I recently joined my local photography club. I heard about it from my accidental Airbourne 2010 camera buddy. I have an interest in photography so I didn’t think it could hurt. In fact, I might be able to learn something and meet some nice people.
There have been quite a few competitions since I joined the photo club. It is interesting to hear the comments of the judges and why they give the marks that they do. Most of the criticism is productive and it is interesting to learn what makes one photo better than another. It is making me think of how I take photographs. Normally I am just a point and shoot kind of person. I realised that most of my images are just records. They are ok for the blog, but whether I would hang them on my wall or place them in a photo album is another matter.
The photo club also offers some Photoshop courses, AV workshops, and Tips and Techniques such as composition and mounting photos for competition. Competitions are the big thing! There are also days out. I am looking forward to those.
Although the average age in the club is above my own, I am very surprised to learn that many of my older photo club members are quite proficient at Photoshop. I purchased a copy of Elements 8, along with 2 manuals that I read side by side. I was able to download some tutorials in order to understand some editing processes. I now know what a ‘layer’ is. I am still loathe to do anything with Elements as I have been used to uploading images with Picasa as the editing features are extremely basic. I am learning about RAW, TIFF and JPG. My mind is being overloaded with technological data. Teaching myself new technology is very time-consuming. It’s a good thing I am not in full-time employment at the moment as I am spending a lot of time on the computer trying to learn new things! I started reading Digital Photographer’s Handbook by Tom Ang. I have had it since it first came out in 2002 but haven’t started reading it until today. Some aspects might be a little bit out of date as the cameras in the book are only 2 megapixl. I managed to get half way through the book before it gets really technical.
It seems that there are certain rules to creating a great image. Whether it is a photograph or a painting, composition seems to be the key. The first half of Tom Ang’s book is mainly about composition and light. The right composition can make all the difference between an average image and a great one. It also helps knowing how to use your camera. In this digital age, things are made marginally easier by the different features that cameras have to offer if you don’t know what an F stop is and how to use it. I recently read the manual that came with my camera and went through all the features it had to offer. I learned that the firework feature gave a longer exposure than the night portrait feature. My pictures of the fireworks on Guy Fawkes night were very different to the ones I took on Bonfire Society night. They weren’t as sharp, though I got interesting effects. It pays to play around with your camera and learn the best way to use it. Know your equipment! 😉
As a result of being a member of the photography club, it was inevitable that I am being asked when I will be entering any photo competitions. I told them I wasn’t ready. I was told to just send in a sample of my work for some feedback so they could determine what category I would be in (turns out Beginners). So I looked through all of the photos I have taken these last few years. Most of them were taken with a 5 megapixl camera. What I thought were good photos were being relegated to sub-folders for future Photoshop use or have been deleted (well, the really bad ones anyway). I realised that my record photos were not even good enough for the Record section of a competition according to Record rules. 😦
After looking at a couple of thousand photographs, I narrowed my choices down to 14. I chose them for clarity, composition and interest of subject. However, I am learning that interest of subject can be very subjective. I sent them off to one of the members who provided me with feedback. Not only did he provide me with feedback, he altered some of my images in order to show me how to make them better and why. Now, I can understand the cropping and heightening of colour and sharpening of images. I don’t understand changing the name (well, I really didn’t give too much thought to naming them) or removing something from the photo. Apparently, the rules of digital photography allow manipulation to the point where the end result looks natural, or better than natural.
Not being proficient in the manipulation of digital images, I would prefer at this stage to try to take the best picture I can. I would like to try to get the composition right the first time. I would like to get the lighting right. Even if I use the Auto Features on my camera, as quite a few other people do, I would like to put more time and thought into what I am doing. If my photo would look better without that extra boat, well, I will try to take a better picture next time, not remove it in Photoshop. I would rather enter a photograph and have the judge explain why it didn’t work for him so that I would be motivated to improve.
After all of that being said, where does one draw the line on conformity and individual artistic expression? I have an idea. Stay tuned.