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Keep Shooting

July 18, 2011

They say “practice makes perfect”. Well, in reality, no one will actually achieve absolute perfection, so the saying should be something more like “practice makes you improve” or even better “practice makes you suck less”. In an effort to “suck less”, I try to practice shooting with my camera as much as possible.
In order to shoot more, I quickly realized that I needed to have my camera easily accessible. When I first bought my camera, it was usually kept nice and safe in the camera bag. I babied it. I didn’t want it to get damaged, dusty, etc. It’s much easier to forget about shooting when it’s tucked away in a bag. After the initial novelty of owning an expensive piece of camera equipment wore off, I began to leave the camera, ready to go, on my desk or the dining room table so that I could grab it at any time. I also started to bring it with me most of the time when I left the house. By having the camera with me, it is a constant reminder to use it.
It doesn’t matter what you shoot either. Sure, it’s great to have some good looking people to make portraits of or some beautiful landscape to shoot, but the point is that in order to really learn, you just have to shoot. Just shoot whatever is around. I often sit around the house while hanging out with my kids and just take pictures of random things. The point here is to simply practice focusing and composition as well as work on becoming more familiar with camera settings and achieving proper exposures.
Look at this image below. Just my daughter’s crayons. Nothing special here, but I was testing out a lens to get familiar with the shallow depth of field at f1.2 and how it would focus. Other than this blog post, this photo would probably never be shown to anyone. It was just for practice.

85mm f1.2 1/320 ISO 800

Here is a photo of my wife’s hands while she prepares lunch. Once again, nothing earth shattering here, but it’s more practice for me shooting in Manual mode. I am always working on my exposures, and constantly shooting in Manual really challenges me.

50mm f1.8 1/1000 ISO 640

I mentioned that I usually bring the camera with me when I leave the house. This is another great method for practicing, however you have to be willing to actually take the camera with you when you leave the car. This is something I still struggle with occasionally. People might look at you funny in certain places when you have a camera, but you have to get over that. I often photograph certain special events at my church. At first, I felt a little funny walking around the congregation during a service to photograph things, but by now everyone is used to seeing me with the camera, so they barely notice anymore.
This photo is from a recent service where the youth group conducted the whole thing including the preaching.

200mm f2.8 1/80 ISO 1600

The best way the learn something is to actually do it. Sure it helps to read the manual, watch instructional videos, read blogs, etc., but until you actually do something yourself, you never really know it. By constantly testing yourself and trying new things while you practice, you will become more familiar with your gear to point where it just becomes an extension of your vision of the photos you want to make. Get out there and keep shooting.

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