Making pictures with soul- undoubtedly, that’s what all of us hanker after! This week we’ve had a house guest, friend, mentor and child – Daniel Simm who I’ve wanted for a long time to get involved with the blog and write me a post or two! Dan is a very reclusive photographer with a voracious appetite for technology. For a while now , he’s been vastly into film photography and today he’s writing about making quality pics, things to think about when framing a pic and questioning yourself about the story you wish to tell with it! This post is wholly about our joint love for photography and an extension of our conversations – mind you, we rarely agree! He’s the consummate perfectionist, I’m the free-wheeler who goes by the gut, very often to my own detriment!
“There’s something completely wonderful about having the ability to preserve the transient through a photograph, I guess I’m stating the obvious here! In our vastly digitized world, we can take pictures whenever we like, for free. Our low-cost access to huge amounts of data storage translates to us never having to worry about deleting any photos we take. It can be easy though, to take for granted that we’ll always have another shot left on our cameras.
Most of us reach a point when we’re left questioning whether we’ve been taking photographs just for the sake of it? Do we find ourselves eager to fire off that shutter button with our camera set to paparazzi “machine-gun” mode? Have you ever found yourself taking a hundred pictures in hope that one of them turns out right? I have.
If, like me, you’ve ever wondered how we can shoot with a bit more soul, these I hope these tips help you!
1) Slooooow down….Take your time
When we’re shooting, it can be easy to overlook some of the basics. So before pressing the shutter, take time out to ask ourselves a few questions:
– What is the light like – Too harsh? Too flat?
– Then move onto the composition – Have you ever thought you’d ‘got the shot’ only to get home and find out there’s a tree sprouting from someone’s head? I have!
– Does it tell the story you want it to tell?
– Does it stir emotion?
– Are you taking the photo for the sake of it? Or perhaps it’s a hurried photo because it’s needed for a 365?
– Would you want to print this image?
Project Idea : In day-to-day life, start looking at light. See how it looks. Try to imagine what your camera settings would be in your current light. Take a look at your foreground and background and compare the contrast and light levels. Is the background darker than the foreground? Or vise-versa
Remember to check for for those tree branches on people heads. No one wants to look like a male deer!
2) Find your goal.
Think about all of the things you want to show the world about your subject.
Maybe it’s to show the energy of city life, or the peaceful serenity of a landscape. It can be easy to ‘surrender’ and shoot 500 images hoping that 1 of them will be what you want. Instead, try to have your goal in mind, and prepare how you can incorporate that into your image.
If you’re shooting people, take your time to get to know them and draw them out. What is it that’s special about that person? What is their personality like?
Do they have beautiful eyes and a quiet personality? Focus on that.
If it’s your children, perhaps it’s their dimple when they smile, the freckles on their nose, or maybe it’s their ‘concentrating face’ they pull when they’re doing their homework. It might be their Dad helping with their homework. Little things like these are a lovely photographic inheritance for your children when they grow up! Look for the little things you love.
I know that photographing your own children can at time be…well…difficult to say the least! So once in a while, try being a documentary photographer, in other words, don’t interact with your subject, and don’t pose them. Be a fly on the wall. Let your children get used to your camera being around so that it becomes part of normal life. But do this quietly, you don’t want to be constantly harassing them with phrases like “DON’T MOVE!” or “Can you pull that face again?” The key is to be unnoticed. You’ll be able to capture them being themselves in their home environment.
Project Idea: Before your shoot, try writing down the things you want to highlight in your image. Then think about how you can incorporate that into your photograph.
3) Environment - (Part of the story, or background clutter?)
Before shooting, ask yourself if the environment is relative to your story.
If the environment is an important part of the story, then include it If it’s not relevant, then exclude it from your composition.
For example, if you’re shooting a portrait of a blacksmith, you might want to include the tools and workshop as context.
(On a side note whilst speaking of environment and context, check out photographer James Mollison with his ‘Where Children Sleep’ project. It’s a fantastic example of how background context alone tells a story).
If you want to photograph your child daydreaming as they look out their bedroom window, you probably wouldn’t want to include the carpet of toys and jigsaw pieces. Or maybe the toy covered carpet is part of the story of childhood! It’s your story, there is no right or wrong
Project Idea: Spend a few weeks taking 5 photos that tell a story. It could be that you’ve taken a photograph solely of your child’s chocolate covered fingers after they’ve dived into some cake! It tells a story right?
4) Setting a limit.
Our cameras can take hundreds of photos before running low on space. It can be easy to fire off images willy-nilly without thought.
Pretend your camera only has 10 shots left to take before it runs out of space. It’ll get you thinking before you press the shutter, “is this image going to be any good?”.
Project Idea: Why not try shooting film as a project?
Who remembers their 36-shot disposable camera that you’d make last the entire duration of your holiday?
With film you’re generally restricted to either 12, or 36 shots per roll (depending on your film format). It forces you to think about every aspect of your photograph because you don’t want to waste your shot.
You’ll find it completely refreshing, and it’ll also free you from using Photoshop Actions & Presets!
Note: You can pick up a film camera with a prime lens for around £10-15 in charity shops, and the results can be stunning! Keep your eyes peeled, they’re a whole new world to those of us who’ve become comfortable with digital photography!
Don’t be afraid to go for a shot that’s a little experimental. Try letting go of being technically correct, and let your vision and heart speak. You’ve learnt the rules of photography, now go and break them in your own special way!
Project Idea: Set yourself your own photography project that’s inspired from a personal experience, or something that moves you. It can be anything! Making a family recipe, walking down a path that’s been special to you..capturing a special part of the day. You have some gorgeous light early morning and late evening!
And remember to shoot for yourself. That’s really important. Give it your heart and soul.”
- Daniel Simm!
Dan has his own blog under construction at the moment, you can find him *here* !
It’s been a great Bank Holiday Weekend here as we got to explore a lot of photographic styles together with the family which led to some seriously good family fun! Though I was exposed to the camera as a child, I really learned through experience as an adult. Don’t let that learning curve block you, you’ll get where you want to be if you try. I personally never got aboard with the whole “rules-thing” myself
Happy Shooting from all of us here at The Intrepid Misadventurer HQ! <That includes happy houseguests, hooligan children, daddy pig and waving-with-mucho-gusto me!>
If you like the writing and photographs you see on this blog, could you please *nominate* me for the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards? I’ve been shortlisted in categories 1 and 8! Many thanks!! xx
You might also like a few articles written wholly by me to help make up your mind Please click on the inviting links below! :
This post can also be found here: