Slow down and take care

Autumnal Colours.
Autumnal Colours.

There are huge aesthetic differences in photographic art between China, India, Japan and Russia. They all have their own style.

Compare each of them to photos from the UK. They are neither better nor worse, just different. Styles are shaped by individual cultures.

Zoom in closer and the differences are less evident. It is harder differentiating between German or French photographs and those taken by someone here in Northumberland. The variances are due more to the content of the photograph than its style.

Photographic styles also vary according to the camera. Images shot on phones and bridge cameras look different from those taken using most mirrorless and DSLR cameras. They, in turn, look different from those taken with 35mm, so-called full frame, sensors. Medium format cameras have another look.

Of course, different lens focal lengths affect the look too.

Styles also change over the years. Until the turn of this century, wedding photos were carefully staged, not the documentary style that prevails today. Go back far enough and each frame was a major investment in time and money so every shot was carefully choreographed.

My first camera, when I was eight, was an old medium format Kodak. It took rolls 620 film and would be held at belly-button level. I would look down onto a glass viewfinder on top of the camera to frame the shot. The shutter gave a reassuring mechanical clunk.

Subconsciously, I knew what worked and what didn’t. I knew nothing about composition theories back then, but looking at the few prints I have left, the young me didn’t do too a bad job. Being restricted to 12 or 24 shots per roll, I took care over every photograph, which continued when, in my late teens, I invested in my first 35mm SLR cameras.

My early forays into digital photography continued with similar concerns. Although file sizes were smaller than today’s, my memory cards had less capacity too. I could fit a few dozen photos onto a card, not the hundreds we can shoot today.

The temptation with modern cameras and their seemingly bottomless memory cards is to use the cluster bomb approach. Instead of taking time and thinking about every shot, photographers shoot hundreds of frames in the hope that some of them will be keepers.

I know a photographer who will shoot 3,000 photos at a wedding. If he spends just 30 seconds assessing each image, that’s 25 hours of work. How much better would it be for him to take more time and care over each shot, making sure he got it right every time.

Take your camera out to photograph the magnificent autumnal colours. Before you go, visualise the photos you want to capture. Plan the shots and set your camera accordingly: fit the correct lens and set the metering and exposure settings in advance. Will you need over or under exposure compensation? Where will you focus? Use a tripod to slow yourself down.

Now, limit yourself to just 12 shots. Imagine each frame will cost you £100. You’ll take your time over every one.

While you are at it, try shooting to meet this week’s challenge words, ‘Orange’ and ‘Three’. Call into our Facebook group (bit.ly/PicNland) and tell us how you got on.