Photoshop. I am talking about a basic photo editor that allows you to crop your photo, enhance the lighting and colors, and alter the contrast setting. I am not talking about adding content or changing the actual colors within my photo, I am simply talking about enhancing the colors and image that we captured with our camera.
The two images of the solitary dandelion puff seed are the exact same photo. The first image is the original photo right out of the camera. The second image is the same photo after being edited.
4. Take A Lot Of Photos.
Even before the digital age of photography, most professional photographers would still recommend that you take a lot of photos. Now that it costs no more to take 1,000 photos than it does to take 10 photos - you should take 1,000.
Because I love photography I love looking at other photographers photos. When I read their comments about a given photo I consistently hear that the reason they were able to capture a stunning photo is because they took 100 or 200 photos of the same subject that weren't stunning. You never know how the slightest movement of the subject, or the change in sunlight, or the movement of your camera is going to effect the final photo - so take a lot of photos of the same subject to guarantee that at least one of them will be perfect.
5. Plan Your Background.
I mentioned this in my first blog in this series, but one thing that most people don't consider when taking a photo is the background behind their subject. Great photographers not only think about what is in the background, many times they actually arrange a particular background in order to enhance the shot.
In some situations you want the background to be visible to help tell the story within the photo. At other times you might want the background to be blurred out in order to enhance your main subject. These things are not done by mistake but rather they should be planned.
In the following photo I used a row of shrubs as a dark backdrop to highlight the sun on the yellow leaves. I also used the sunlight bouncing off of the shrubs to provide the sparkling bokeh for added effect.
6. Fill The Frame.
This concept takes a little practice but it pays off quickly. The idea of fill the frame means that you should try to get as close as possible to your subject for the photo. Not so close that you can't capture your entire subject in the photo, but closer than you would normally get.
We will look at some specific examples of this when we discuss it in full detail, but in the mean time try getting in a little closer on your next few photos and see if you don't notice a change.
7. Take The Road Less Traveled.
In the same way that Robert Frost stated at the end of his famous poem The Road Not Taken,
"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."
I cannot emphasize this point enough - if you will take the time to explore the areas around where you live - even by simply taking a road that you have not driven before - I believe it will make a huge difference in the things you will discover and the subjects that you photograph.
And I do believe it will make all the difference.
Until next time. Enjoy.
© 2014 Bron Praslicka