Home From the Mind of Photoessayist Learn To Produce Good Photographs

Learn To Produce Good Photographs

The best way is the hardest. Do it over, and over again.

by John Krill

What prompted this article is an article Ken Rockwell wrote on his website: Your Camera Does Not Matter. And the fact that we occasionally get e-mails asking us to look at someone's photos at their website and giving them some helpful suggestions. Most use digital cameras.

My suggestion is to put away the digital camera and get a simple film camera. One that has focus, speed and aperture adjustments but nothing else. An old Nikon F will do nicely. Use only the camera's normal lens. No fancy telephotos or wide-angle lenses. If you never learn to use a normal lens you will never know when other lenses are required. I have only one use for the telephoto lens, a 180mm, and that is at Laguna Seca. Most of my work is with a 35mm (This is now my normal lens.) and 28mm wide-angle lenses but that was after I learned how to see with a 50mm normal lens, and not to just point-and-click.

Why a film camera and one without automatic exposure and focus? Again improves your discipline but also forces you to see. See what? Light and dark. Shadow details. It always amazes me how few so-called photographers know anything about light and shadow or what I'm even talking about. Get a book, or search the Internet, that explains the Zone System. This should be your first priority.

Then take 1000 pictures - one roll of 24 exposure Tri-X film per day. That's 42 rolls of film. Or 42 days. Doesn't appear to be that big of a deal. It's all in your approach.

Each day set yourself a goal or project. At the end of the day, after you have processed the film and made contact sheets, you can evaluate how successful you have been in attaining the goal that day. Select one or more photos that you think best show the goal and make 5X7s. Also keep a dairy of each roll/day.

Get a 3-ring binder and save each day's contact sheet. Include the goal and your evaluation of that day's work - the good and bad. At the end of the 42 day class you just may learn something, then maybe not.

Remember that 1000 exposures or pictures is just a suggestion. You could just as easily continue the one roll per day until you feel you are producing photographs and not pictures. But make it only one roll per day. This will improve your discipline. Knowing you have only 24 exposures will force you to make decisions on what is important and what is fluff.

That's it. Will anyone try it? Not likely. To much work. No quick results.

Now whenever someone wants my opinion of their work I will just have them read this article. How's that for quick results?