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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
I don't know who said it, but there's a line about if you buy a camera, you're a photographer. If you buy a violin, you own a violin. It's a strange thing about photography these days, everybody is a photographer, everyone's got a camera. And that's great. It's been a real, digital has been a real democratizing thing. That said you need to think about what does that mean. I am a photographer. You might need to think about that a lot when you getting ready to go out shooting. Personally, I notice myself, that a lot of times I'll be sitting at home working, maybe even writing a book about photography, and I'll look out the window and see that the light is just turned nice and I'll think, oh I need to go take some pictures.
And I'll grab my camera and I'll run outside. And suddenly think I'm a photographer and, and now I'm taking pictures when I've spent all day long sitting in a chair deep in my head thinking about words. You can't just turn your photographer self on and off like that, it can take some time to get into it, you may have to warm up. Especially if you have been working in an office all day or even if you've been, even if you're actually out on a, on a photo job. Maybe you've been driving to location all day long. You're not in that photo mindset.
So, I've got a couple of ideas that I do just to try to put myself back into that. And mostly it's about that physicality of it. I find a lot of times that. I, I got out and I start thinking well now I'm a photographer I'm suppose to be seeing images but I'm not seeing anything and it's because I'm, I'm not actually thinking about photo's I'm not thinking about that frame, I'm not thinking about tonality, I'm not thinking about. Viewing the world as a, as a flat plain. So one of the first things I do when I step out the door is I just take a picture. Sometimes I take a picture of the telephone pole across the street, or I just take a picture of my foot, or I'll take a picture of my foot or I'll take a picture of my hand.
And it's amazing what it does, just, just in that process going, oh. Oh, right, I'm supposed to be seeing the world in that rectangle and, and my hands are involved. And there's shutter speed, and aperture, and shutter buttons, and oh, right. It just starts to settle me back into that process. Now there are other things you can do after that as you're moving around, just to try to get your visual sense going. One thing that I do that works really well for me. And I live in a, a city where you pretty much walk everywhere. But, when I'm walking down the street, just to begin with, I will pick out an object in the far distance, like the front of a building, the facade of a house or something.
And I will lock my eyes forward and just try to, as I get closer, using only my peripheral vision, try to pick out more and more details on that object, try and see it more and more without. Looking directly out at it and then when I get there I look at it and the weirdest thing happens all sorts of details that just pop out you will notice oh, well the screens have the windows have screens on them and then the front gate is opened and all these things I didn't notice. I thought I was looking at it, I thought I seeing it, my brain was filling in lots of details and then when I actually looked at it, it kind of startles me into seeings things. So, whatever works for you is really all that matters and you may have your own ideas.
The important thing is to realize that you can't just become a photographer when you step out the door. You may have to warm up. You may have to settle back into that photographic space. And part of the process of learning to do that is to recognize what that photographic space is, so. When you feel like you are in the zone, pay attention to how it feels and start to try to maybe look for your own ways of getting back into it. So, I would offer to you that the next time you go out shooting at the very least, try just the suggestion of when you walk out the door just take one picture, just something.
The sad part is, when you go back home and that was the best picture you took all day. Still, it's worth warming up before you go shooting.
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