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Simplify Your Photography – Take Better Photos

The New Age of Photography

A brand-spanking new digital camera pops up every few months, each model trumps the previous in features, complexity, and specification and that’s the beauty of digital photography.

The gadgetaholic in most of us are fueled by these innovations and advancement in technology that make the photography better and simpler.

For example, the advancement of sensor design allows us to shoot low-light situations easier than ever. ISO settings like 1600-3200 are the norm these days wherein back in the film days, ISO 800 was considered fast.

Digital Photography’s Crutch and Poison Pill

The intrusion of such progress in technology, unfortunately, the gear becomes the center of attention for many photographers, particularly hobbyists and beginners. Camera owners end up checking out what their cameras can do for them, rather than what they can do WITH the camera.

The cameras are packed with so many features that most photographers won’t really need to succeed in creating a great photo. Many photos don’t require complex technology to achieve, but the financial and emotional investment most photographers commit to their gear make learning photography fundamentals and developing an eye for photography a secondary (or tertiary) concern, which is unfortunate.

The Camera Isn’t At Fault

Having said that, our gears must improve, that’s what science is about and that’s what makes the camera equipment industry grow. I don’t necessarily agree to the “it’s the photographer, not the camera” mantra completely as it’s utterly narrow-minded to think that great gear doesn’t improve photography.

Great gear makes output better, reduce response time, focus accuracy, better colors and sharpness, etc. However, until the camera becomes a part of your body and mind and not a separate activity, your photos will that high-tech camera will never go beyond mediocre.

Which Comes First?

That sounds like a chicken-and-egg scenario, right? How can we become “one with our equipment” without spending a great deal of time fiddling with it?

My advice is simple, go back to the basics. You only need to know the following hardware-related skills, and it applies to almost all cameras:

  1. How your camera tends to meter – Learn how to use auto-exposure lock and exposure compensation.
  2. How to be aware of  which white balance and ISO to use
  3. Get used to using center AF point.
That’s it, in my opinion.
Whatever camera you may have, know how to use exposure compensation and choosing the right area to lock an exposure on, you’ll solve 90% of exposure issues.
Get familiar with what the tolerances of your camera’s ISO settings bring, let the camera do the rest. White balance is the same, know when to use the proper white balance. Getting colors right is just as important as getting the exposure right.
Lastly, learn how to focus. With today’s era of gazillion focus points, one must still master how to focus with the most accurate and sensitive focus spot in your camera, the center AF. The less you fiddle with the AF, the lower the odds of you missing focus.
If you can’t learn how to focus properly and accurately with one focus point, the other 40 won’t help you either.

Here’s a great interview with Bob Holmes and you can skip to the 2:50 mark and 7:25 mark on his advices on what the camera should be so it won’t get in the way with your photography.

I like what Bob mentioned in the video:

“Photography is deceptively simple, you can’t expect to pick up a violin and play it within a week, but people expect to pick up a camera and take great photographs in a week, but it just doesn’t happen…

The only way to do that is practice, practice, practice…”

(Clearly, Allen Iverson didn’t say that, by the way, to my basketball friends).

Strive for Better Photos, Not Better Files

That goes without saying, if you’re new at photography and picked up a decent set of gears and you approach a professional or someone with more knowledge in photography for help, spend more time asking about composition, angles, lighting, and other non-gear related tips.

If you always feel that upgrading the camera is your best way to get better photos, you’ll end up spending tons of money getting better files, not photographs.

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