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Where to Begin in Photography

If you are interested in photography but you just do not know where to start - or, more precisely, you just cannot figure out what to take a picture of, this page will help.

In the beginning stages, the insecure novice is often paralyzed with ambivalence. Should you take a picture of a rock? a car? a city scene complete with telephone lines? your local Blockbuster? Many have had the difficulty of not equating great photography only with the subjects that the past masters have focused on. The great photographers have indeed made excellent photos of Yosemite and people kissing near French hotels. But what if Yosemite Valley is filled with smog and you can't afford a trip to France? Not to worry. There is an infinite number of things to photograph and no hard and fast rules for avoiding any subject in particular. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Analyze what you like about the photos you like most. Look for a clear understanding of how certain images hit you a certain way. Try to put it into words. Refuse to be deceived by the notion that great pictures come from great cameras or superhuman photographers. The equipment has comparatively little to do with it and the photographers are just people like you and me who have worked very hard at their art.
  • Try to copy what the grand masters have done. Many budding photographers are stymied by a fear of plagiarism. If this is the case, focus on your true motivation - the fact that you are seeking to learn from experience and not to profit by stealing - and try to emulate the effects that your favorite photographers have achieved. Just try. At best, you will learn by experience exactly how to get the results you are after and attain a few pretty pictures to hang on your wall. At worst, you will walk away with a better appreciation for what the masters have done. Either way, as long as you don't try to sell the copy, you win.
  • Try to make a beautiful composition of a normal, ordinary thing. Just take a roll of film and practice taking pictures of the same subject from different angles. Shoot close up, from afar, from the left, from below, and from above. Experiment where you place the subject in the photo. Try putting it right in the center to make a bold statement. Balance it off in the bottom, right corner to make it interact with the background. Then, when you get the photos back, analyze what you have done. See which one turns this ordinary, boring subject into a work of art.
  • Do a photo essay about your favorite cat, dog, rat, flea... the more variety your subject can give you the better. Also, photograph what you know, care about, and love. The more familiar you are with your subject, the better. Only you will know all the wonderful different expressions, positions, and possibilities your subject will offer.

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