A Photography FAQ
1 What makes a good photograph?
A photograph that is well composed and has interesting subject matter. There is no need to mention that the photograph should be correctly exposed and focussed because any camera does that 90% of the time without user intervention.
2 What makes a very good photograph?
Magical light, rarity. Uniqueness of the subject. Difficulty in another duplicating the shot.
3 Do I need expensive cameras and lenses?
This question should never have to be asked. A suggestion is to buy the best equipment you can afford, forget about upgrading and go and take photographs and improve your skill level.
4 How do I improve?
By thinking about the shot before taking it. I usually take some immediate ‘insurance shots’ first (in case weather turns against me) and then start looking around and thinking more about the shot. You really do not improve much by the trial and error method of taking 100 photographs at every possible angle because you will never remember the particular thinking that went into capturing that particular frame. See Jim Brandenburg’s Chased by the Light, where he took 1 photograph a day over 90 days.
By carefully studying your photographs afterwards, whether in digital or print/slide form. This cannot be underestimated. I prefer studying photographs in print form or in slide form vs on a computer screen. I don’t think they’ve invented a monitor that captures the dynamic range of a slide and most ordinary monitors don’t have much dynamic range. Also, its easier to lay your slides/prints side by side for comparison vs on a computer screen.
By comparing with the work of others
At beginner and intermediate stages, there is no harm in looking at how others have treated the same subject matter. In what ways are your own photographs deficient or superior? At this stage, those that say that their photographs are deficient because of inferior equipment should reassess their understanding of what a ‘good’ photograph is and perhaps work on their sense of aesthetics. Visiting art galleries is highly recommended. Great artists capture the essence of a scene, unencumbered by the physical reality before them.
5 Any recommended reading material?
Anything that inspires you to take photographs. Myself, I have books on a subject matter that interests me – mainly landscapes. I do not own technical ‘how-to’ books because that’s something you pick up by applying (4). Anything that encourages you to buy more expensive equipment should be avoided.
6 Why do some people obsess over equipment?
A person obsesses over equipment when he thinks about buying more and better camera equipment without any idea or reference to what he wants to achieve with the better equipment. Oftentimes, his existing camera equipment may be perfectly adequate to the task though his skill level might not be. As to the question ‘Why?’ I have no answer yet.