To be the very best!

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by vontoux, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. vontoux

    vontoux TPF Noob!

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    Hello everybody!
    Let me introduced myself a little bit, my name is Daniel and I am 16 years old. I have doing photography little over a year now and I have gain a lot of skill. That said only camera skill, I have recently fighting over myself how to become better. I mostly learn photography myself like looking at post production tutorial (dodge and burn, hair color and etc) learning from pro photographer as well went to the shoot with them. But it seem like things haven't change a year ago. I been really unhappy with my work and skill and looking at other photos discourage me (I start to become depress). I would be nice if you can tell me your story, how did you get better and what technique that you uses? I don't want to repeat what I have done really well but rather than trying new things and learning new thing.
    Check out my work here: Vontoux and here: Vontoux


     
  2. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    Daniel,

    A year is not much time to get skilled in any art and your shots are generally much better than most other new photographers. Most of them are, unfortunately, essentially copies of what millions have shot before, sunrises or sunsets, bridges tapering off into the sunset. The big challenge is not shooting cliches - and that is difficult and takes time. The best way to find your own niche is to look at lot of photos by artists that you like and gain inspiration in how to treat situations from them; that will train your eyes to 'see'.

    I do notice that your B&Ws are both flat in contrast and quite dark.
    This one for example:

    upload_2016-3-29_8-58-54.png

    I do want to say something about shooting homeless and street people. I, along with many others, think that is a kind of exploitation to pump emotion into a shot at the expense of others' misery. Rarely do shots tell anything new or enlightening.
    In this shot for example, a much more interesting and telling shot, would have been a closeup of the pedals in concert with his leg, showing not his face, but the fact that he is triumphing over his adversity to ride the bicycle as he needs.

    Show in your image that you have seen something that is worth telling.

    Best of luck.

    Lew
     
  3. pixmedic

    pixmedic I am the Lord thy Mod Staff Member Supporting Member

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    not to sound picky Lew, but...doesn't that statement cover a lot of your own photography from third world countries?
    that particular photo seems very similar to many you have posted from various small villages.

    @vontoux the fact that you are getting out there and shooting different things is a great first step, and a step that many photographers struggle with, myself included.
    I think that in order to improve you have to focus on one or two types of photography and not try to do everything all at once.
    find a genre or two that you enjoy and really focus on shooting more of that than anything else. for me, it was portraits.
    look around on the forum here and find some photographers that shoot the kinds of things you want to shoot, and whose shots you like, and ask them for help. post some pictures on the forum and ask for critique. many people wont follow links to pages outside of the forum so posting a few directly here will get you better overall results, especially if you are looking for help on improving those pictures.
     
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  4. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    Of course, you mean to sound picky - and in public.
    If you had really just wanted just the answer, you could have just send me a PM - as you suggested I do when I replied to someone in the clear.

    This distinction may be a bit too subtle for you but I'll give it a shot.
    I am not picking on the destitute and homeless precisely because they are vulnerable and available and I don't use misery as fodder for shots with nothing else as shown.
    I rarely shot pictures of beggars when I travelled, perhaps two shots that I can remember in 18 years of travel and those two early on, just because I quickly became repelled by that kind of exploitation.
    I shoot pictures of working real people, not vulnerable helpless people, and I shoot them in a situation that reveals something about their life so we can understand the diffeence between their world and ours.
     
  5. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    And, I ws actually more incited to say something about shooting street people because of another shot in his portfolio which is exactly that - a shot of a woman begging on the street.
    I leave it to you to actually look at his portfolio and discover which one I meant.
    This shot above is marginal, to play it safe and preserve the man's dignity, I would have shot exactly what I said, after I got permission.
     
  6. pixmedic

    pixmedic I am the Lord thy Mod Staff Member Supporting Member

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    for starters, you could have simply sent the OP a PM as well, instead of calling him out openly.
    YOU choose to make it an open medium, i simply replied to your public post.
    do you know what the person in that photos situation is? apparently you do.
    only you know the situation in your photos, and while you claim to only have shot 2 beggars, to the rest of us, it appears to be much more than that.
    the OP's photo does not show any misery. it shows a disability that is obviously being overcome. it does not appear any different than MANY of the shots of similar type people that you post regularly.
    im sorry if you neither like, nor understand the comparison, but its true none the less.
     
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  7. soufiej

    soufiej No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Daniel, IMO the first step in improving your performance in any field is to identify what you are not presently doing to the best of your ability.

    You've not done this for us. Had you said, for instance, "I'm not happy with the use of color ... ", or, "My photos tend to look flat and two dimensional ... ", we would have a few ideas to work with. We could agree or disagree and we could begin a discussion of just what you are seeing that can be improved upon.

    Therefore, I wonder if you have done this at all. That is, look at what is sub-par in your results. A student will learn as much about how to improve their performance when they realize their mistakes as they will learn from their accomplishments.

    It would be interesting to us, I think, if you told us what you see in your own photos.

    What are your proud of? What are you unhappy with?



    Looking at your portfolios, I would say you first need to address the manner in which you view the subject(s) of your images. I can't tell by looking at your examples whether you've set your camera to fully automatic mode or you simply have not adjusted the settings off of about f-11.

