Five Questions Every Photographer Should Ask Themselves
Ed Miranda, one of my photography friends on Insagram (who you should definitely follow - @emirandata - or
) tagged me in a post which asks to answer five questions related to your history as a photographer. Although I am not a professional and do not have a career based in this field, I found answering these question was a fun exercise in introspection. Every photographer should do this.
1. Choice of camera?
When I was doing research on purchasing an interchangeable lens camera I came across the DP Review for Olympus' OMD EM5. The first thing that attracted me to this camera was its size but soon I became impressed with its features, primarily the in body image stabilization (IBIS) technology it possessed. In addition, I thought the camera was quite handsome compared to Canikon's offerings and I'm a sucker for aesthetics. After doing more research on this specific camera and the micro four thirds platform I came to realize that it was a good match for me. As soon as I held the camera I knew I had made a good decision and once I started using it, I was hooked. It actually inspires me to go out and shoot and being inspired is paramount to development in this field. Without it, you end up with another piece of gear collecting dust in your closet.
2. How long have you been practicing photography?
In 2008, the lab I was working in purchased an Olympus Stylus 1030 SW and after using it in the field and liking it, I purchased one for myself. I used it continuously until May, 2013 when I lost it during a trip to Disney World. As a point and shoot, It did not offer very much in terms of controls but I carried the thing with me everywhere and knew that I enjoyed taking photos of my surroundings. Losing my point and shoot became a good excuse to upgrade to something more serious and have been shooting with an OMD EM5 since July 2013. I didn't begin to educate myself on the basic principals of photography until 2013 however and my time with the stylus was spent blindly in "auto" mode.
3. Who got you into photography?
This is a tough question as I cannot pinpoint one individual who was responsible for me venturing into this art form. I didn't grow up with photographer relatives and I am definitely not classically trained so my influences have been fairly recent. It is weird, but I have been a fan of the music artist RAC for some time now and seeing the photos he posted on Facebook was one of my earliest influences. While in graduate school, I became friends with
, an accomplished nature and landscape photographer from Australia who was going to school in Texas. His work did and continues to inspire me and he was nice enough to answer a lot of questions about photography that I had while researching the basics early on. I think one of my biggest inspirations however has been Ming Thein. His clean and minimalist style coupled to his perspective that gear is not as important as vision (and technique) really resonated with me and reading through his site pushed me to take the jump and buy the EM5.
4. What does photography mean to you?
I have always been an artist and to me photography represents another outlet into which I can vent my creativity. I love the idea that once I am gone there is still the possibility that another person will be able to view a tiny fraction of space and time through my artistic interpretation of the scene. I am also drawn to photography because it is the only medium I have found where I can use the more analytical side of my brain. As a trained biologist, I am a huge fan of the scientific method and each picture is like a tiny super fast experiment. I find it fun to gauge a scene, dial in the exposure settings I think will work, take the photo, and check out the results (especially fun when using off camera flash and flash modifiers).
5. Anything you would like to say to starting photographers out there?
There are a few things I would say to someone just starting out or who wants to pursue photography as a hobby or career in the future. These are things I did that I have come to realize helped in my development as a hobbyist. That being said, I am still very new to the game so be sure and read these with a grain of salt.
- Spend 1 to 3 months researching your camera options and learning the fundamentals of photography before you buy anything. You should know what "f/1.8", "ISO", "white balance", "crop factor" and all those other photography terms mean before you even pick up a camera, after all, knowledge is power. Modern cameras are complex and you do not possess an understanding of the basics before venturing into your first project you may find yourself overwhelmed and uninspired in the end.
- No matter what system you choose, purchase a couple fast prime legacy lenses and practice with them before moving on to the latest and greatest auto-focus zoom option. Picking a focal length and learning what it is good for in terms of subject matter and composition will help you make smart decisions when you do get a good "all around" piece of glass. Also, using a manual lens will slow you down and force you to think about the shot before you hit the shutter button. You will also probably learn how to zone focus and figure out what focal lengths you do not care for.
- For the first year or so, do not limit yourself to one type of photography. I feel practicing different genres will only make your overall foundation stronger. For example, even if you ultimately want to become a fashion photographer, why not take a shot at macro or astro-photography, in the end you may learn something that you can apply to the fashion world that in the end makes you stand out. Alternatively, you may come to the realization that macro photography is much more interesting than fashion and want to make that your primary focus. You will never know if you do not try.
- Finally, never stop learning (which ties into what is mentioned above) and seek inspiration from others. I think this tidbit of information should be applied to everyday life, but is especially important in the arts. There are so many great photographers producing awesome imagery in this world, it would be foolish for someone to forgo their work.
If I had to only pick one of these to tell someone it would be the #1 because I think the fundamentals are necessary to develop good
. Without them would be like trying to solve an algebra problem if you had no knowledge of what numbers and letters were.