Sunday, July 4, 2010

Project 365

I just finished my first photography project. It's called Project 365 and the only requirement is that I take at least one photo a day.

I thought this would be a great project to do for two reasons. The first was to learn how to use all the controls on my brand new Digital SLR.

I took about 6500 photos over the past year to get my one a day and you can't press the shutter that many times without figuring out a thing or two about how the camera works. Here's a short list of my favorite lessons:

  • Manual Mode and Manual Focus - I no longer struggle with figuring out how the triangle of settings - Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO - to get a good photo because...
  • Histogram - I learned a lot about the histogram and how to use it. When I started the project I never bothered to look at it. Towards the end of the project I began to realize many of my photos were too dark. Using the histogram I learned to use....
  • Exposure Compensation - The little button on the camera that looks like this [+/-]. If your photo is too dark then you want to increase [+] the exposure. If it's too bright then use [-] exposure compensation. It sure sounds simple to me know but, it's not a button I ever touched when I started.
  • Back Button Focus - I heard about this on a few podcasts and thought I'd give it a try. On my Nikon D90 camera the menu setting is called AF-ON and it causes the AE-L/AF-L button on the back of the camera to become the focus button. Press this button with your thumb to focus on the subject then use your index finger to fire the shutter whenever you're ready to go. Most of the podcasters must use Canon cameras because they leave out one important tip for Nikon users - change the autofocus [AF] mode to AF-C. The AF-A and AF-S settings will lock the shutter unless the camera has determined the subject is in focus. Changing to AF-C will prevent the camera from locking the shutter button allowing you to press the focus with your thumb and let go. Whenever you're ready to take the picture then press the shutter with your index finger. The camera will fire whether it thinks your subject is in focus or not.
  • Tripod - I started the project with a cheap, small and rather flimsy tripod. I took a photo workshop to learn how to take photos of waterfalls. I learned pretty quickly that I needed a strong and sturdy tripod to get those sharp photos.
  • Off-Camera Flash - I don't own an off-camera flash yet but, boy did I learn why I need one. That'll become a future purchase though because I bought a sturdy tripod first!
The second reason I did this Project 365 was to become a better visual artist. My left brain so dominates the right that I struggle to do anything creative and that became the hardest part of doing this project - coming up something new, interesting and/or creative every day of the year. I think I'm a little bit better at the end of the year than I was when I started but, I didn't make any great leaps. Here's a short list of things I learned (or still need to learn) along the way:
  • Zoom In - I used the word zoom but I didn't use a zoom lens during my project so I had to zoom in with my feet by walking closer. Anyway, zoom in to the subject. Focus on what's important in the photograph and get rid of everything else. It rolls so easy off my fingertips as I type it but, it hasn't yet sunk into my photographic brain yet.
  • Negative Space - The subject is the positive space within the photographic frame. Everything else is negative space. I still struggle with this one too. All too often I take a great photo of a subject only to notice later that a branch, telephone pole or some other object is totally distracting. I wasn't paying attention to the negative space.
  • Light - Learning to see light and shadows, textures, warm red light, cold blue light, harsh light, dull, boring light. One more thing on my list of things I still need to learn!
Wow, what a year. At times the project was tough but, worth it. Nothing like forcing yourself to grow whether you want to or not!