    Each of your photos is similar to the next because they have no diversity of expression. "Expression" being the photographer's technique for drawing the viewer's eye toward an interesting subject. "Expression" being what the photographer wants the viewer to see inside and feel about their image and the subject of that shot.

    Your images are, in terms of composition, very simple and very much alike one after the other.

    The technical merits of your shots are exclusively of the same style which, therefore, says little about your thinking before you snapped the shutter.

    This is a very common phase for young student photographers, you are taking snapshots, not photos. You're not really seeing and you're not really thinking about what your results will be. Like a young acting student you do not yet grasp how to say the line, "To be or not to be".

    Is it a shout? Or, a whisper?

    Is it internalized? Or, externalized?

    Is it a question? Or, a statement of fact?

    Is it angry? Or painfully sad?



    To have intent as an actor, you must first decide what it is you are saying to the listener. The listener wants to know why you are saying these things.

    To have intent with your camera, you must first decide what it is you are saying to your viewer. The viewer wants to know why they should bother looking at your snapshots. Today's viewer is overloaded with visual content. To stand apart from the multitude of images they will encounter, there must be a reason for them to look more intently and for a longer period of time at your intentions. As the photographer, you are in control of what the viewer takes away from your images.

    To communicate anything to another person, you must have an intention behind your expression. You have yet to reach the stage of development where you can control your expressions and so your results are at a very elementary level. That is simply a common place to be when you are still a student.




    The Traveler is quite correct when he says you are taking the same photos thousands of others have taken prior to your arrival on the scene. When a few thousand photographer's have taken "that" photo before you get your chance, your challenge, if you want to have a photo that is your own, is to look at the subject in a way that most other photographer's have ignored. Or possibly, to go where they have not looked. Or, maybe, they simply haven't considered just what their camera is capable of putting out. It is your job as a photographer to think, to observe and to make special your thoughts on the subject and to couple that to what your camera can turn out as your singular image.

    You have a camera, it is your tool. You have your imagination, it is your controlling factor in what the viewer takes away from your efforts.

    Your "thoughts" are what photography is about if you want to be better than average.

    IMO your photos are largely absent thought. You see the same subjects others have seen and you take a photo that is very much like what others take. Then you look at the photos of a more skilled photographer and you see they have expressed their personality, their thinking and their intentions through their images.

    There is a large gap between the two ways each photo was taken.


    To pause here for the moment, your "depression" over what you see from others is a wasted energy source. Most of us require some positive energy to fuel our desire to improve. In any attempt to learn a subject, and certainly in the desire to master a performance, you must see what is at the end of the journey and concentrate on that rather than your misery at the moment of hitting a plateau in your process.

    Plateau's are typical of the process and any student musician experiences another plateau on a regular schedule. Music is a language which you must learn and master in order to express your thoughts fluently to the listener. So too is photography a language which you must learn to control in order to show the viewer what you feel is unique in your images. IMO you've not done that yet. Your language skills are at an elementary level and you are looking at the output of those people with far more experience and much greater understanding of the process of visual communication and therefore seeing where you want to be. You need a plan on how to get to that level.

    At the age of 16 and with only one year's experience under your belt, there is simply no need to become depressed. You have a lifetime of learning and experiences ahead of you. Where any of us are at right now is not where we will be in another year's time. That is true for any photographer no matter their experience level. So ditch the depression and concentrate on what is ahead of you, not what is behind you.



    Your images show an interest and an awareness in "line" as a tool of your compositions. Yet you show little concern for other elements of composition. Therefore, exploring composition is your first movement forward.

    Comprehending the successful positioning of negative space is essential to the use of line in composition. In other words, seeing into the spaces where there is nothing is one technique you have at your disposal when employing "line" to manipulate the viewer's imagination. You are only seeing what is, not what is yet to be discovered by closer examination.

    If you want to use line as a tool, you must show the viewer where the line begins and ends and why it does so. What is it the line is meant to do for the viewer? If it is only to say there are lines, then you've said nothing with your photograph. If the line is not starting at a point of interest and is not leading the viewer to another point of interest, then you have not started the viewer on a journey to find what interesting ideas exists within your image.

    Most of your shots show us a major line that begins or ends in the center of the image and ends at a point where there is no pay off for the viewer. The rule of thirds is too easily overworked in any photographer's portfolio.

    Wide open blue skies are simply not very interesting. Buildings converging into a wide open blue sky have no pay off for the viewer. Similarly, bridges which start in open water and end in open sky are telling the viewer you have nothing to say about the existence of what you have photographed.

    You are seeing without thinking and snapping a photo that is always going to look like everyone else's photograph because they too have put no thought into what they are doing.

    You're taking snapshots, not making images.

    "Snap" the bridge shot.

    "Snap", the building shot.

    "Snap" this and "snap" that.

    If you want better than average photographs, you have to begin with better than average ideas of what it is you are showing the viewer.

