Re-thinking (your) Photography

Re-thinking (your) Photography by JazL Emerging Academy of Photography member with special thanks to Paul B. Lincoln   Have you ever felt that you would like to improve on your […]

Re-thinking (your) Photography

by JazL Emerging Academy of Photography member

with special thanks to Paul B. Lincoln


Have you ever felt that you would like to improve on your photography but yet at a lost at where to start?  Caught up in technical terms, all the wealth of information on all sorts of photography sites, how do you choose what is relevant to you and how do you know if you are just looking at the right areas to improve?  Here are some things that I have found useful in my on-going quest of re-thinking my photography.

(1) Find a muse / theme

At the end of a hands-on photography cum critique workshop that I attended, a fellow attendee posed an important question, where do we go from here?  The photographer who conducted the workshop immediately replied that the skills and techniques we have learnt could be put to greater use if we organized our pictures based on the subject(s) that we are interested in.   For example, I have found it interesting to capture people at work.  I like how intense some of these may be, when they are in deep concentration, in completing their task(s).  I also love taking pictures of animals, especially my pets.  Here are two examples of my favorite photographs of people at work.

By having a muse or a theme to photograph, you immediately build up a collection of photographs.  From these, you would be able to compare and note the changes in your photography over time.  This would provide a consistent stream of similar pictures, which would come in useful in the next point.


(2) Re-Flect!

As with all creative process, reflection is an integral part of progress.  To do this, it may be as simple as using the playback feature for instant feedback on your shot, or re-looking at the entire series of photographs after you are done.  It may be useful to ask yourself questions such as, What is the message you were trying to convey?, What is good about the shot(s)?, What can be better?  For example, here are two similar shots I took.  When I took the first photograph 2(a), I thought it was a ‘picture perfect’.  However, after taking 2(b), I compared both and then realized that the second one was much better;  I like how the light that was cast on the snow which gave it texture and also, how that bit of snow on the boot gave it narrative.  Were these boots out? Who wore them?



Reflection can also be more complicated, such as rethinking on your personal photographic style.  As mentioned, if you have a series of shots that are organized either by a theme or as a result of your muse, you would be able to compare them and decide on what it is that you enjoy, what strikes you as your ‘signature style’ or how you may go on to improve or derive at your own style.  You may like to examine factors such as your composition, angle, or even lighting, which you may like to develop further.  At this point, once you have identified area(s) that you would like to work on, it would help to keep you focused and on the look out for relevant and useful information, and not simply plough through often overloaded information.


(3) Men / Women do not shoot alone


If you are at a lost in researching for relevant and useful information, try searching for photographers whose photographs are similar to yours.  These can easily be found in social media sites, blogs, or internet searches.  By being aware at how different people may capture the same subject in similar or different ways, you would be able to have a wider view of how this can be done, which would help you to the next point, to experiment…


(4)  Experiment


If you are not too sure about your signature style, do not be afraid to try out many different ways.  Always experiment with as many angles, lighting, or any other factors.  I often find that thinking and doing might not be equivalent.  There are many times when I had thought that doing a certain thing would produce a certain (desired) effect, yet often, this may not be true.  It is more important to keep an open mind and go ahead with the most absurd ideas / scenarios.  For all you know, from there, you could well uncover your signature style!


(5) Get a buddy

Just as Picasso had Braque, it helps if you have a mentor, a buddy or simply, a friend who acts as a second pair of eyes.  My mentor cum good friend is an experienced photographer who has taught me much on technical aspects of photography but more importantly, he suggests photographical challenges and provides critique on my work.  As he is familiar with my work and techniques, he is able to easily point out my flaws and suggest improvements.  It is important to find someone you can trust because critique may be positive and/or negative but would always come with ideas and suggestions for improvement.


In spite of all these, the ‘golden rule’ that I have benefitted most from is that in times of doubt, just shoot!  There were many times when none of the above seemed like the right solution and that I just could not get a grip on things.  When this happens, I would simply ignore all these, grab my camera and shoot any thing or any one in sight.  From these shots, I try to apply the above and thus far, this has never failed to bring me back to what I truly want out of these shots.  Once I have it figured out, the rest would proceed to fall naturally in place!  Therefore, do not hesitate!  (Time to STOP reading and grab your camera!!!)


Good luck!




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