Friday, 5 June 2015

Become a Meaner, Leaner Photographer - Dale's 3 Month Diet!

If you want to avoid being a seriously plump, brain-numbed, over-automated photocopier try my three month 'Photographer's Diet'. Its boot camp for serious photographers.

The biggest danger with being overly reliant on automation is that when you face a really tricky lighting or exposure issue, your camera won't be able to handle it ...... and you won't be able to think your way through it. You will feel frustrated and probably produce a very average, boring image.
Fuji S2 Pro - shot in Manual 200ISO 1/200s @ f11. Elinchrom 1000w studio light.

First, let's look at how aeroplanes fly. With the latest commercial aircraft, an average long haul flight lasting 14 hours requires the pilot to fly the aircraft manually for just 12 seconds on take-off and 17 seconds on landing. Modern aviation computers monitor and control everything else during the 14 hour flight.

Nikon D700 - M 250 ISO 1/160s@f8. Elinchrom 500BX 
Aviation experts are now becoming concerned with the increasing numbers of near misses and also the lack of hands-on real life experiences and simulations.  They feel aviation is breeding a new batch of incompetent pilots with limited hands-on who will be unable to handle serious problems or weather condition.

So too with modern cameras. There's automatic exposure including auto ISO, auto shutter speed and auto-aperture. There's also auto white balance, auto flash and auto focus. To top it off there's a range of  modes ranging from sport to underwater, parties, babies and food. You name it, there's a mode for it.

The result of the automation of modern cameras is that photographers have stopped thinking about what they are doing. Because they've stopped thinking it means they don't understand what's happening inside their cameras. They probably don't understand what's happening inside their heads either.

On a photographic tour I ran recently I asked my group to shoot in manual mode for the first two days. There were lots of complaints and some disastrous results with exposure and focus. But gradually they got a handle on what they were doing. They started thinking, their confidence improved and they started handling tricky lighting situations with ease.

Three months later, one of my tour participants, Clive, wrote to me.  He told me proudly how he had achieved a perfect exposure for a young woman on stage under intense spotlights surrounded by a black stage and black theatre. No automatic mode can achieve that. Not even spot metering will be accurate. Only understanding and implementing Manual will achieve a perfect exposure in those conditions. The young woman was his daughter graduating from university,

If you want to rise above the photographic lemmings you need to not just shoot, but understand what's happening and think. Try this diet for a minimum of 3 months or 5,000 shots and I am very confident that your photography will take a giant leap forwards. I fear few will try this because it sounds like hard work.
  1. Use your camera in Manual mode
  2. Fit a prime lens with manual focus
  3. Make no adjustments in Photoshop
Its time for some training and discipline - no pain, no gain. So try my diet, switch on your think button and become a meaner, leaner photographer! 

See what Photography Worksops I'm running at UWA Extension

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