Tag Archives: hobbyists

light on leaves and rock, Siem Reap Cambodia copyright Aloha Lavina

6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby

Everyone starts somewhere.

But how do you start? When do we start creating magic with the camera?

There no magic tricks that a photographer can weave into a spell for good photography. But there are some tips that might just get you started on the way to making some pretty good imagery.

1. Vary settings for various shooting situations.

It is so easy to let the camera do the work for you—set it on Program mode, and click away. But this is one way to make sure that you continue to be mystified by the way the camera captures an image. If you experimented with the basic modes of Aperture and Shutter Priority Modes, you can see some subtle differences in the way these modes work. This could be your chance to start controlling some of the aspects of each mode to get the shots you want. There are some tutorials on line that simplify Aperture Priority Mode and Shutter Priority Mode for you. Take advantage of these tutorials, and let them lead you onto a learning path to master these camera controls.

2. Learn to see the light.

No matter what your subject matter is, lighting is going to make a difference in how the photos ultimately look like. Learning how to see how light affects the overall image is a skill that you can develop, to start making stunning images.

Light has character, nuance, variations in color and intensity. Studying it closely, you will see how these traits of light change the way a photo looks just with a small change. If you studied how light behaves on objects, you can begin to see the way a photographer sees. And your photos will show it.

light on leaves and rock, Siem Reap Cambodia copyright Aloha Lavina

Light is a beautiful subject. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Every situation is a learning opportunity.

Taking a walk with your camera pretty much constitutes a great photography classroom. If there are people and things in motion, you’ve got a great subject for a study on capturing motion–either freezing it with a fast shutter speed, or making deliberate blur to suggest it.

If you’ve got a sociable nature, you can go out and talk to strangers, and convince them to have their photos taken. This sort of project can help you with making fast decisions about where the subject should stand in relation to light, and how to compose the shot so that you make a portrait that tells part of their stories.

Objects around you will interact with light. On your walk, you can watch out for instances when the light makes something so commonplace so beautiful.

4. Concentrate on composition.

There are a few ways you can hone your composition skills.

First, you can create still life situations in your own home. Placing some objects on a table beside a window, you have some ready subjects to photograph. You can create your own seasonal still life–flowers in the spring, a glass of lemonade glistening with condensation in the summer, pumpkin and berries in the fall, etc.

Second, you can try to vary composition when you’re photographing different scenes in your daily life. How would you shoot a birthday party or a community barbecue, and practice the compositions basics?

Practicing composition is a great place to begin to understand the creative ways you can include or exclude elements in a frame, to make an awesome photograph.

Thai monk hands copyright Aloha Lavina

Learn what to include or exclude from the frame. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

5. Give yourself assignments.

The first spark of love you have for photography is a wonderful feeling. But when difficulty strikes, and your photos don’t come out as well as you wanted, you might feel heartbreak. Sustaining your love for photography is essential for you to get over the obstacles of failed photos. One way to sustain your interest is to give yourself assignments.

Assignments can vary to short, very specific ones like shoot a theme on a given day, to long term projects like my love affair with faceless portraits.

A great lesson I’ve learned which I suggest you take on, is to combine your photography with something else you’re interested in. Do you like sports? Go and shoot sports. If you like fashion, have a friend model the latest releases in clothing and accessories. Do you have a train collection? Make a series of landscapes with trains and railways as the main focus. If you combine your other interests with your photography, you’ll always stay in love with it while you’re learning.

6. Use the photos you see on Flickr and 500px as learning points.

It’s actually useful to drool over photos that other photographers have made. On sites like Flickr and 500px, photographers post daily. Using a subsection of the websites like the Explore page on Flickr or the Editor’s Choices on 500px gives you a great place to start learning experiences based on critical assessment. Critically assessing photos that you see online can help you with how a photographer thinks.

Ratchaburi Thailand weaver of Thai silk copyright Aloha Lavina

A silk weaver in Thailand. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

View a photograph and ask yourself some basic photography questions, like, how did the photographer choose this subject? What’s the vantage point? If the photographer had stood somewhere else, how would the composition change? How does the composition work? What about the composition is compelling, gorgeous, engaging? Where was the light coming from? What time of day was this photo taken? How much of the subject is in the frame? What did the photographer decide to exclude? How could I have shot it better?

