Taking More Photos

Back in November 2010 I wrote a post called Depressing Inspiration in which I said that I was guilty of not taking as many photos as I felt I should. Since then I have made a conscious effort, albeit inconsistently, to correct this and have been moderately successful. I have done several things that have helped me do this and I thought I should share them.

Created a purpose

I have always tried to be organised with my photos. I tag them and edit them in the hope that one day I would need to use them for something. This has happened once or twice but not as often as I would have liked, so I decided to create some purpose for my photos. I did things like set up our Things We Will Miss About London blog to make myself take pictures of London. I have also made a point of including my photos on this blog so I have to keep updating them.

Take my camera with me

This is probably the most common piece of advice I’ve heard but it’s true. By carrying my camera around with me I’ve been able to take pictures of more unexpected moments.

On the occasions that I haven’t had my camera, I have started to make a point of taking my camera with me the next time I go to the same location.

Stopped worrying about having the right camera

I used to to be a bit of a camera snob and would never consider using the camera on my phone or our little pocket camera but I would miss out on photos completely if I didn’t have my DSLR. Once I got a smartphone I realised that not only was the camera pretty good but I could do things with the photos immediately.

I’m not saying that the photos I’ve taken with my phone would ever make it onto my Flickr photostream but using it got me into the mindset of taking more photos in general.

I bought a ‘nifty fifty’

One thing I underestimated for a long time was the difference lenses made to your pictures. For a long time I just thought you would buy a different lens for the focal length but after listening to them talk about lenses on the FX Guide RC podcast for long enough, I took their advice and bought the cheap Canon 50mm prime for just under £100.

I’m so glad I did. The difference was instant, for several reasons.

The biggest difference was the f1.8 aperture. I had only used Canon kit lenses previously, with a maximum aperture of 4.5. The wider aperture created a luscious bokeh that immediately gave my photos a more classic and interesting look. It meant I could take photos that would have looked dull and flat with my previous lens and give them a sense of drama.

The wider aperture and also meant I could take photos in lower light which meant I took more.

The fixed focal length lens also made me take photos from different angles. By not being able to zoom in or out to frame my photos I had to move around the subject to find the photo.

Unfortunately the lens fell out of my bag a few months ago and broke, so I’ve been using the kit lens again, but now I have seen the difference a lens can make to my pictures I am prepared to spend more on my next one (when I have the money). There are so many huge views here in Canada I’m thinking of getting an f1.4 28mm.

Started using Lightroom

It took me a long time to convince myself that editing a photo after I had taken it wasn’t cheating and that almost every other decent photo on the web would have had some post processing done to it. It dosen’t take much to make a decent photo much better.

I had used iPhoto for as long as I had been using digital cameras and I would sometimes use the adjustment tools or occasionally edit one of the photos in Photoshop but that was an exception rather than the rule. I hated how it had to make a copy of the file just to do simple level adjustments and once I updated to iPhoto ’09 it became intolerably slow.

When I first tried Adobe Lightroom I wasn’t keen on the way it organised the photos without the ‘Events’ that I was used to in iPhoto but once I started using the develop tools I was sold. They are much more powerful, they are fast and they are easy to use. The settings are completely non-destructive so you can create multiple versions of your photo without having to make copies of your file and then copy settings between similar photos.

I now edit almost every photo I import, even if it’s just little level adjustments or a crop. It has even encouraged me to shoot RAW more often to make the most of the tools.

EDIT: Check out my post on switching from iPhoto to Lightroom.

Started to show my pictures off

For a while I wasn’t very confident about my photography and didn’t show it off much.

I have had a Flickr account for as long as I can remember, but I tended to use Facebook to share my photos with friends. I don’t know what made me start using Flickr more, perhaps it was when I updated iPhoto to a version with a built-in exporter.

Because Flickr is a dedicated photo site, I use it quite differently from Facebook. I am much more considered about the photos I will add Flickr. I put up fewer but I make sure that I am really proud of the ones that make it.

Once they are up there, they automatically get added to the gallery on my blog (I use the Slickr Flickr plugin). A few of my Flickr contacts would see them and I would share the best on Facebook or Twitter. For a while this was all I did with them.

Recently one of my Flickr contacts encouraged me to start adding my photos to some of the groups on Flickr. It’s quite a different feeling when you share your photos with people you don’t know. When they like your photos, it is more encouraging because they are judging them purely on their own merit. This has given me the confidence to take more.

Moved to Canada

Everyone takes more photos when they are in a new place and with the views you get around Vancouver, it’s even easier. There are beaches, parks, downtown streets with bright lights and classic neon, boats and wildlife all with snowcapped mountains in the background. I know there were plenty of subjects to photograph in London but I was guilty of taking it for granted. Seeing a new place has made me pick up the camera more and I’m going to try to make sure I don’t get out of the habit this time.

Coal Harbour At Dusk From Stanley Park