    If you can't wait for a sky full of drama, then what is your point of view, your intent, behind showing a shot of buildings converging upward? And that is not to say you need dramatic skies in every photo. You need clear thoughts and certainty in your intentions for taking the photo more than anything else. The rest is left to the viewer to create in their own imagination. You must simply start the ball rolling for the viewer to complete the effort. If you don't think, neither will the viewer. It's as simple as that.



    Take a course, whether at school or on line, in composition. There are more elements to the subject than simply lines.

    Take your time before you shoot. There are multiple ways to force yourself to look for a few moments before you simply "snap" the shutter. Read the archives of the forum for those suggestions. One technique is to use a fixed focal length prime lens (or to set your zoom lens to a single, fixed focal length) and then force yourself to examine a subject from enough angles and distances to get yourself thinking about what it is you are really trying to show the viewer.

    Visualize what your viewer will see in your shot. They are your audience and, just as a musician must play to their listeners, a photographer must work to show their viewer the intent of their thinking.

    Take your camera off automatic.

    Your camera hopefully has some controls over which you can exert your will. Again, everything you've shown us appears to be shot with a camera that hasn't changed. If you are using a fixed focal length, then what other controls do you have at your disposal to use as tools of expression?

    Learn your tools and use them to their fullest extent. If every shot is controlled by the camera, then you may have very little input into the image other than your ability to look beyond the obvious. Wonderfully interesting photos can be taken with the simplest of cameras but they require the most insightful photographer to see beyond the limits of their equipment. If your camera lacks controls, you must compensate by making your vision even more interesting before you simply "snap" the shot.



    You've also not told us what you are doing in order to improve your photography. If you are only snapping shots and hoping for better results, then you are wasting time. Learn photography, all of it. No one comes at this with a complete knowledge of photography. We all began at the same level and we all developed our own skills through our efforts and our intent to become more knowledgeable.

    Take a course or do your studies on line. But you must work at this everyday.


    You don't necessarily need your camera to do this work. Visualize and think about what would make an interesting shot when you see a subject that catches your interest. If all you come up with is something you and a thousand other people with a camera have already done, then that is what your photograph would show.

    If you do not want to be ordinary, you must see things in an interesting manner. That begins with your thoughts about the subject in front of you long before you "snap" the shutter.

    If "ordinary" is the best you can come up with, you need to think more and find what is special in your shot that isn't the most common way to take the photo.

    Visualize the result, not the subject. Show us your intentions for us as your audience, not just another snapshot of another subject we've seen a thousand times before.

    To grow you must have a plan. Do you have a plan?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2016
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  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Hey Daniel,
    My suggestion would be to just immediately STOP with the artificially elevated black point post processing concept, especially on documentary/realism type images, such as in this shot:

    Vietnamese Shop and also this shot: Book Street (Vietnam)

    The two photos above were post-processed in a style (a processing method actually) that easily grows tiresome. The artificially elevated black point looks low in contrast and totally kills the sense of realism in a documentary/street/inner city type shot.

    My suggestion would be to work on developing your ability to frame and to compose, in such a way that the viewer's eyes will be drawn in to the scenes you shoot. You've been to some interesting places, but the photos lack that feeling of engagement, that feeling of "being right there".

    Keep at this! You've only been taking photos for a short time. I find most of your compositions create a feeling of the detached observer, of a camera man that has stood back a ways, and shot with a normal lens. I think moving to a shorter focal length lens and at the same time, shooting from closer distances, would overall, help improve your photos.
     
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  9. chuasam

    chuasam Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Stop trying to take photos like other people's and find your own story to tell
     
  10. The_Traveler

    The_Traveler Completely Counter-dependent Supporting Member

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    Again, you aren't sorry.

    I didn't 'call him out', I didn't say he was a bad person, I said he shot an ordinary picture and missed a chance to show something interestin.

    I don't mind whatever you think - of me, of my pictures, actually of anything.
     
  11. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I think you have to love doing something to stay with it for the long haul. If you don't love getting out with your camera enough to keep practicing and working at it then maybe it isn't for you, maybe there's something else you're meant to do. You'll have to figure that out.

    The photos do look rather dark, I don't know if it's at least in part the exposure. If you're having to do a lot of processing then maybe the exposure was off; I find if I get a good photo in camera then I have something good to work with and it's a matter of just doing some adjusting.

    Your photos of buildings are what stand out to me. There's one in B&W where you were looking up, the sky is darker with fluffy clouds - I think that's very good. Might need some adjustment or back off on the processing, but it's a good use of geometric design.

    There's so much on photography online it's almost too much, maybe take a break from that and just get out and do some experimenting and practicing. Maybe take more than one photo of a subject, change the exposure a stop and write down what you did so you can go thru your photos later and see what worked best.

    I'd think about how you're framing shots - there's one of a shop front that almost could make for two (or more) photos, one including the person to the left and that bike, maybe one of the entire shop front from farther back, maybe watch a minute, if other people come in and out of the scene, or if the woman turns her head the other way, etc. I think that might look better framed tighter across the top, eliminate the AC units above. Be aware of everything in your viewfinder, does everything add to the picture and if not, does something need to be in the frame and in the picture?

    It seems like you have some potential so I think it's a matter of how much you want to keep learning and practicing and getting better at it or if there's something else you'd rather be doing. Good luck.
     

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