Incense

by Bart Arondson

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What makes someone a good photographer?

  1. Skill with the camera?

  2. Artistic eye?

  3. Theoretical knowledge?

  4. A lot of practice?

The reason I am asking is that my photographs don't look nearly as good as I wish it to be. When I see photos on deviantArt and then when I look at my photos - there is just no comparison.

I am frustrated because I can't achieve the photo results I want and I am not sure what's wrong - is it just me, or my lack of skill with the camera, or perhaps both.

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great chances come to those who wait but with this it proves futile as it requires practising on almost a daily basis. –  user8089 Jan 14 '12 at 8:06

5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Patience and persistence.

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." - attributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson

I'm amazed how much you learn simply by taking more pictures. I started a photo a day project last October, and I can tell a huge difference in the quality of my photos now compared to when I started.

Also, take an evening and spend a few hours observing one scene, perhaps a park or something. Especially during the "golden hour" before sunset, you can see huge changes in the scene, and each moment gives a different mood to the scene.

Technical skill is important, but you don't really need to focus to much on it, because you will improve your skill as you take pictures that aren't quite right. The ones that turn out pretty well except one little flaw are the ones you can learn the most from, because that one flaw will drive you nuts and force you to figure out how to fix it the next time you encounter a similar situation.

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I myself have learnt so much in only the two weeks of taking photos with my DSLR. Patience and trial and error is a big part of learning to be a great anything. Musician, photographer, artist... –  Nick Bedford Aug 29 '10 at 22:23
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+1 for "golden hour". IMHO for a beginner this is the best time for the first photos. You get great photos, even with little experience and that sevred as a great confidence booster for me. –  Nivas Aug 30 '10 at 12:19
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+1, though someone needs to add an order of magnitude to the old saying to update it for the digital age! –  ex-ms Aug 31 '10 at 19:28
    
Indeed; I've had my camera for about 3 months and have already shot over 10k frames. –  Evan Krall Sep 10 '10 at 15:48
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While I can agree overall, I see one problem. Just practising alone will not improve your photography, in fact, it might stay stagnant. Learning and understanding the theory is also important - because it will allow you to evaluate your photos objectively and compare them to other photographs objectively. –  DetlevCM Jan 14 '12 at 10:47

This is a pretty subjective question... However, I'm game. :)

  1. Skill, obviously, helps a great deal especially when you have to react to the moment and be able to adjust quickly for that. However, that alone isn't going to create a great photo. An old adage was f/8 and be there, indicating that you should forget about the camera and get the image. Easier said than done, sometimes, and one gains confidence to do that when they've built a lot a skill around their equipment.

  2. Art is often in the eye of the beholder. One man's art is another man's trash, so it goes with the artistic eye. Now, that's not to say that there aren't images that will take anyones breath away, but I have a feeling that these are so statistically rare that you may have a better chance winning the lottery than capturing one of them. Mind you, you never know! I suppose that's what keeps us snapping. Anyways, I'd hardly consider myself to have an artistic eye, but it's something that can be trained, I think (I hope!). I'm working on it, lots of flops, but I get the odd one I'm happy with.

  3. I, honestly, doubt that theoretical knowledge has very little impact, if any. In fact, I'd wager it goes the other way. I know people so caught up in the theory that they fail to see the image. This isn't unique to photography, I see it my industry too. I've seen a number of software developers with deep theory that couldn't deliver a "hello world" program because they'd be stuck debating on the best algorithms for doing it.

  4. A lot of practice? Bingo! Why not fire until your finger wears out? Just delete what you don't like. You can take hundreds, even thousands, of images and even if none turned out, you may learn from them. The quote chills42 listed is a good one, but you do have to take some time to look at the outcome and try to understand why it missed, or why it hit, otherwise you're just pressing a button.

After all that, the camera is just part of the bag of tricks skilled photographers have to make their images look great. Many of these tricks also existed in the darkroom, but digital brings more of them to the masses. A lot of shots you see on sites like Deviant Art didn't look like that coming out of the camera (though some may have, I don't want to disparage). Some of these are going to be fairly basic changes such as adjusting contrast, saturation, vibrance, sharpening, and the like. Others start to get more interesting when you crop, rotate, clone out parts, and more. What is your goal? To create art or to capture precise information at that moment in time? If it's art, you can get very creative after the fact and why not? After all, the goal is to provide an image that gives the viewer pleasure.

Anyways, don't get discouraged because there are better photographers, for all but one in the whole world, there always will be. Just get out there with the camera, play around, and make mistakes. Most importantly, have fun and just enjoy the moment of the capture.

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+1 I agree with everything except the bit about theory. While I do not think it is the fundamental underpinning of photography, understanding the theory of light, color, and cameras DOES help. It should never be a foreground thing, but having that knowledge gives your brain more to work from when you encounter those times "when you have to react to the moment and be able to adjust quickly for it". A good part of skill is having an understanding of what you are doing...and thats theory. –  jrista Aug 30 '10 at 0:54
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Regarding hypertheoretical programmer types, I've met them too. The reason they can't program is they are like absent-minded scientists...they couldn't care less if a program worked...their passion IS the theory, and thats what they care about. Those types should generally be in fringe comp-sci thinktanks, designing new ways to search and sort, not your average programming job. Same goes for the hypertheoretical photographic types...they should be designing fantastic new lenses, not out snapping photos. ;P –  jrista Aug 30 '10 at 0:57
    
@jrista That's a good point on the theory. I guess I let my perception of those too caught up in it colour my opinion on it. I have a friend that spends too much time examining LP/mm, pixel peeping, and other such things instead of just putting the camera to his eye. He's a perfectionist, though, and while his shots are technically very well done, they're often dull. –  John Cavan Aug 30 '10 at 2:00
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@jrista @john - amusingly, conflating "technology" with "theory" is something very typical of programmers (of any stripe) who take up photography. :-) –  ex-ms Aug 31 '10 at 19:27
    
@matt - I suppose for us it's usually one and the same! :) –  John Cavan Aug 31 '10 at 22:52

It's similar to ask what makes smn good lawyer or surgeon. Only the consequences are less danger :) IMHO the are 3 features that makes your professional regardless the field of activity:

  1. Passion. This what directs you and doesn't allow to give up.
  2. Discipline. You must practice constantly.
  3. Constant desire to learn. This also includes advice from "older" people.

Of course some one can be born as a genius photographer or a singer but he is one of a million. Look at the other famous photographers. Mostly of them began from the begging.

P.S. DSLR is last thing in this list )

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An ability to take photographs without worrying about whether or not they're a good photographer.

;)

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Like the others have said, practice is VERY important. I truly believe that it is not just the camera that makes you a good photographer. If you have an eye for composition, even a camera-phone can capture some great shots.

I am constantly grabbing my iPhone when I see an interesting angle or subject. Of course, I do go out a couple of times a week with my camera...just driving around to see what I can find.

Good luck!

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