Home Forums Let’s Talk Photography Where Are You in Your Creative Journey?

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    Mrs Woo

    As many know, I assure you all I do not do portraiture for any kind of income (in fact, I seem to only be ‘allowed’ to do portrait photography for free – DH is more than willing to have me do free portrait sessions for people who need them, like graduating seniors, that are too poor to get them on their own).  However, I have, since finally getting access to SLR-type control again (I shot manual SLRs in the 80s and 90s, then a bad marriage made it difficult to afford any kind of photography for a long time, then started doing digital point and shoots and learned that the lack of control inherent in their design drove me nuts) spent a great deal of time and some money learning a lot more about composition, lighting, style, etc.

    The more I learn, the more dissatisfied I become.  I still am taking pictures, in part because there are things I like to share on Facebook, but most, no matter how much some others enjoy some of the more thoughtful images, fall to the level of ‘snapshots’ to me.  They aren’t compelling me.  The harder I try to make them ‘perfect,’ the flatter they fall on my heart.

    I see beautiful images by my cousin’s son (perhaps I just lack a serious amount of talent) and it feels like I am wasting shutter actuations capturing nothing but trash.

    I have noticed that without split-screen focusing (oh what a fuddy-duddy I am!) that doing macro work or anything where I want to have my image precisely focused usually ends up frustrating me.  Relying on auto-focus makes me end up taking three of the same image, just to be sure that I have one where autofocus got the plane of focus exactly where I wanted it.  The waste of that frustrates me.  I can remember a lifetime ago when I left my house with 24 exposures of 100/400 speed film and knew that I might go home and not even have them all exposed yet.  I have well over 10,000 images in one year on my poor 7D.  Talk about lack of thoughtful shooting!

    So where are you on all of this?  What do you want to improve?  How do you plan to do it?  What would you recommend I consider to make my images better?

    Hope this can be a friendly discussion.


    For your macro shots on a 7D, try using live view and zooming in to +5 or +10. You’ll get perfect focus where you want. Of course, the DOF is really shallow, so you can also consider the DOF preview button. This works best from a tripod, but you can get decent at handheld live view.

    Mrs Woo

    You know, I read and tried that and was still frustrated.  I had a cheap tripod at the time, though, and it wasn’t rock-solid.  Maybe I should give live view focusing another try with the new tripod.  For some reason, I found live view didn’t ‘blow up’ large enough to suit me, if I am remembering correctly (it’s sad to get old and have your eyes so dim – must be time to use the reading glasses with my photography!).

    Possibly slowing down and using the back screen to focus everything would end many of my problems, but as an old fuddy-duddy, I like using my view finder.  It’s what feels ‘right’.  Guess even us old folks gotta change with the times.  I thought about getting a 5DII because I can swap out the screen on those, but the 5DIII has controls closer to my 7D.

    Are you  satisfied with all of your work?  When you take pictures of whatever you take pictures of, do they make your heart stop?  I keep being told my pictures bring a sense of peace, etc., but I want more.  I want breath-taking, and I am not sure if it’s a matter of lighting and mood that is off, or if my composition would need tweaking.  I have been focusing a lot on composition lately, actually, when I am being serious.  Sadly, there are a lot of life changes going on right now, so I am ‘wasting images’ on what is snapshot photography.  I might actually still be using my Rebel for throwaway shots if I had it.  🙁

    Darn teenagers, rafting, and the Current River anyhow…LOL


    I have a couple of macro lenses.  The Sigma 150 mm, I would not use without a good tripod.  The Canon 100 mm L has an excellent stabilizer and can be  used for hand held macro photos.  I understand Sigma has brought out a new version of the 150 mm with a stabilizer that is quite good, but mine is the old version without stabilization.

    I too, miss the split prism viewfinder but between the diopter in the digital viewfinders, live view and immediate play back of the image, I have learned to live without it.  Live view while doing macro photos works well but requires a good tripod.  Mostly I use the viewfinder.  If you are shooting for the web or a relatively small print, you can stop the lens way down to get lots of depth of field.  If you are shooting stock, after stopping down to f/11 or so, diffraction starts to make your images softer, which the stock folks don’t like.

    Am I satisfied with all my work?  Some days I’m not satisfied with any of it!  Other days I feel better about it and hope springs eternal, so tomorrow I may get better results.  At the same time, I realize much of my photography has to fit into the rest of my life, as frustrating as that can be.  On one of the few days the sky cleared and sun shone while I was in Hong Kong, I could not run up to The Peak for a photo session because a dozen people were expecting us to be at dinner!   Many times I see a wonderful shot and cannot stop to capture it because I am supposed to be somewhere…  Such is modern life.  Perhaps, so it has always been.

