A lot of people have been asking me how I take my pictures. I want to be clear: I’m far from being an expert. I’m pretty amateur, in fact. But the way I took to photography has surprised even me. I didn’t know I’d like it so much, and therefore, manage to improve my skills considerably from the first time I got my camera to now. What flatters me is when people specifically ask me to bring my camera to social events, and of course, the number of Facebook ‘likes’ that I get every now and then. It’s all very fun—made even more so by the fact that this completely isn’t my medium.
I use a pretty basic camera, the Canon Powershot A480, which, in my opinion, is one of the best point and shoots out there. Ignore the fancy, slim ones, trust me, go for a brand that has proven itself. My Canon is bulky, so it won’t slip into my pocket, but it goes into my handbag, which I think is essential. I like that it’s light enough to carry anywhere, and has enough of a body that I can curl my fingers around it to steady a shot.
What I did, when I got it, was to play around with it a whole lot. I read articles online on how to make the most of your point and shoot (especially in low light conditions, which is when I take most of my pictures). Of course, I went through my macro phase, which is when I went super close to the subject and got all sorts of “arty” shots, tell tale of a first time photographer. I also did the equivalent of what you do to be a better writer—you read—I looked at good photos. I tried to see how they composed their pictures, what made one picture appeal to me more than another. While reading, I came across an article telling you that for great composition, you had to rely on the rule-of-thirds, and I switched my camera display, from just a face focus to a grid, where I can see exactly where everything is before I take a picture.
But let’s let them speak for themselves. These are some of my most popular shots off Flickr, which I think are a pretty good example of what I’ve been doing.
This is a picture I took one day while I was swimming at the Taj. It got a lot of comments, and I thought I’d share it here with you. It’s basically a reflection of the back of the building in a puddle. I liked the way it looked, and flipped it around so it looked right side up. You have to keep looking for interesting perspectives like this, so you get the best shot, not just straight up.
This one, I actually printed out and framed and have on my wall. It’s from a grey April day in England, at a farm shop, and I liked the texture of the table blending into the grey of the sky. The abandoned swing and bare tree provide a nice context, I think, for putting forward what the picture is supposed to make you feel.
For a long time, I didn’t put any post production work into my pictures, apart from cropping and maybe sharpening, every now and then. But sometimes, the pictures do look better if you fiddle around with them a little bit. For the “fiddling”, I use Picnik, an online photo editor which lets you do quite a bit with your photos. For this one, I used an infrared filter, blending into the photo, so that the main subject, this old man on Mohammed Ali Road, would be in darker colours, with everything lightened around him. I like that it puts him front and centre, and sort of makes everything else a little less important, unless you look at it closely.
And finally, an example of how I made macro work interestingly (I think). I call this picture ‘Money Changing’, and it was when I was emptying my wallet of all the other currency it had. If you look closely, you’ll see a pound, some Malaysian money, a dollar bill, all held together with the rupee coin. Sometimes, I like my pictures to be like a tweet or a status message, saying a lot with very little.
What I’ve learnt most of all, is not to care about the size of the camera. You get good shots if you get good shots. I am upgrading, but not to an SLR, but another point and shoot, the Canon G12, all the features of an SLR and I can carry it in my handbag, just the same as always.
What I propose at the end of this very long post is this: if you have a point and shoot, and you can get good pictures out of it, do a post on your blog with the picture and a note about it and your camera and send me the link. We need a sort of collective—a place where people who don’t have fancy cameras can still be inspired by good photography that their camera is perfectly capable of taking. I’ll choose the five best, and if there’s enough interest, I’ll make it a monthly thing with its own Flickr group. Send me your link no later than Saturday, 25th September, 12.00 pm, IST.