Building more skills
Photographing agility competitions allowed me to hone my camera skills, exposure and scene understanding and quick decision making to get just about any shot in an instant. Add to that an understanding of just about any breed of dog and how they jump, so that I could just about guarantee that I’d catch them in their best look, and I was in demand for dog sport photography.
The one missing element was the personal satisfaction that I was stretching myself creatively to a level that I felt I could. I had joined a camera club and enjoyed the interaction with other photographers, and this did help me determine to some degree what I wanted to do as a next step.
My true desire was to be able to produce images of the quality that one would expect from a professional photographer; the kind of image that you see in a magazine or in advertising or in a gallery.
So I made a list of the skills that I needed:
- Lighting a subject under various circumstances
- A well-developed artistic eye
- Ability to pose subjects for a pleasing result
- Knowledge of tools to produce the final image
A pretty basic list, which can take thousands of hours to master. Time to get serious about learning!
In addition to the books that I already gathered, I started taking some workshops and seminars and participating in group shoots. Each of these approaches had their merits and helped me learn in different ways.
On-line courses were great in terms of fitting into a hectic work week, and getting a lot of well-prepared technical or artistic information in written form for later reference; each course required me to submit assignment shots by a certain time, which were then critiqued by the instructor(s). I took classes ranging from flash skills, conceptual photography (Solitude) and food photography (Macaroni and Cheese). Food is definitely one area of commercial photography that I enjoy; after all, who doesn’t like food?
Workshops were fantastic opportunities to learn skills within a day or two and often get lots of hands-on work. I worked with some great instructors, who are truly inspiring. Rick Friedman’s workshops on Location Lighting taught me how to use Speedlights to light just about any situation creatively and for the effect that you want. Bobbi Lane’s Portrait Photography workshops added a lot of portrait lighting for effect skill to my bag of tricks, as well as posing models.
Working with models was also crucial to my development as a photographer; even though most of my artistic work is landscape and abstract, working with models taught me to recognize the importance of managing lines in any shot.
What have I learnt?
Clearly, I have developed as a photographer over the past 10-12 years, and I have received recognition for a number of my images. During that time, I have learned a lot of technical skills and unlocked some of my artistic ability, but more than anything I have achieved a level of confidence that allows me to take on just about any situation and come up with a solution for getting the shot that I want.
In the next part, I’ll go over some of the strategies that I use to get these images and what I see as the continuing journey of acquiring knowledge, skill and enjoyment from photography.
Hope to see you for that one!