As I stated in my previous post, my recent trip to Ireland was an opportunity, or series of opportunities, for me to take photographs I could not or would not have taken otherwise, and that has me feeling inspired.
Just as candid portraits are sometimes difficult photos to take, street photography is often even more daunting for me. It can be unnerving to shoot photos of strangers. After all, not all strangers want to have their photo taken.
As a tourist, street photography is a bit easier and here's why: First, as a tourist you will often find yourself in the presence of other tourists-we tend to go to the same places. Being in the presence of other tourists means you are also in the presence of other cameras. You and your camera are less conspicuous in this situation, and that makes it easier to shoot.
If you are shooting photos on crowded streets with lots of other tourists, it is a safe assumption that the non-tourists milling around have grown accustomed to and accepting of the fact that there are cameras about and they are less on edge about it. In fact, I noticed that they pretty much ignore you, which again, makes it easier to have the camera to your face.
Finally, like moths to the light, we as tourists, are attracted to the action. When travelling in a city of any significant size you will inevitably happen upon a performance of some kind - street performance or a parade perhaps. This is another opportunity to safely photograph. The buskers and the gawkers alike expect that there will be people taking photographs, it's just a part of the scene.
Ultimately it is worth the effort to find situations where you feel comfortable shooting on the street because street photography more often than not tells a great story.
This trip to Ireland was an opportunity, or series of opportunities, for me to take photographs I could not or would not have taken otherwise, and that has me feeling inspired. I'd like to share these photographs in the spirit of sharing how I was inspired and what I learned.
First, this trip was an opportunity for me to meet some really fabulous people. And I was inspired to take candid portraits of several of these people.
Candid portraits are a tricky business. I like to get people's approval before I point my camera in their face, but if they know your taking their photo, the portraits tend not to be all that candid. I learned that you can ask someone's permission to take their picture, and then continue to shoot after they have stopped posing and/or feeling self-conscious about the camera. This is when the best photos happen.
I just spent a long weekend back in Austin, TX. It has been almost a year since we left Austin and moved back home to Minneapolis and it was time for a visit. I came home from this vacation both well-rested and exhausted, and reminded of something really important: Your creativity is nourished by your time spent out in the world.
I didn't really need to be in Austin to feed my head, nor am I suggesting that only vacation time counts as time spent out in the world. What I am saying is that this past weekend reminded me, in a sort of cram it down your throat kind of way that your creative spirit will wither if not properly nourished.
It was a weekend filled with friends, including a much anticipated reunion with my crafty ladies. I visited the art museum, spent two hours alone in a book store, and had some tattoo work done. I saw peacocks, read Raymond Carver stories, and I got crushed on a chihuahua named Sophie. I shot over 400 photographs, about 20 of which I will actually keep. Just a lot of regular stuff.
But it's the regular stuff, the out-in-the-world stuff, that feeds a person's head and keeps your creative self thriving.
I have an on-again-off-again relationship with my camera. I'm mercuial and easily distracted. There are times in my life when I spend a lot of time with my camera and there are times in my life when it sits on the shelf, ignored.
Last week I posted a bit of advice about always carrying your camera. And this week I decided to heed that advice. I was presented with opportunities for good photos this week; First, the skies have been gloomy and the light diffuse, and I was out and about a lot. I would not have been able to take advantage of these opportunities if my camera had been sitting on the shelf.
I've spent some quaility time with my camera this week and I'm pretty pleased with the results.
On Sunday I went to watch the Skijouring event at the City of the Lakes Loppet. A sport I'd never seen live and in person. For those of you not familiar, skijouring involves Nordic skiing, a dog, and lots of speed.
I'm not a professional photographer, nor do I play one on TV. But I do have some tips to share about taking excellent photos of your crafts. Your photos can speak for you and communicate to the world who you are and what you're all about creatively.
Whether you're taking pictures of crafts for your website or blog, or taking pictures to share your creativity with the world through online communities like Ravelry and Flickr, you should make an effort to take really good photos. People love really good photos.
Tip1 - Always, always, always use natural light. Unless you've got a tungsten balanced professional light kit or box, shoot you photos in natural light. It will keep your colors true, and add a certain warmth that you just can't get from an artificial light source. It is best if the light isn't too direct, as that can cause harsh funky shadows, and/or a washed out look. An overcast day is great, or late afternoon or early morning when the sun isn't directly over head. If you can't go outside, shoot your photos in a light filled room near a sunny window.
Tip2 - Never, never, never use your flash. It just looks bad. It changes the colors and causes weird glares, reflections, and hot spots. Do yourself a favor and turn the flash off.
Tip 3 - Stage your photos. Create a context. It adds visual interest plain and simple. Find yourself some props, pick a place to shoot, and spend some time styling your photos. In addition to adding visual interest it can be useful in communicating to your audience; for example, if you're shooting a product show your customers how to use it, or make allusions to how it was made. Any additional information you can communicate will further the connection your photos make with your intended audience. And use your imagination, having more creative photos let's the world know that you're a creative person.
Tip 4 - If your shooting clothing put it on a model. It doesn't have to be a live model, although sometimes that is better, it can also be a mannequin or a dress form. Bottom line is clothes don't look how they're suppose to look spread out on a table. They just look weird.
Tip 5 - Use an interesting background. Again, unless you've got a professionally set-up back drop don't use sheets, or bedspreads to try to imitate one. It will look like hell and it's boring. Be creative with your back drop. Try different textures and colors. Light colored items benefit from the contrast of a darker background and vice-versa. Try a wooden tray, or a wicker baskets, or decorative papers, or pages from a book. Be creative, create a visual metaphor, use your background as another opportunity to add interest and express your cleverness or sense of humor.
Tip 6 - Take lots and lots of photos. Once you have something set up take several shots. Move in a little closer and shoot some more. Move out a little further and shoot some more. Shoot from a higher angle, shoot from a lower angle, shoot it in reverse. Now re-arrange your props, change out your background, and shoot it all again. Now, move to a different part of the yard or the other side of the room where the light will be slightly different and do it all again. Taking tons of photos will give you choices, and a least a few really excellent photographs.
Tip 7 - Let your style develop. If you're taking lots of photos, and your being creative with the styling and use of props, and your being patient and thinking about what your doing your own style will start to shine through. Just like with writing practice you start to develop a voice, your photo taking will start to develop an eye. And it will be your eye, unique to you, and will give your photos a signature look that helps to communicate who you are and what you're all about creatively.
The old adage "a pictures says a thousand words" isn't just an old adage. It's true. Your photos are an opportunity to communicate in ways language can't. I hope these tips are useful in making your photos speak for you in new ways. Get out the camera and have some fun.