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Photography Question 
Charity Ann R. Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/8/2006
 

How to... just about anything


I need a mentor of sorts. I really want to get into photography some, but I'm just somewhat stuck. I would love to find someone to help mentor me, kinda. Here's what's got me thinking.... I entered a couple of photos into the contest that I thought were GREAT, but I didn't finalize. I can see why I didn't make a finalist, but I don't know what to do about that. I could take a course, but, one, I really don't have that kind of money, and, two, there is so much I don't know that I wouldn't know what courses to take. I would love to find someone who could look at my gallery and help me compare my photos to "winning" photos, and then figure out how to get my photography from what it is to what it should be. Does anyone else think it would be a neat idea to have a sort of a mentor type setup between the experenced photographers, and the newbies??


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2/21/2006 6:28:00 PM

 
Tom R. Walker
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/7/2006
  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, most of the contest on any forum, I find photos that didn't make it to be much superior to the ones that win. Why? Because i'm not the judge and what apeals to me doesn't to everyone else and vice versa. So keep shooting, you can study the ones that win if winning is really important to you, or you can concentrate on taking photos that YOU like.


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2/21/2006 9:48:05 PM

 
Nancy Grace Chen
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/18/2004
  Hi Charity Ann! If you'd like me to critique a couple of your images, I'd be happy to-- just let me know which ones (I can handle maybe 3?). But just a caveat before you take the plunge... I will give you my VERY honest opinion (which will more than likely not be a compliment) and probably be a bit longwinded. Some people don't actually want an honest opinion. But I learned almost everything I know from people who were brutally honest with me, so I try to do the same for others who want to learn. Just let me know if you're interested! :)

Nancy


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2/21/2006 10:04:46 PM

 
Charity Ann R. Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/8/2006
  Tom-- It's not really that I'm all about winning. It's more that I need SOME sort of measuring stick for my photography. My photography is still teetering on that ledge between what looks cheesy amatuer and what looks early professional. My problem is that I haven't quite figured out what makes the difference and how to keep heading in the right direction. Does this make sense??

Nancy-- I want someone to tear my pictures to shreads! I want to know every last little thing that I'm doing wrong so I at least know where to start working. If you would be willing to pick apart my photography weaknessed, I would be delighted. I would want you to maybe pick 1-3 of my gallery photos that you think are best, and then explain why they aren't really all THAT good. (smile) Family and friends are hesitant to really give me feedback and they don't really know anything about photography anyway. I think having someone who I'm not personally attached to give me an honest critique will be incredibly helpful. Thank you for your offer!!!!


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2/22/2006 5:10:09 AM

 
John P. Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/8/2001
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  I think your biggest problem is the fact that you're not being ruthless enough with your own work. I looked at your gallery - many of the portraits are cropped to much, cutting off limbs, heads, etc. Now that may be a good tool for some portraits, but you've used it too often. And, if you didn't crop on the computer, then your using the digital zoom incorrectly. Don't use digital zoom; only used optical zoom.

Your flowers are mundane, often you haven't filled the frame sufficiently. Remember - if you think your pictures are bad, you're probably too far away. {Robert Capa said that!]

Keep shooting - but be more critical of your work. Since you're in a learning mode, the best way is take many, many pictures of the same subject at different locations, exposures, etc. When I attended the Nikon School years ago, one of the speakers told us that if he stopped the car to shoot a subject, he'd shoot no less than one 36-exposure roll. You're use of a digital camera affords you a great way to do this.


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2/22/2006 6:11:33 AM

 
Charity Ann R. Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/8/2006
  John- so you think that I'm too close on my people pictures, but not close enough with the flowers. Is that correct? Ok. I can see that, maybe. No, none of the protraits are cropped. So you think that I need to zoom in less?? Keep in mind that none of my photography is done in a studio. They are all just pictures (usually of friends and family) that I have taken at different events. I was trying to keep the extra stuff in the background out of the picture. Was this wrong?? Please advise.


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2/22/2006 8:04:56 AM

 
Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
  "So keep shooting, you can study the ones that win if winning is really important to you, or you can concentrate on taking photos that YOU like."

I do both. I don't see why shooting to win needs to be exclusive to shooting what you enjoy.