    On an episode of the Grid, someone provided a quote that went something like “If you want more interesting photos, stand in front of something more interesting when releasing the shutter”.  A quick search on the web gave a slightly different version:  “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.”


    In the past year or so I feel I have improved quite a bit with the technical side of photography, but now am seeing I need to maybe make more connections to the people in my photos or make the images more emotive. I did not used to be a gear-head but have been trying to soak up every bit of information on different camera bodies and their capabilities, and different lenses, like exactly how an image is affected at one focal length vs. another and with different apertures, an so forth. I now have a more thorough understanding of these more detailed technical aspects. Also, I have been finding more and more of my images are stronger SOOC and require less editing. This may not be very evident to a viewer seeing the final product, but I can see it when I compare the original to the edit in my past work compared to my more recent work. Most of my photography I am very excited to have done. Sometimes I second-guess myself, like when I have a great image that turned out to be slightly out-of-focus. Right now I just can’t be a full-time photographer, but I am aiming for quality and not quantity. I won’t take more work than I can handle and don’t want to compromise doing a good job.

    You can’t really call me “old-fashioned” when talking about photography, because I was not a part of the photographer community when film SLR photography was the norm, since I’m young. But I really do like the split-screen focusing, as I had some experience with that on the older SLR camera I originally purchased for a college class. It’s much easier to manually focus using that. However using autofocus points usually works quite well but not always on close-up or macro work, where you want to really define the exact spot that is in sharp focus.


    I am at the point in my journey where I am learning everything I can about how my camera works and how to get the best photos I can out of it even with it being just a bridge camera. It is a fuji fine pix HS20exr. I am expiermenting more and more with it seeing what works and what doesn’t. I don’t really do any portrait type pictures except of my own family. I mainly stick to still life. (and the ocassional animal). I am finding since we moved here that I am less inspired by things. My favorite things to take pictures of were really old churches and Cemetaries on the east coast and here in Texas there is none of that .  I was working really hard to try and learn the basics then. I just feel like I am losing my skills that I picked up when we lived in NC  living here because I just don’t pick up my camera as often. I think I will become inspired once more once the flowers start to bloom here.

    I do know that I need a lot of work on my focusing and fine tuning it. But I have noticed that over time my work has gotten stronger.



    moving is hard.  You lose all your comfortable stand bys, but that’s a good thing… At least I think it is.  I just moved myself, and feel the same way.  I don’t have the same feelings, thoughts, vision here at all.  I’m feeling a bit lost.  Photographers block?  I have lots of ideas, and images I want to make in my head, but I’m having a heck of a time following through.

    Mrs. Woo,

    I think you are being to hard on yourself…  You have no idea how much reading your thoughts hit home for me.  I’m going to try to follow the advice I’m about to give to you.  You can’t make it happen, but by continually trying to make it happen you are conveying.  Will we ever get that “holy crap!  This is amazing!  I did it!”  Feeling back, like when we first started?  I don’t know.  All I know is we can’t stop trying.  Maybe by shooting without expectations for a while will help?

    I do lots of macro.  My eyes are a mess, (complicated glaucoma). I have good eye days and bad days so everything has to be just right before any photos are made. The planets aligned, so to speak.   I manually focus, use the view finder, and hand hold.  I get frustrated too because sometimes I just miss by a tiny hair, and I don’t find out until I’m at the computer.  And when it takes you over an hour (most times even longer) to set up the shoot, it’s maddening to say the least.  I have no help for you, I can only commiserate.   I may not be a prolific shooter, sounds as though you are the same, but I know that I will have at least a dozen images that satisfy me before I leave this earth, and that’s fine by me, I don’t need more than that.  To me, that’s an accomplishment. And if I touch other people throughout the process, well hey!!  That’s pretty darn awesome.


    I hate Fauxtography:  I don’t recall your mentioning what you shoot with.  Canon and Nikon can be tethered to your computer.  I’m not as familiar with the details for Nikon.  Canon provides the EOS Utility.  When tethered, you can drive the camera from your computer.  For still life and macro, where presumably you are not running around, tethered will let you use your computer monitor for focusing.  It works like an extension of Live View, though since my 30D supports it but not Live View, it’s probably more accurate to say Live View was derived from the EOS Utility feature.



