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By Jim Heid | Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Importance of Warming Up

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No athlete would take to the field, and no musician would take to the stage, without first warming up. But what about photographers? Do you really need to do stretching exercises before pressing the shutter button?

In this week’s installment of his series, The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long discusses the importance of warming up your photographer’s eye when you go out to shoot.

Photography involves seeing the world through a keyhole shaped like a rectangle (or a square, for us Instagrammers). Photography involves seeing the world the way a camera does: unforgivingly, without the benefit of your brain’s built-in editor and its ability to ignore, for example, the telephone pole that appears to be coming out of your kid’s head.

Photography also involves seeing the world through lenses that may have different magnification values than your eyes. And on top of all this, photography involves operating an often-complex instrument, packed with buttons and adjustments that you need to get right, lest you lose a shot.

This week, Ben explains how he shifts mental gears from writing about photography to actually doing it.

One suggestion is to take a photo of something, anything, as soon as you pick up your camera or step out of the house. Ben will snap a shot of his hand or his feet or something around him. Just this act of looking through the viewfinder, framing a shot, and snapping the shutter helps shift his thinking into visual mode.

He also suggests a seeing exercise that involves picking out the corner of a building and then using only his peripheral vision to try to pick up more details on that object. Think of it as resistance training for your eyes.

There’s another aspect of camera calisthenics that every professional photographer will tell you: Know your gear.

Nothing will close the faucet on your creative juices faster than fumbling for knobs or trying to remember which menu page contains a critical setting. Spend time practicing the operation of key functions: changing ISO and adjusting exposure compensation, bracketing, autofocus settings, and the like.

You should be able to make adjustments like these using muscle memory alone, without giving them a second thought.

So check out this week’s The Practicing Photographer, and then go practice. After warming up, of course.

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