I Want to Learn How to Take Better Photographs


November 24, 2011

1:00 PM

I’m tired of using taking bad photos. I’m tired of seeing other people’s bad photos. I’m tired of point-and-shoots.

I’m not sure exactly what kind of photography I want to improve on, but often I see something beautiful and wish I could capture that moment.

Because I spend most of my time in the urban landscape of New York City surrounded by people, I’ll want to become better at taking photos of people and manmade structures. Not Ansel Adams landscapes.

As I’ve started reading resources online, I came across a sensible piece of advice on this website:

It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you buy if you don’t know what you’re trying to do with it. If you’re not a photographer, all you’ll get out of a camera are snapshots, exactly as people who aren’t pianists can get a chord or two out of a piano, but won’t be making music.

So now I’m reading that blog and Bruce Barnbaum’s The Art of Photography.

2:00 PM

Read a bit of Barnbaum’s book. He strongly emphasizes passion and the desire for expression over technique. He also stresses knowing one’s own interests. Now narrowing mine down to photographing people who are learning.

6:00 PM

I looked through my family’s photo albums of pictures taken when I was a kid. I realized most of the pictures suck. First of all nearly all of them are of the same composition. My parents standing on either side of me with some landmark in the background. Here’s us at Disney World, at Yosemite facing Half Dome. It’s the same angle over and over again. We’re saying cheese for the camera. It’s posed not natural. There are hardly any closeups. And there’s album after album of these superficial snapshots. I see myself growing up and my parents growing older, but as a viewer I don’t feel I’m getting to know the family I’m looking at.

There are a few photographs that I feel truly show my family as we really are. These aren’t posed. They’re taken almost by accident during the moment without anyone planning or pausing to take a premeditated photo.

November 25, 2011 I just dropped $724 on a new Canon T2i DSLR camera. Started taking photos immediately when I got home. I took delight in annoying both my mom and my grandparents with it. Saw three white-tailed deer in our backyard. Followed them and snapped photos. The alpha deer had an injured leg.

Perhaps my camera will change the way I view the world. I hope that by learning to take good photographs, I start seeing the world around me in a fresh way. The act of documenting what the human eye sees is a thoughtful act. The way in which people see and that which cameras record seem to be very different.

My eyes dart back and forth garnering shapes and colors, translating them into neural signals that are then pieced together to form something that makes sense. My DSLR captures light and encodes it onto a flash disk. Those 0s and 1s are etched into machine memory able to be processed over and over again to show the same thing.