10,000 not out : improving your photography

Charcoal_carrier_pushing_wheelbarrow

Charcoal carrier with specially adapted wheelbarrow : early morning, Lusaka, Zambia

Are your photos getting better? Henri Cartier-Bresson said that your first 10,000 would be your worst. I think he was trying to be encouraging – I hope so.

I’m going to dodge the thorny question of what makes a good photo, because it’s too subjective (and too vague). A better starting point is to ask yourself what you want to say with your camera and how you can say it most clearly.

Speaking personally, since moving to Zambia I’ve tried to use my camera like a sketch book, to record my impressions of a country that’s very different from the UK (where I’m from). It’s worth pausing to think about your aims. And remember that you’re always free to change your mind.

Having decided what you want to say, it’s time to get on and practise. Taking 10,001 pictures will certainly improve your photography, but I’d like to suggest a few ways of making the journey more interesting:

-Take on a personal project, which needn’t be ground breaking or very time consuming, unless you want it to be. A few years ago, when I worked in London, I had very little spare time, so I took pictures during my lunch hour. Not only did my ‘Window shopping’ project get me out of the office. I’m sure that it improved my composition skills, in an enjoyable way. You can see some of the results in the London gallery of my website.

-Look at other photographers’ work – in books, at exhibitions and online. Recently, Saul Leiter’s colour pictures bowled me over. The Photographers’ Gallery in London were showing his work last time I was in England. I was spellbound. Having always preferred black and white photography, I’ve been forced to think again. In 2006 Steidl published a monograph of Leiter’s pictures under the title “Early Color”, which I thoroughly recommend. By 2014 it was in its fifth edition.

-If your photography still needs spicing up, follow the link to “My inspirations” where you can find reviews of some of my favourite books and photographers.

I’m always interested to know how other photographers stay fresh and creative. So if you’d like to share your experience, please leave a comment.

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6 Responses to “10,000 not out : improving your photography”
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