BPA Ambassador Rob Rae on the long road to getting what you want out of your photography.
I’m going to start this by telling you a secret, I am not a professional photographer and I don’t have the world’s best camera, equipment or lenses. I’ve never won any competitions, awards nor have I had my photos featured in a newspaper. My only really claim to fame for my work is one of my photos being used by a ferry company on their Instagram.
So why should you listen to anything I’ve got to say? You probably shouldn’t, you should probably go on YouTube, type in Peter McKinnon and sit back for a good hour watching his VLOG, because that guy is awesome and a true inspiration to any aspiring photographers or cinematographers, myself included.
However you're here, so let’s get stuck into the reason you're still reading this:
So there you are, scrolling through Instagram, checking out your favourite photographers and thinking; “man I wish I could take photos like that, but I don’t have a camera like them/don’t live near amazing scenery/don’t know how to edit photos like that.” We’re all guilty of this, heck I’ll hold my hands up straight away and say I’ve done this on several occasions, wishing I had the money, the time, the location to go out and shoot photos like that.
But really, if we were all given; top of the line DSLR’s, every lens known to man, a new Mac and an endless travelling budget, we’d take some okay shots, maybe even some good shots, but it all honestly they probably wouldn’t be nearly as good as the top dogs. Because they have one thing that money can’t buy: EXPERIENCE
These photographers have all started out from begingings, nothing was handed to them, they had to work there arses off and further to become the best in their field.
So here’s what I am doing to enhance my skills and what I’d recommend you do too.
1. Learn your camera
Whether you’re using a point and shoot, a DSLR or even just your mobile phone. Every camera is different and has features you might not know about. You need to know your camera inside out and back to front, know how to change the settings without even looking, how to change your lens, change your battery, swap your memory card. All this will help you from missing out on that golden shot.
Tip – Read your camera manual cover to cover, there’s plenty you won’t know your camera does.
2. Read, Watch, Listen
This is a twofold bit of advice. Firstly, if you’re itching to spend money on photography, remember you don’t have to just buy new equipment. But instead go out and buy some literature, be it a magazine, a book or an audiobook. Find out as much as you can about the field and the various tips and tricks you can learn to improve your compositions. Learn about leading lines, framing, the golden ratio, exposure, lighting anything. All of this will make you a better photographer and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than that fancy new lens you’ve been looking at.
The second part of this is: forget the camera. Now before you bite my head off, hear me out. Photography is an art, and art requires inspiration. So put the camera away and pick up a good novel, listen to some music, watch a drama on TV. Use this to inspire your work, maybe take some shots to go with an emotive song or you may see a spot on TV that you think you could really work with.
Tip – Listen to the album: Passenger – Divers & Submarines
3. Get up early.
My wife hates this one. Ever heard of the golden hour? No? Look it up. There are two of them in a day and the best thing about this is, no-one’s ever up to catch the first one. So find a location, get to bed early and make sure you’re up and at the location at least half an hour before the sunrises. I did this a few weeks ago at Sandsend Whitby, I dragged my wife out of bed at 4am, in the pitch black and fog, we drove 2 hours to Whitby, set up on the beach and waited for the sunrise. Results below.
Tip – there’s an app called Sky Candy on the Google play store, which lets you see where the sun will rise anywhere in the world.
4. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
So in my last point, I said “find a location” and I know what you’re thinking; “I don’t live near any mountains or glaciers or huge lakes or even the sea.” Well Neither do I, but I have something else, Google Maps. Several times a week I think to myself, where can I go, what can I shoot, so I head to Google Maps and look at what’s around me, last night I found a lock 1 mile from my house, so I packed up my gear and walked to it and worked with what was there. Being a good photographer means you can make a photo out of even the simplest of things. The following photo is of a piece of rope attached to an old barge, nothing specular but by trying different techniques from point 2, I managed to get a pretty sweet shot.
Tip – look for places in the middle of nowhere which aren’t regularly visited, this will make your photos more unique.
So I’m going to leave this here for now as I know you’re itching to go explore your local area, but before I go my last bit of advice would be; enjoy photography, and remember why you enjoy it, forget about likes, loves and views, take shots for yourself.
‘If you aren’t scared of what you’ve created, you aren’t done yet.’ – Benjamin Haggerty, (Macklemore)
If you’ve enjoyed this article or hated it then let me know! Also if you want to see more of my work; then follow me on the ‘gram @ROBBRAE or check out my PLOG www.thehighlightofrobbsday.com