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How to Take Some Decent Photos

Since about 2007, I have snapped about 1000–5000 photos per year. When I was working on photography or video projects, that number would probably multiply by 10. In contrast, for this past year, I’ve only had my phone for photography, so I am much more selective.

At the end of the year, I usually keep 300 or so photos, and even those eventually get trimmed down. Part of it is nostalgia, as the photography is a journal and chronology of my life; it’s not the whole story, but a framework and reference point.

As I started strictly in digital, I quickly realized that the second, and perhaps greater half of the work and artistic process, is in post-production. A photo can really come alive when you develop it (and crop, straighten, see it on a big screen) beyond what the camera captures. So, shoot in RAW.

Video and film work has its own aesthetic as it is, of course, in motion. So, any single frame isn’t as important. However, capturing a moment is no less a challenge that takes practice. That first frame is usually what imprints on us; how our eyes, memories and perception work is always both in the moment, and a few moments behind (and if you’re alert, projecting a few moments ahead). This is why editing, the techniques applied, and especially the pacing, can make or break a film — and why we unconsciously love or hate watching something, regardless of the quality of acting, writing, lighting or location.

Then, there’s the audio. Sound design (and of course music and scoring) is its own beast that is critical to the emotional experience. Don’t cheap out or be lazy. The audio is a definitive character of a film, though entirely unseen.

You have to move. You have to see the world and the diversity of people in their elements. You have to experience the ups, downs, upsets and turnarounds. You have to get bloody, sweaty, destroyed and remade, again and again.

You have to live. The camera and the device we employ in our art is a tool, and it’s never going to capture the entirety of the story. Mastery is making our talents, skills and aptitudes a part of our everyday, as they will forever be honed, improved and blended with everything else we learn.

Be forever curious, and obsessive, and passionate.

And don’t be in a hurry. Life is art and art takes a lifetime. Some things come together quickly. Others take years.

You may want to embellish, but that’s the coward’s way through life. Lies and padding and flowering your achievements and adventures are tough to maintain as they are not what is real. There’s enough bullshit out there, thanks.

At the same time, minimizing and stripping down your accomplishments is neither healthy nor necessary. Your efforts, aspirations, inspirations and unique colors expand the palette of the collective. It all matters.

Dive in.

Solvitur ambulando