Learning Photography from the Best
Last year, while visiting family in Destin, Florida, my husband and I took advantage of the great weather and the captivating beauty of the sparkling waters and sandy beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Being an ardent amateur photographer (my husband swears that my camera is my security blanket), this provided me with new subject material for my photography. Fortunately for me, our spontaneous trip to Florida’s west coast happened to coincide with a photo shoot by a professional photographer ( link ) who was capturing scenic shots for a client’s travel brochure. We bumped into this well-known taker of professional photographs while we meandered down the soft sand of Destin’s beach.
How awesome is that, to run into one of the world’s best photographers while you are just walking along the water. As I paused to watch the consummate professional in action, I noticed certain things about his approach that I thought would help improve my own amateur attempts at photography. To my poor husband’s dismay and utter embarrassment, I, the novice photography student, started snapping pics of the professional in action. Fortunately for me, and also for my husband, the professional photographer was more inquisitive as to why I was taking the shots versus being angry at me for doing so.
When he inquired as to my reasoning, I meekly replied that I was trying to capture how he approached getting the right lighting and shadow content in his photographs. I explained that if I had a picture of him in action, showing not only the subject of his photography, but his positioning in relation to the sun and the shadows being cast, that I could use that as a reference for setting up my photos. I told him that I was very new to the world of photography and it would probably take me years to become a mediocre photographer. I think he was truly shocked to think that I considered running into him on the beach as the highlight of our trip so far.
Whether it was due to the uniqueness of having his picture taken or being complimented as a master who could teach me technique, this world renown photographer kindly started showing me some useful pointers to improve my pictures. He took the time to explain in detail how to set up or frame the shot. I learned that a lot of how you approach the background in photographs has to do with the subject matter or focal point of the picture. We even spent about thirty minutes with my little digital camera, playing with each of the settings. He detailed how the photographer needs to intuitively know when and when not to use zoom features. I was amazed to find out that my personal, inexpensive camera could do things like shoot photos in black and white, as well as in natural light instead of using the built-in flash.
For an amateur photographer, this afternoon on the beach was idyllic. Even though my husband is not the picture-taking hound that I am, he thoroughly enjoyed watching me fully immersed into an activity I am passionate about. That seemed to change however when he became the subject matter of my brief photography lesson. While attempting to educate me on the play of lighting and shadow in pictures, the professional photographer started spouting commands at my husband, as if he were a top fashion model. Telling him to turn this way, hold his head that way and a variety of requests that had to do with portraying emotions, it became evident that my husband would never be the next top model – anywhere! My poor beloved went quickly from reveling in my excitement with having a free lesson to utter annoyance, with him finally enveloped in a state that resembled the fury of a storm. At his insistence, my photography lesson came to an abrupt ending. I thanked the professional photographer profusely for his time and guidance, and then we made our way back to our family’s home.
Now that that day has long past, my husband and I will often sit together and look at the photographs from my impromptu lesson on the beach. Some of the shots actually resemble those that could have been taken by a professional photographer. Others look like silly, family photos, the kind you look at and giggle. Using skills I learned that day, my photography has steadily improved. How fortunate I am that I not only got an amazing free lesson, but I have a wonderful husband that indulges my picture taking hobby!