January 5th, 2020 - Afternoon
Have you been curious about the steps to becoming a better nature photographer? Or maybe you’re interested in how I capture some of my own reference photos for my paintings? No? Ok, well, this blog isn’t for you. Yes? Great! Keep reading.
A lot goes into capturing my images, but anyone can do it. First, you HAVE to be curious. You have to be open to your subject presenting itself. It's ok to have an idea of what you want to see on a certain day or at some point, but don’t get stuck on that if it doesn’t happen how you expected. Some of the best photographs happen by chance or by being in the right place at the right time with your camera! When I go out for a stroll with my camera it becomes a lot easier to take great photos that I love when I am open to what I may find. I don’t try and block myself into something specific. Your subject WANTS to be seen. I’m telling you. Be curious. Slow down. Listen. See. Snap. Change the angle. Get closer. Look. Listen. Be curious. Lean in. Lean out. Get on the other side. Be curious. Be Patient. Move Along (Slowly).
Look for colors and textures that are interesting to you. When you are intrigued by something and feel the urge to go closer THAT becomes your subject. Even if it is a dead fly on the ground, that becomes YOUR subject. You found it interesting and chose to take a second look, start photographing. Move Along.
Crouch down and look around. Scan the area from sky line to forest floor. Listen and look for animals that might be present. This includes insects and birds. I believe there is always beauty around, you just have to find it. Keep Moving (Slowly still).
After I have captured the images it’s all about reviewing them and finding a few shots that just seem perfect. Perfect to your eye that is. I find when I am trying to be artistic in my photography I am choosing the compositions based on what is pleasing to my eye. That’s it. These are my photos and I know what I want to see. Look around the edges of the images you have captured and scan them quickly to see which images are most pleasing. Choose one.
The first thing I do is crop the photo to a size that I believe is pleasing to my eye. Change the image a little. Change it back. Change it a little more. Tilt it. Do whatever you need to with your crop tool until you come to an image that you like. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Decide and move on. Remember, these are your photos and you can make them look how you want. You are in charge here. Not everyone is going to like every subject you photograph or every image you capture. Doesn’t matter. Do you like it? Yes? Ok, great, move on.
Now get into editing mode by messing with the controls of whatever program you have available. This can be something as simple as your cell phone editing program. I will normally go straight to the exposure or brightness first and move that up and down to see what brightness I like most. Move your eyes around the image and see what areas come into focus. What shadows do you want to draw attention to? Does the color saturation need to go up just a little? Now here is where you can keep it very realistic or you can make it a little more artsy. Mess with the color, shadows, exposure, contrast or black point and see what looks good to you. After a while you might find you develop an eye for a certain style of photo and you may find yourself always editing your pictures towards that style. Don’t be afraid to change it up either.
A lot of people think the camera makes a good photographer and I will agree having a decent camera and a quality lens can make a huge difference in photo quality. What I really believe, though, is you don’t need a fancy camera in order to capture beautifully composed images with eye capturing and intriguing subjects. You can use your cell phone camera or an inexpensive digital camera to start. Just be curious and when you find something that draws your attention in, go to that. Start taking pictures and pretty soon you’ll start to get an eye for what you enjoy photographing and you'll develop your own editing style. The key is that the more photos you take, the better chance it is that you will get an amazing image. I think what makes a good photographer is curiousity, patience, and practice. Once you think you have nearly mastered those skills, invest in a piece of equipment you are excited to use. Your fancy camera will make those first three skills amplify to uncharted levels and you might find true passion capturing simple things that others might normally overlook.
I hope this has brought you some insight into how I go about capturing some of my nature photography and maybe even gives you a little encouragement and inspiration to go out and start taking your own photographs!