I don't have time right now to view your gallery, but I can make a suggestion. Study the winners and finalists in the categories that interest you. I wasn't a complete rookie when I started entering here but I've learned a lot just studying the winners as well as studying the free pages here that explain photography and composition. I had no idea there was even such a thing as "the rule of thirds" when I began. Critique is helpful but nothing replaces studying.


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2/22/2006 8:35:37 AM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Charity, I learned sooo much from the classes I took here on BP. Can you save up for one? I felt the same as you, where to start?? So I took Jim Miotke's Beginner's class, and learned some of the basic building blocks you need to master. My first contest finalist pics were ones I shot during that class!!

I looked at your gallery- yeah the flower ones didn't inspire me, but I did very much enjoy the one of Meg (different angle) and the two of mother & son (lots of emotion captured in their expressions).


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2/22/2006 9:27:09 AM

 
Charity Ann R. Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/8/2006
  First, thanks to everyone else who has commented. I do appreciate the thoughts everyone has.

Sharon- I do really study the competition finalists, but I'm having trouble figuing out how to get from where I am to where they are. I know that part of my problem is that I really need to work on aperture/shutter speed. It is so hard to study that with a film camera. I do have a small digital (HP photosmart), so I think I will have to practice with it. It is not a GREAT camera, but it should at least help me start to see the differences created by aperature. I also need to find a book to read and study. My camera manual just isn't quite informative enough (grin). Any suggestions??

Denyse-- I want to take the classes SOOOOO badly, but I'm trying to save up to get a digital rebel, so that's my priority at the moment. I can't afford to keep shooting in film, and I can't learn if I don't keep shooting. I'm hoping that in time I can take some of these courses. Thank you for your thoughts on my gallery. I do love my mother & son pictures, but I can see now that they need to be a little bit sharper, maybe. As for the flowers, I think I need a better lens so that I can truly do macro. I LOVE macro photography, but I'm not sure I have the needed equipment. Any thoughts?


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2/22/2006 3:18:42 PM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  I hear you on the film when you are trying to learn. It got expensive for sure. I'd be trying a technique, and have to shoot 24 exposures before I knew if I was wasting my time of if I understood the lesson!

I don't do macro work, it involves more lenses, extension tubes, etc. BUT with a decent zoom lens, you can get some nice flower shots. Not macro work, but still nice. Take it one piece at a time. If you do get the rebel (which I have & love) I do think the next step is to learn to use it in Manual mode- that's when you "get" the shutter speed/aperture stuff. The Understanding Exposure class here taught me that. Books in the meantime are a great idea if you find one that explains things clearly. But one piece at a time as you can afford it and/or are ready to learn it, and you'll get there.


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2/22/2006 6:45:00 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member
  Hi Charity;

Let me say that macro work is kinda hard to master. It took quite a bit for me to learn the art, and I'm still learning. Don't ever listen to anybody who says that there's nothing left for them to learn. As for learning with a film camera, I think you made the right choice there. A film camera makes you learn the art. It all takes time and practice. Yes, it's expensive, but what you will learn will carry over to digital. The average magazine photographer will tell you that it takes a whole roll of film to get one printable shot.

I saw a lot of promise in your work. You just need to refine your talent. You r portraits look good, but you need to back off your subjects (mother and son) slightly. A little background would have helped this print emensely. There was a thread a while back where the print of discussion ended up being a girl in a cowboy hat that had the hat cut off. The discussion ended up being how the hat should have been left completely in the frame. I don't mean to grind on ya. I hope you don't think I am.

Have fun and keep shooting,
Mark


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2/22/2006 11:13:22 PM

 
Rebecca A. Steed
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/6/2005
  Hi Charity! I'm offering my 2 cents here too. Hope it helps. I really like the first (or last?) photo, with I believe your husband and his mother. the lighting is good, the mood is candid.
Many of the portraits, you do get a little close. It is okay to have some space around them. On the same note, yes, do get closer to your flowers. They are the subject and should be a larger part of the composition. Example: I really like the roadside beauty one, but I think it would have been better if the frame had more of the in focus and out of focus flower, and a little less green space. But your DOF is good.
My biggest piece of advice is to embrace natural light, especially for portraits. On-camera flash tends to look amatuerish (SP?) like it was point-and-shoot, whereas natural light through a large window, in the shade or on a cloudy day, provides beautiful light for both flowers and people.
Oh yeah, and study,study,study. Go to the library and get some photography books. A great investment would be a Canon Rebel or even Nikon Coolpix. They are great digital and cost effective cameras for learning photography. I bought a Canon Rebel, then down the line took my first class. I've learned so much in 10 months.


