How to start a photography practice | The art of daily ritual, observation and intention

My style is one of simplicity, using what I have and finding my own voice even if it goes against the grain.

In my practice, I use natural light and manipulate my camera on manual.

I use the space I have, my home which is a refurbished storeroom turned studio apartment, observe the light that comes in and shoot everyday moment. I also set deliberate scenes, and make product and documentary type photos of the Aquaponics Farm I operate and crops produced and fish farmed. I do take bookings and also collaborate as opportunities are created for those also. 

If this interests you then read on, I guide through developing a photography practice that is based on the art of daily ritual, observation and intention. 

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I write this as someone who has learned, is learning and is continuing to figure out, by actively engaging in a daily photography practice, life behind my lens. 

1.      The first time photographer should aim to make light their primary subject above anything else. Play with it, what falls in and out of the light.

2.      The first time photographer should have a keen sense of observation, practice patience and not be afraid to create. Focusing on the composition of your frame, with an understanding of how light falls on and interacts with the subject(s) within the frame is a good idea.

3.      With natural light photography, I have found that my fondest time to shoot is the period just after sunrise (and it's golden hour) and before sunset (and it's golden hour) when the light is softer. The golden hour is the a period of time just after sunrise and before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. Aim to grab that time slot just outside the golden hour. It is important to note that the golden hour is also a good idea, for shooting, for dreamy light interesting shots.

4.      Try to take the best picture in camera to avoid much editing afterward. It is my opinion that lightly edited photography appears more real to your viewer so aim to take a good shot at the outset, get the lighting, composition and story right.

5.      Take at least three frames of each shot, a process called bracketing. This is done by adjusting your camera or phone settings. Start with what you consider the best shot then create a lighter and darker version, by manipulating exposure. This gives more options when doing your final cull and editing.

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6.      Aim to re-shoot the same image several times, using different angles, different elevations, different light conditions (i.e. different times of day) or even different props.

Try to leave the setup in place for a few days, weeks if need be, if possible so that you can return to the same subject each time attempting to learn and apply a different technique, each time. Whatever you learn in this manner can be applied to other shoots.

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7.      Phone users may wish to use their pro settings, what ever manual options are available to you. I strongly suggest this. Get to know your camera in manual mode, learn how to manipulate ISO, Shutter Speeds and Exposure settings for the least. Really this is a whole topic for another day, many other days... weeks perhaps and yes, we will have those conversations. But for now, a good starting point is the following:

ISO as low as possible generally 100 (ISO must be adjusted according to light conditions. The less light available the higher you can go with your ISO, balance this without compromising the quality of your image... eyeball it.).

Shutter speed, keep this 1/125. This can be changed for certain type of shots... for instance when you are trying to capture and isolate motion 

Exposure...aim to manipulate this setting ONLY while setting the above two.

Exposure, your f-stop, is how much light is filtering through the camera aperture, must be adjusted according to light conditions. For landscapes, images where you’d want to have everything in the view finder in focus this number should be on the higher side. For close ups, focus on one or fewer objects in frame, still life, food photography start with this parameter on the lower end of the scale.

The parameter also controls the depth of field. Yes I am getting a bit to technical, and way too early but note that a lower f stop is more favorable in low light. At your lowest f stop, here the aperture of your camera lens, the opening that allows light to filter through, is opened the most. A lower d stop is also favorable in images where the distances between the nearest and furthest objects in your frame are close. 

The higher the f stop the less light is allowed into the camera. But note that in images were there is a large distance, for example in landscape shots, between the nearest and furthest objects in your frame it is more favourable to have this parameter set on the  higher end of your available spectrum. 

Totally ignore most of this for now... but being aware of the terms, the possibilities early on is a profound step to be making. So make it. 

Can't wait on me... here is a resource I love on the topic.

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8.      I am always deliberate in ensuring that the props I use add character and interest to the shot plus adds context to the story I am trying to tell.  I also make it my business to keep items in my home and around me that I either love and/ or that are super useful. This way reaching for a cup to have coffee in, is like me using my favourite cup/ prob hence photographing it is easy. This is how I do lifestyle photography, grabbing captures of real life moments. The connection is already there. 

9.      Allow your eyes a visual journey, led by placement of objects, angles and where the light falls and doesn't in the frame.

10.      Add interest, allow one to linger on the subject or supporting props by their placement, allowing one to travel through the frame of your image.

11.      What you leave out the frame is as important as what you include. Offer a sense of mystery and room for viewers to complete your story by being strategic with respect to what you include and omit in each frame.

12.      Observe space, heights, and distances in your frame. Feel free to either fill your frame or with being a minimalist with your composition.

13.      Try to create interesting angles between props, they do not all have to face in the same direction or all be centered. Create visual movement, a visual journey. Invoke the imagination and curiosity of the viewer. Remember you are your first viewer, aim to achieve delight in your experience as a start.

14.      It is my style when it comes to staging, to try to stage in such a way that the placement of objects feel more organic, natural and sensible.

15.      As I said before, use items you believe to be either useful or bring you joy because of it’s history or beauty... when you photograph them you'd be filled with enthusiasm that translates when viewed by others

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Now Let’s Get Started?

1.      Choose a location. Remove all colored objects in the vicinity of the shot? Wear neutral or dark colored clothing? If indoors take off all incandescent indoor lights even in adjacent rooms

2.      Decide what you want to shoot? What story you want to tell.  

3.      Now leave me a message below with what your've decided and I will guide you through... either my subsequent posts or privatley through email.

With love

Chan