I know the last question sounds arrogant, Boo! But asking this question of the pictures you see online and in magazines helps you to improve your own way of approaching subjects. Even though your technical skills may be less developed than those other photographers’ skills, you will gain an understanding of how the photography mind works while you’re critiquing other people’s photos. You don’t have to publish your critique, so why worry? But the focused, deliberate study of photos that work will help you get into the decision making that can change your photos from snapshots to art.

There are a ton of other photo opportunities you can use to guide your beginnings in photography. With these simple tips, you can put yourself on the path to making magic with your images.

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Talking to my friend Leah gave me this, one of my faves from 2007. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

It’s Fun to be an Amateur

The other day I heard someone say about a friend, “Oh, he’s an amateur,” with a little pout accompanying the statement. The term sounded belittling.

But the origins of the word amateur suggest that the term means someone else entirely. From the French for “lover of,” and the Italian “lover,” the original denotation of amateur gives us the picture of someone who so loves the idea of something that he or she pursues it, enamored, obsessed, breathlessly in love.

Sometimes, it’s more fun to be an amateur. In photography, it’s the distinction between making money for taking photographs or doing it for free. For some reason, this is the most commonly understood distinction. But whether or not you are paid to take photographs, there are some qualities of an amateur that it would be to our advantage never to abandon.

Amateurs are in love with their craft.

You know that old saying that when something finally becomes a “job,” it becomes  tedious? An amateur never feels bored. He will shoot every day if he could. I remember back in the day when I assisted for a well-known photographer, when he and I were both working at the same place. We would clock in every day at work and whenever we got the chance to get out of the workplace, we would just shoot. Weekends were special because they were times when there was nothing else except photoshoots to do. Long holidays were even better; they meant days and days of getting up early, shooting all day until the sun went down, and then lingering over dinner talking about images, about camera settings, workflow, anything and everything to do with photography.

Amateurs hold their photography like something precious and turn it this way and that way, admiring the wonderful qualities of it, and making themselves happy as a result.

Yearning for a shoot session sometimes gets to be too much. Like missing a lover, the amateur misses their craft.

Just playing with model Shu for her portfolio. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Obsession develops a love affair in the initial stages. There is always a honeymoon stage, when the lover cannot get enough of their beloved. Because there is so much to learn in photography, it’s like what someone said about falling in love with the world: “If we listened to a work of Mozart every day, we would be happy for a hundred years!” An amateur pays attention to details. No detail is small enough to notice. This sort of attentiveness fuels more energy: when you pay attention, you learn more and get better. So the improved results will inspire the amateur to get better and better.

Amateurs are not motivated financially. Being a freelancer and having income coming in from writing, teaching in addition to photography makes it easy for me to have the attitude of an amateur. The best part is not having to take jobs that I don’t like, for instance, weddings, unless it’s in Goa, India or Kathmandu, Nepal, or Langkawi, Malaysia and I can combine it with some travel. I can still do personal projects, ones that do not have any remuneration but are interesting and that stretch me creatively or technically. I think it’s really important to have time for these projects because these are where you truly experiment and learn new things.

I learned a lot about shutter speed doing this shoot with Jack for his portfolio. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Learning new things is exciting to an amateur. With all the workshops that so many people are offering now, it’s hard not to come across one that might teach you something new, that could take your photography into a whole other level. It’s very important not to think that you know it all and that no one else can teach you something new. I constantly learn from everyone I meet–whether on Twitter or someone’s blog, or reading a book, magazine, or watching a Youtube video. One of the best qualities of the amateur in my opinion is the lack of formal training. Sure, it might take you longer to reach technical proficiency on your own. But you also have an enjoyable lifelong challenge of learning so much, and if you paced yourself right, it could become one of the more pleasurable things about your status as an amateur.

Talking to my friend Leah gave me this, one of my faves from 2007. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

One of the best things about amateurs is that you are not in a box, the box of your formal training. Instead of this being a disadvantage (you don’t have a paper that says you are a “certified photographer”), it could be a great advantage. You’re open-minded to what is out there, and you will experiment. Experimentation fuels creativity and inspiration, and in the best-case scenario, you might discover something that makes your work even more dynamic.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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