    YES!  I so want to tether!  In fact I was just talking about that on another thread about chimping, histograms, and what not.  It would also help with my studio shots.  I eventually want to make a portrait series of some sort, instead of just working on more marketable type portraiture.  My plan was to wait until I got a new computer (it’s an 8 year old mac), because a lot more editing would be involved than what I do currently, but maybe it’s something I need to do now to get myself going again.  I shoot cannon btw. What’s all involved?  Just a cord and some software?


    In the box with a Canon EOS body there should be a USB cable and a CD, or two or three.  On the CD is EOS Utility.  Install the software, connect the USB cable and you should be in business.  As a practical matter, you might need a USB extension cord so you can move around a bit.  The cable that comes with most models is only about 3 feet/1 meter long.  The cable that comes with a 1D series is about 12 feet/4 meters long.

    Also on the CD is a manual for EOS Utility, which is probably worth reading.  I have not tried tethering my 5D.  I read in one of the forums that you had to follow a specific sequence when untethering or you could screw up the camera!  Yikes!  I have not needed to tether it so I have not.  Sometimes I tether my 1Ds and I tried it out when I first got my 30D.  Another cool trick EOS Utility can do is release the shutter at a regular interval so you can build a time lapse movie.


    This might be the long cable, I see there are a couple of options for longer cables:  http://www.henrys.com/60061-CANON-IFC-500U-USB-CABLE-FOR-EOS.aspx


    Thank you so much cam 🙂


    Thanks for the encouragement IHF. I was outside with my camera yesterday taking some pics of my youngest son when he stopped and looked up to the sky and pointed out this huge hawk flying through the air chasing another birt. I was intantly insired by it, but as luck would have it my batteries of coarse died. 🙁 Oh well guess  it wasn’t meant to be. Tomorrow I plan on going out to the dunes in Monahans and see what will inspire me. I am trying to get back in my groove. I will post my pics of my adventures later on.

    Like I said before I want to get back in my groove again.




    At the moment I am in my second year of my Advanced Diploma in Commercial Photography and absolutely loving it. In terms of my photography outside of that, I am trying to move away from the predictable and aim at more spontaneous and random imagery. For quite sometime now I have been aiming for technical excellence, but to be quite honest it is beginning to bore me and is not challenging me.

    I have been studying a lot of the work of Max Dupain recently and love his sense of honesty in his images. Unlike so much photography out there that is retouched to perfection, Max’s work is untouched, honest and lacking the commercial perfection. This type of photography excites me since it shows the world as it really is void of all the perfect advertising imagery. As a photographer, this is a style I would like to explore more, moving into a documentary style of work.


    I tether a lot of my macros. More importantly, I shoot almost all of them from a tripod (unless they wiggle).


    Mrs Woo

    Some of you are making me think it WOULD be worth it to go back to school for a degree that included photography and my other creative interests.  I really hesitate on that, though, because I would be taking up a space that a much younger person (i.e., one who might have a family to support, etc., – I’m in my ‘waning’ years of productivity, so to speak) could use much more effectively.  I asked about just auditing courses – the college I used to work for let older people audit all the courses they wanted as long as they weren’t disruptive – and the college said it ‘wasn’t part of their policies.’  Since I have no intention of really using the degree I would acquire for anything, it’s frustrating not to be able to sit in on some courses that I might find inspiring or helpful.

    I was frustrated to run into someone who is heading down the fauxtog path the other day.  They still lack even a tripod, do not know how to adjust the shutter speed on their camera, and created their Facebook business page and announced a ‘special’ for their first five customers.

    When attempting to take a picture of our kids together in shutter priority mode, she couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working (it was indoors, badly lit and she had the ISO set for 100).  She has no clue and since she is in college, is all about ‘helping me learn all the stuff they are teaching her,’ since obviously my lack of college education in photography (I do have courses in creative writing, chemistry, French, calculus, speech, etc.) means that she already knows more than I do.  SMH

    I just hope that people who hire her realize early on that she isn’t ready for this and don’t have high expectations.

    I do know about tethering and have tried to figure out if I want to try it with my laptop or if it is too much bother.  I have tried live view focusing with mixed results.  Unfortunately, I do hope to at least sell images as microstock from time to time, and pixel perfection is mandatory, so I can get really frustrated when my macro images do not meet the mark I had hoped for with them.

    Browneyed Girl – have you GUESSED that I am a gear head?  I love spending bored moments on Amazon and various review sites planning the last few pieces of my ‘perfect’ camera gear collection.  🙂

    Thank you I hate fauxtography – I really want to create the breath-taking, heart-stilling shots.  I’m still looking for them and working on it.  One of these days, eh?  🙂

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