Friends, this will be the last installment in this series, so it is time to break it down and simplify. What is the best way to start taking better photographs?
Start by caring about your pictures.
Although my digital gear is impressive in how it renders images, digital images still make me sad because it is so easy to imagine the huge number of photographs that never, ever, get looked at. It is possible to create a flood of very good images and hand them to a client, or to create a flood of very good images and keep them in a folder of family photographs on my hard drive. But I forget about these images fairly quickly, because they are just so much data on a drive that I never see.
There is one easy thing you can do to show that you care about a photograph:
In fact, make two prints. Keep one for yourself, and give the other away.
You just invested time and money in making a photograph permanent. It wasn’t much time, and it wasn’t much money, but it was something. Now, you have a tangible object that you can hold in your hands. You have something that you can hang on the wall in a nice frame—a further statement of value—so that you see it every day and that one photograph becomes part of your visual language, part of your visual environment.
And you have just given someone else a thing. Not a link, not a wall post, not a thumbs-up or a like or a retweet, not something that will slide down your feed and get lost amongst the daily barrage of sharing. All of these things are valuable parts of how we communicate and interact today, and they send this message: I want you to see this.
But when you hand someone a print, you send a different message: I want you to have this. You have created an image that you are saying should be a part of someone else’s visual vocabulary and environment. For you to make that claim, there had better be something good about that image. You had better care an awful lot about it.
A print finalizes the photographic process. Making a print leaves behind an artifact that can be found and viewed a hundred years from now. By making a print, you are putting an object out there in the world that has a good chance of outlasting you. People who never knew you will look at that print and maybe say, “She was a really good photographer, huh?”
In a hundred years, none of your digital file will exist. So make prints. Seriously.
Collect your prints in books and boxes. Cover your refrigerator and desk with them. Make albums of your trips and holidays and personal ideas and family. Buy frames and hang pictures around, and every once in a while, buy a really large frame and put a giant print in it.
One last bit of advice. If you are just getting started, give yourself five years. You will learn all the technical stuff fast enough…learning how to focus and how to post-process your images, how to compose and all that jazz. That happens quickly. But it takes time to build up the artistic taste and ability to where you might be really proud of what you are doing. Along the way, you will make many great images that speak of who you are and that will be loved by those who see them and those who are in them.
Enjoy the process.