Questioning what it takes for good photos

Dana Cohen in
Dana Cohen, an itinerant yoga teacher and creative imagineer, in Kukkutasana or cock pose

When I bought my camera last week, I had a twinge of hesitation, even reluctance, and it was not just because it was almost four hundred dollars more on my credit card. Getting into serious photography means that I have to devote time to learning how to use the unique technology encased in SLR cameras. Sure, with default settings, I can take dramatically better photographs than with a point & shoot camera, like my Sony Powershot A630. But when I get into more challenging shooting environments, like inside studios, then it becomes more complicated to get the right settings. I’ve been winging it so far, and then hoping to correct any flaws in lighting, hue, contrast or saturation while retouching the digital photos on my computer. That brings me to the second cause for reluctance, learning how to manipulate digital photos in Adobe PhotoShop (for serious professionals) — or Corel Paintshop Pro (for amateurs who wanted a full-featured application) in my case, at least for the time being — without turning them into garish reflections of the real thing.

I don’t think that it’s exceptionally hard to get the basics of photography: it just requires setting some time (hours, days, man-years?) aside to read the manual, supports sites, photography blogs, etc. and then apply the skeleton of a knowledge system while the ideas are still fresh in the head. I frequently will do the research, but then not find the time to apply the tips and tricks soon enough to consolidate the lesson. With a number of pending projects and to-do lists, I don’t need another major task, but it looks as if I have done just that.

This became apparent to me after my latest round of shooting yoga poses at Thrive Yoga. Using my son’s Nikon D90, I was able to shot more richly detailed photos and not have to worry about being out of focus or poorly lit. But once I got back home and worked with the material, I began to see shortcomings and flaws. First, rather than using the built-in flash, a separate, stronger flash bounced off the ceiling would have produced much better lighting. Second, another lens or two would have allowed me to have more variety in my angles and scope. Those two points can add nearly $350-500, minimum, to the price tag of this “hobby.”

As to the initial hurdles of getting on firm footing with manipulating the digital files, I probably should have a couple of chats with my son, Matt, who has gone well beyond the initial steps of mastering digital photography.