Photography: How to make it your own

web. cropped. Bridge. Bright whites

So, life threw me a curveball last week. My hard drive crashed (GASP)! All was not lost…everything was backed up on an external hard drive. After ordering a new hard drive and with the help of a very generous techy friend, I am back up and running without so much as a single file or document out of place. In the week that my laptop was out of commission, however, I took advantage of being offline and spent hours upon hours with my camera. With the beautiful summer season upon us, vacations to be enjoyed, graduations, weddings, new babies and breathtaking vistas all around, I thought it would be a great time to share some photography tips about putting your own twist on creating memorable images. These days just about everyone functions as a photographerwhether you use an iPhone or a more sophisticated camera. All you need are a few good tips and you’ll be well on your way to creating unforgettable images that you love!

We do not remember days, we remember moments. —Cesare Pavese, Italian poet & novelist

Photography is a form of artistry that is raw, telling. It celebrates love, captures fleeting moments and magnifies beauty. For me, documenting the journey of life is extraordinary. I continually find myself in awe of the emotion captured by the lens (even emotion created by photographing inanimate objects).

One place I continually visit, to further hone my craft, is Digital Photography School (DPS).It is a free online resource with tutorials, tips, gear recommendations and stunning images by some of the worlds best photographers. Whether you are a novice or a skilled professional, DPS will help you to expand your abilities.

Last week I came across an excellent fundamental article, Start To See Photographically In Six Easy Steps

  1. See the light
  2. Express your vision with basic composition rules
  3. Less is more
  4. Get close and fill your frame
  5. Work your frame
  6. Watch your background

(Visit the article for explanation, tips and examples)

Today I wanted to add three tips of my own for ways use the basic fundamentals from DPS to create unforgettable images

  • Regardless of what type of camera you have at your disposal, there is no substitute for experience!

Don’t wait for that Cadillac of cameras that you’ve been dreaming about. Grab whatever you have (I shoot with my iPhone a lot just for practice) to teach yourself how to start seeing photographically. I took this shot while strolling along the River Arts Disrict in Asheville, NC. I loved the texture of the cement bridge and how the afternoon light created beautiful shadows between the columns.

web. cropped. Bridge. Bright whites

  • Experiment with your subject in both color and black & white to add emotion and drama to the shot.

The same afternoon, I happened upon a train idling on the tracks. The engine was humming, steam was boiling out around the tracks and there was a really beautiful old tower just off in the distance. It reminded me of the summers in the 70’s & 80’s that my brother and I spent with my grandparents at their home on Fontana Lake. Back then, summer vacation was very rural and remote. We only went to town (Bryson City) about every other week to restock from the local A&P. If we got really lucky, we’d come across a train making a run through the mountains. I can remember leaning way out the window of my grandfather’s two-tone blue Ford truck, waving and yelling, as Papaw raced alongside the tracks, begging the conductor to blow the horn. (Which he always did). That emotion…the nostalgia of a childhood spent running barefoot until dark, riding with the windows down and chasing trains are some of my fondest memories. When I heard the hum and hiss of the train in RAD, it took me right back to that time and I really wanted to try and capture the feeling on camera.

So, I knelt down on one knee and shot in color and then switched to black & white. In my mind’s eye, I saw the gritty emotion in the gravel and well worn tracks and also the feeling I felt when remembering the train from my childhood. See how by simply changing the exposure also changed the emotion of the photo completely:

Then, once back at home, I edited the shot ever so slightly in Lightroom to add an aged feeling to the image.  Voila, I can hear the conductor’s horn blowing loudly above the sound of my brother and I screaming like there was no tomorrow, arms waving wildly into the rushing wind as we raced past. See how I took a fine enough photo of a train and turned it into something that resonates with some of my fondest childhood memories by simply changing the exposure?

  • Take all the tips from the DPS article and add in a human subject!

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that photos of loved ones become a work of art! Here’s a pic of my daughter Fiona that I snapped the same afternoon in RAD. There was nothing special about the outfit she was wearing or the setting really. But once I shot it in black & white, the texture of the tree branches, the light, the iron fence and her piercing stare turned a ho-hum picture into an image that I fell in love with.

web. Fiona. Old School

They say “life is about the journey.” Why not document yours with beautiful images filled with emotion and memories that color your world with beauty for years to come. I hope these tips inspire you to start snapping with creativity and confidence. Your story is worth telling and worth remembering.

get in the conversation

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for creating great photos!


*All photos in this post taken with my Nikon 5100