By JASON LIOH
The introduction of digital cameras more than a decade ago has revolutionised the way we take photographs. Cost of photography is significantly reduced as users are no longer required to buy rolls after rolls of films and developing them at a photo shop.
Instant preview, intelligent guide mode and other built-in camera features are encouraging users to take more pictures and worry less about the technical aspect of photography.
Gone are the days when photographers had to go through millions of things in their heads before pressing the shutter button.
Thanks to the wonders of technology and cheaper price tag, everyone has a camera these days – be it top-of-the-line digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras, mid-range compact cameras or even a phone camera.
Photography is fast becoming, or perhaps already is, part of our lifestyle.
Shoot anywhere, everywhere
With a camera in hand at all times, you can practice and improve your photography skill anytime, anywhere and on almost any subject. Everything is worth capturing – be it your plate of fried chicken or that beautiful iconic structure in a foreign land.
These (idle moments) are the best times for you to play with and understand your camera – which you ideally shouldn’t do at paid assignments such as weddings or events when every second counts.
You can learn about the settings, buttons, functions, menu placements and features available on your camera and take your time to compose, make mistakes and take your own sweet time to snap the picture you want.
By practicing photography on a daily basis, you are also improving consistently. Your ability to determine the right settings (for a photograph) will also get better, which is crucial during a paid assignment.
Most importantly, you will never again encounter that situation during which you wish you had your camera to capture a certain precious moment.
It’s just a tool
There is a saying that goes, “the best camera is the one in your hand” and I could not agree anymore. The camera is merely a tool, nothing more and nothing less, and it is entirely up to the person behind the camera to work his or her magic.
A good camera body or professional grade lenses and equipments do not transform you into a professional photographer overnight.
It is the photographer’s vision, understanding of light and other skills that makes him stand out from the rest – not forgetting the experience he has gained from years of practising and perfecting his their craft.
The last time I checked, Apple’s iPhone 4 was still the most used photo-capturing device in popular photo sharing site, Flickr The pictures, taken with the smartphone, are as beautiful as those taken using professional grade DSLRs like Canon EOS 5D Mark II or Nikon D90.
It is really important to understand what the camera you already own can do and deliver instead of always yearning over newer model or higher grade lenses. New gear may seem to improve your photos’ quality, but they will not take you far or even to the next level.
Photography is a form of expression. Stories, emotions, feelings and ideas can be expressed through pictures. It is certainly not an easy task, especially for new and inexperienced photographers but through practice, it is possible. It is more important that a photographer learns to shoot for himself and not for others.
There will always be people who will criticise your pictures. Stand firm on your ground and do not be disheartened easily. If you know what you are doing, there is no reason to be afraid of negative comments. Instead, use them to learn and improve your photography skills.
As a photographer, it is important to learn to see the beauty in lesser things.
Mundane objects lying around the house or street like an empty cup, broken toys, flowers, or broken glasses are worth photographing if you are able to see the beauty beyond the obvious.
It is entirely up to the photographer’s imagination and creativity to turn something uninteresting into a beautiful photo or piece of art.
Beauty is only skin deep and as a photographer, it is important to bring out the best of our subjects with the resources we have.
Use your resources
More often than not, I have heard of photographers complaining about not having that F2.8 telephoto lens (for close-up shots) or the sky wasn’t blue enough (for perfect lighting) or the model was not drop dead gorgeous.
Instead of spending time whining, it is better to improve your skills and to make use of whatever resources you have to deliver the best result.
The sky will not always be blue on the day of your paid wedding job (in fact, it might even rain heavily) and you may not have a telephoto lens. But you can always fiddle with your camera to capture any available light and always get closer to your subject to take the shot.
As you improve your photography skills, you will also improve yourself as an individual. A good photographer is always prepared for the next moment, will think ahead, expect the unexpected, be organised, be punctual for assignments, learn to take constructive criticism and know what he or she is doing.
There is more to photography than just taking pictures. It is a huge world and you’re on a never ending journey.
With a camera in hand and the right mindset and skill, you will never know where your camera will and can take you. You’ll be surprised.
Jason Lioh is an avid photographer and (formerly) a popular blogger. He blogs at http://jasonmumbles.com; you can also find him on Twitter (@jasonmumbles). He hasn’t been taking photographs consistently but will be doing so real soon – after his exams, that is. The pictures in this month’s Snap Shots were all taken by Jason, Jason Goh (@smashpop) and Robin Wong.