Move your feet.
One of the most important things that changed the way Leah and I photograph, was the purchase of a fixed 35mm lens. On our DX format DSLRs, that equates to roughly a 50mm focal length. Of course, none of that really matters or makes sense to you if you’ve only ever used a point-and-shoot. That’s not what’s important. Because even if you only have a point-and-shoot, you can still force yourself to learn how to photograph differently – but it will take some forcing.
The thing about a fixed lens is that there is no zoom – except for moving your feet. Without the ability to zoom in or out, you are forced to take more time composing your images. Which will inevitably improve your photographs. You start noticing things that you didn’t before because all of a sudden, you’re REALLY looking at what’s in the frame. Since you can’t just zoom the lens to ‘crop’ out an object, you’re really looking at everything in your viewfinder and manually composing your shot.
When you are shooting with a fixed lens, obstacles are actually obstacles because when you want to get closer, you have to get past that crowd of people, or that chair, or the line of tables.
Now – if you’ve only got a point-and-shoot, the way to learn this is by simply setting your camera back at it’s widest setting, and never touching the zoom. Never. Ever. Act like it doesn’t exist. Just. Don’t. Zoom. You’ll be forced to move and get closer to people. Along with composing your shots differently, it’ll force you to interact with your subjects differently. Especially if you’re photographing an event like Leah and I are often doing. It’s difficult not to be noticed when you’re 2 feet away from a person because you can’t zoom, and you don’t want all of your photographs to be shot from that common 3-5 foot zone radius where everyone else is comfortable taking photos. Which brings us to the next topic.
Point-and-shoot photos with an expensive camera
We photograph a lot of events. If you keep up with our emails, we’ll probably repeat ourselves – a lot. One thing that we stress, almost like a mantra, is that our photos must not look like snapshots. Even our snapshots must.not.look.like.snapshots.
It’s pretty simple. We’re the professional photographers and our photos shouldn’t look like they were taken by an amateur. I’m not talking ‘perfection’ – but I am raising the bar, and saying ‘professional’. We produce professional photos. It’s not because of the camera, and it’s primarily not due to post-editing. Strip away all of the Photoshop tricks and at the core, you still need a quality photo to work with. Quality in terms of composition, light, and how the subject matter is handled. For us as professional photographers, this is the primary edge that we might have over anyone else with an expensive camera.
Learn your craft. Try harder. Don’t take obvious photos. Anticipate.
I mean all of that and more. Find some magic.
Because honestly – we see too many ‘snapshots’ taken by ‘professionals’. Among all of the goals we aim to achieve, we aim for photographs that look like they were taken by a professional – and not just someone who happens to have spent 5k on a big fat camera. Which isn’t to say that upgrading cameras isn’t a good idea – but we ARE saying that even with a point-and-shoot, you can blow away many ‘professionals’ out there. So don’t hold back – find the confidence to photograph everything you want to photograph. Remember, the stats office says that 96% of people with DSLRs don’t ever get off of the ‘auto’ setting – so they’re technically in the same boat you are with your point-and-shoot, except you’ve actually been working on your craft.
So stop zooming, and move your feet.
Next time? We’ll talk more about light.
See you next week.
Thanks for reading.
Leah and Mark Tioxon