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2/23/2006 5:15:26 AM

 
Charity Ann R. Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/8/2006
  Mark- Thank you for your thoughts. No, I do not feel that you are grinding on me. I'm grateful for the opinions. I've actually gotten differing thoughts on my portrait framing, so that's kind of interesting. I guess it really depends on what emotion or whatever I'm going for. For instance, on my mother and son pictures (actually that's my father-in-law and his mother), if I had wanted to draw close attention to the fact that it was taken at Christmas, I would have made sure his santa hat was full visible. As it was, I wanted to distract from the fact that it was Christmas. Does that make sense?? I do see what your points, though... and I thank you for them!!

Becky-- you are the second person today who has commented on natural light. Maybe the third, let me think... anyway, I am working on using natural light more. I do see the difference it makes. I don't like to use my flash, but so often I'm stuck inside and I feel that I have little choice. I'm trying to create ways of creating better lighting without spending a ton of money on studio lights. I've thought of using those clip on desk lights that are directional, putting the "natural light" bulbs in them, and then using something to diffuse them. Like... I dunno... wax paper maybe? Have to be careful not to start a fire, though! (grin) What are everyone's thoughts??


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2/23/2006 12:09:35 PM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  I just did a photo shoot this past saturday with home depot work lights (the ones with the 10.5" silver reflector) and daylight bulbs. I wanted to diffuse them as well, but couldn't get it to work with the set up I had, so I shot with out it. I still had very pleasing light. It's a nice option when you don't have/can't afford studio lights.

And what you mentioned is what everyone was saying in the beginning- critiques from fellow photographers are just opinions! What someone might think is pleasing, someone else might say 'nope, you should've done this instead'.


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2/23/2006 2:44:09 PM

 
Charity Ann R. Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/8/2006
  Ok, if anyone is interested, I've added a few more photos to my gallery. These were taken before I started getting critique from you guys, but I still thought they were worth putting up. Thank you all so much for your comments. Even the "negative" critique makes me smile b/c at least I know that you take me seriously enough to help me improve!


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2/23/2006 3:53:38 PM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  See how nice that natural window light is! 'Olivia' is very nice... maybe a little too tight of crop on top (top of her head is cut off), I'm famous for doing this :) But it doesn't really detract in this case if you ask me.


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2/23/2006 6:40:18 PM

 
John G. Clifford Jr
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/18/2005
  Your photos all look decently exposed, so you have the mechanics of photography down. Where you need help is in your composition.

Buy a book on composition. This site has several, and they are good. Read them, understand WHY re-arrangement/re-framing/zooming in or out makes a picture look better or worse. Then, try some of the ideas out for yourself.

As others pointed out, look at the contest winners, and analyze them. Don't just say "Nice shot," figure out WHY what you like is nice. Is it the framing? The focus? The positioning of the subject? Try to quantify (create a list of reasons) why a photo is appealing, and then try to apply that list to your next photograph of a similar subject.

A photo is art. There are known rules for composition that apply to photographs just as they apply to painting. Learn these rules, and apply them, and watch your photography improve.


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2/28/2006 12:12:06 AM

 
Charity Ann R. Taylor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/8/2006
  Hey Everyone! Thank you for your help.

John- I am really thinking about getting a book or two. I hadn't really thought about making a written list of what I like and don't like about contest winner. That's a great idea.

Now... I have great exciting news!! I got a Digital Rebel for my b-day yesterday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm so excited! No worries, I'll still be using my film Rebel a great deal. But it's so much easier to take multiple pictures of the same thing and change the aperture or shutterspeed and then analyze the results. This has already helped me grasp the visual differences in settings, and I've only had the camera for a day.


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2/28/2006 5:05:00 AM

 

BetterPhoto Member
  Congrats on the new camera, Charity. Happy birthday.

Have fun and keep shooting,
Mark


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2/28/2006 4:22:28 PM

 
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