Mark Alberhasky looks at what it takes to make a great photo and how we stop ourselves from doing it.
For those of you who have been reading my foto tips over the years, you may have noticed that they generally don’t deal with technical issues. The reason for this is that there is no shortage of technical advice out there. If you Google the Internet, you will find endless camera feature reviews, Photoshop how-to articles, and feedback from photographers lauding the benefits of this camera over that camera, or the latest and greatest software accessory.
What you won’t find in abundance, are insights into how to grow as a photographer, and as a person. So in my tips, I try to share my “growing pains”, a perspective on photography that results in images with meaning, for me personally and for those who view my work.
Give yourself permission to make great images.
We all know “great” when we experience it. It might be a great movie, musical performance, or even a wonderfully cooked meal. And these events are all the fruits of someone, who like yourself, is just a regular guy or gal. They get up every morning and go through the day just like the rest of us. The difference is, when they are involved with their craft, they identify a goal and go after it with unflinching commitment. The basis of that commitment is in giving themselves permission to succeed. If that seems an unfamiliar concept, then see if this next statement is more familiar, typically thought or said after just witnessing something great.
“Wow. I could never do that.”
That simple statement is THE biggest hurdle standing between you and great photographs, or success in any endeavor. I’m going to suggest you instead say to yourself, “I want to make a photograph as good as that one. I’m going to find out what was involved and do it too.” Once you’ve given yourself permission to succeed, obstacles will become obvious. But instead of insurmountable barriers, they will simply be hurdles you need to get over along the way. Start small and work your way up.
For example, your child plays on the high school soccer team. The soccer newsletter is in need of photographs and you enjoy taking pictures, but have never shot sports. But your interest in photography and the enjoyment of your child’s involvement lead you to say yes when asked to contribute photos. Now, how do you give yourself permission to succeed? To get the shot you have to be where the action is, right? (That’s why bank robbers go to banks … it’s where they keep the money) You won’t succeed sitting in the stands with the other parents. Step one, and you will feel uncomfortable taking it the first time … get on the field. Walk the sidelines where the local newspaper photographer goes, because that’s where you will get the shots. You’ll find that the camera is a pass that will get you into places and situations non-photographers might not be welcome. Just look like you know what you are doing and have respect for those around you. I guarantee you will be pleased with yourself, personally for having taken the step, and later with the photos you’ve taken.
In fact, that was exactly how I started my serious commitment to photography six years ago. I didn’t realize then how important giving myself that permission was, but it paved the way for everything that followed.
Next month, I’ve been invited as a guest speaker to attend Focus On Imaging, Europe’s largest photo convention, speaking at the Nikon, HP, and Apple booths about digital photography and my work. While it seems like a long way from shooting those pictures for the high school newsletter, it never would have happened if I had listened to the inner voice saying, “Oh, I could never do that.”
Give yourself permission to succeed. You’ll be amazed what you can do.
… and for those of you longing for a technical photo tip, try this. Shoot without a flash at night. Use a tripod, or not, and let long shutter speeds and ambient light illuminate the scene. The attached photo was a handheld 4 second exposure. Now be careful, and don’t catch yourself saying “A 4 second handheld exposure, I could never do that.”