The 31st of December 2014 I, like everyone else in the world I came out with my list of new year resolutions and one of those was to stop looking at camera gear and focus only on how to make good pictures.
Quick background story…
Like the majority of the photographer I’m not immune to G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), I love new shiny cameras and lenses and I love even more old classic film cameras. During the past few years I have accumulated in my wardrobe a fairly big collections of cameras and lenses, bot 35mm and medium format. I love my cameras, and I saw in the pictures of great photographers the potential that these pieces of equipment have.
So why I’m not satisfied with my pictures? I shoot film and digital, I have a lens for almost any occasion and yet I’m 100% sure that I cane take more out of these cameras.
So, is it just about the camera?
Sure it’s great to have nice gear, but sometimes amateur photographers have much more expensive gear than professionals which are making a living out of it… so how come that those guys can do amazing things with what they have and I don’t?
It’s obvious and yet hard to accept, those people spend their days shooting, practicing, trying new things while I was wasting time posting average pictures on social media and reading reviews about new stuff I didn’t need, I din’t know how to use and definitely couldn’t afford.
I stopped. and I star to focus on 3 things I thought I need the most:
1) Learn the basics of photography (composition, understanding the light, Etc.)
I bought a book called “The Art of Photography” and I start to read. I won’t lie, sometimes it can get quite boring (not as heavy as the Ansel Adams Trilogy), but it explains a lot of basic stuff that sometimes look so obvious, but that when I’m shooting I completely forget about.
I also have few books about photographers I really like and I’m “kind of” reverse engineering their pictures, trying to understand why their pictures are so damn good.
2) Learn how to create the light and shape it to fit your vision.
If you really want to learn how to use flash and strobes you can’t go wrong with Strobist! David Hobby did an amazing job during the past years to create one of the most comprehensive documentation about theory, techniques and real life examples on how to use artificial light and I absolutely love his website. The layout is really basic and I wish it was a little bit more “reader friendly”, but the content in there is pure gold (everyone knows that, I just want to say it once more). Now every time I have some spare time I try to replicate what he did and see if I can get similar results (it’s more complicate than what it looks sometimes, but the satisfaction is proportional).
3) Post Production (Lightroom and Photoshop)
The world is full of badly done pictures, HDR of everything, oversaturated, over sharpened, simply overly done pictures, and I don’t like them (personal taste, sorry). It’s also full of under developed pictures, bland and flat, and the worst thing is that sometimes it takes very little to turn a good picture into a great one.
Sure you can’t polish a turd, but if you have a good picture in your hand it’s your job as a photographer to make it stand out, to take out all it’s potential and give to the viewer the same emotion that you felt when you took it in the first place!
My first resource was obviously Scott Kelby, he wrote tons of books, have podcast online courses and any kind of media available, and he is really, I mean really good in what he is doing. I started to learn the rudiments of digital photography and Lightroom years ago reading his books.
At the moment when it comes to take photo retouching to the next level I watch the Youtube channel of Michael Woloszynowicz. You can see him applying very subtle changes one step at the time and turn good pictures into great pictures, and that’s what I want to do!
How can all of this be related to Street Photography?
I’m a bit fed up with the term street photography and the abuse that the genre is receiving lately. Sure I love to be in the street and take pictures of strangers, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t learn to take any picture that interest me… you will hardly see me on the side of a football pitch, on a wedding or taking landscapes at 5 AM, but there are so many opportunity to express myself that I feel limitated if I don’t explore them, who knows what’s gonna happen. And even if I keep doing “street Photography” knowing all the stuff above won’t hurt…
Probably the first thing I’ll do on new years eve will be to log in on my eBay account and buy old lenses again, but for now I’m resisting, and I’m happy. I’m more concentrate on shooting, developing my personal projects and exploring everything that sounds interesting. I just wish I had more time!
The gear that I use so far have been proven to be more than enough for my needs, and if I need something different… a good dose of problem solving is also part of the game.
I didn’t want to lecture anyone with this post, just tell a little bit of what’s going on…