April 21, 2011

You Might Find This Helpful...

There are countless sources for photography instruction out there and it can be overwhelming trying to vet them to determine which are going to be useful.  I recently came across this article what it takes to be a competent photographer and found it really helpful.

Don Peters speaks to the novice photographer about how he went from using a point-and-shoot to a DSLR.  What caught my eye right away was his thought about the breakdown of what it takes to be a competent photographer.

Equipment - 5%
Technical Knowledge - 10%
Processing - 15%
Composition - 70%

The article breaks down each category and offers practical suggestions along with sources that he has found useful in honing his craft.  I find myself in agreement with his breakdown.  Maybe because I don't really enjoy the technical aspect so much, I found the numbers a relief.  I also agree with him though, that when I finally got the nerve to take my camera off the "auto" setting, my skills improved dramatically.  I had to change my thinking.  It is very similar to the thought of painting a room in your home a daring color...you tell yourself, it's just paint.  I can always repaint.  Well, with photography, it's just space filled on a memory card and you can always erase.  So twist that knob toward the aperture, shutter speed or even manual setting and see what happens.  I think you'll be surprised at how easy it is once you get the hang of it.

Based on Mr.Peters' suggestions, I'll be looking for two books, both related to composition.  Jim Zuckerman's Techniques of Natural Light Photography and Michael Freeman's The Photographer's Eye

Many of you have expressed a desire learn more about capturing the beautiful, magical moments in your gardens through photography.  I hope you'll find this article as helpful as I have.


  1. I definitely have been asking for your expertise so I am on it..I will check out these resources and with my point and click I will strive to take it off auto...wish me luck..

  2. I like the percentage breakdown!

    I don't know that I like the idea of reading a book on composition. It's like reading books on "ideal plant combinations" and only using those combinations. You may end up with a nice garden, but it's not really *your* garden.

    Although I guess the composition books can get you started I guess...

  3. I no longer take photos of my fingers and haven't shot a video of the interior of my purse in a long time. So proud!! I love the photo of the squished gaillardia. It was probably relieved to finally be completely open! :o)

  4. Thanks Cat! Great overview article and I am interested in looking up those books also!

    You do an excellent job with your macro shots... Beautiful :)

    What type of software do you use/recommend? (if you do not mind sharing?) That is an investment I have yet to make.

    Thanks, Julie

  5. Thanks for the recommendation! I have recently bought a couple of books recommended by a professional photographer, and the shots in the books were amazing. However, it took the author thousands of dollars in equipment to achieve all that beauty :). It made me laugh... Let us know how you like these two books.

  6. Oh my gosh I like these soooo much. The dark background makes the flower to pop up.
    Happy easter to you:)

  7. Great article - Thanks. I find it far too easy to keep on the auto setting but know my shots will never improve while I keep doing it.

  8. Thanks LauraX! Happy Easter!

    You can do it Donna! Go for it and please, let me know how it goes for you.

    I liked the breakdown too Alan. As a rebel by nature, especially when it comes to creativity, I get what you're saying but there are folks out there who just know a lot more than I do and I find books/articles to be a good way to learn at my own pace. So yes, it's a good place to get started.

    @Casa Mariposa - you always make me laugh! I like the looks of those squished blooms too. I have 3 blanket flower plants and one of them has blooms that are deformed...not sure why, but they make for interesting photos ;)

    Thanks Julie - I love macro shots but am trying to open up a bit and shoot some wider shots as I've had some feedback saying they'd like to see more of my garden. There is just so much detail up close!

    I use PSE 9 and after a few hours of initial confusion, it all falls into place pretty easily. Just make a copy of your original photo so you don't manipulate your original and play on a copy.

    You're welcome Masha. Maybe I'll do a book review post on the two books. As we heat up and I'm not out in the garden as much, I'll be looking for ideas to post about.

    Happy Easter Henrietta! I loved the color against the dark background too! They look like such dramatic little flowers ;)

  9. Thanks Cat for sharing all these information. First of all, I am relieved to see the figures. I am still using the auto function. What can go wrong if I were to use manual settings? The photos can be easily deleted. But I guess, for me, the bug would have flown away. :)

  10. You're welcome Missy. I was hesitant too but felt such a sense of accomplishment when I could capture a shot under less than "perfect" circumstances because I understood exposure. Give it a try ;)

    One! Ha, yes I see what you're saying. I guess my suggestion would be to practice on something that isn't going to fly away until you master it. Then when you have a bug and you want to capture it a certain way, you'll have the understanding of how to do it. I know you have a new camera - don't be afraid!

  11. I like that percentage breakdown, too! And I'm going to be looking for these books. Years ago I learned to use a 35 mm film camera and set it manually. But I forgot everything once we purchased one I could set on auto. I've developed some sort of mental block about it that I'm determined to get over! Thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Your photos are absolutely stunning!

  13. It is funny, I responded to a comment you left and talked about composition being what I can do and technical the more difficult. I come here and it is explained. But, I tend not to agree totally with his assessment, while composition makes a great artist, without great technical skills, you can not be a great photographer. Lucky part is, the technical can be taught while the artistic has to be felt. They have to work hand in hand to have a piece of photographic art in my humble opinion. I read his post and he does express the importance of all aspects of photography, but I just think 10% is low for technical. I guess since a great photographer can make a great image with a point and shoot, maybe the guy is right after all.

  14. You're welcome Ginny. Thanks for stopping by!

    Thanks Tina!

    I know, right Donna? Composition comes more naturally to me too. I've seen my work improve a lot with technical knowledge but without the composition a photo lacks interest and depth. I'm interested in reading the books on composition to enhance and refine what comes naturally. I've been reading the technical stuff and I'm feeling the need to spread my wings a bit as I've got a better understanding of the technical, I think I can push my creativity a bit more. Anyway, I ramble...good night ;)

  15. I will definitely check out these two books! I always want to learn more and grow as a photographer. If I could become half the photographer you are I'd be happy.

  16. Thank you for offering us some guidance! After viewing some of these spectacular photos on blogs, I would like to learn more about creating beautiful photographs. Your photos are always lovely!

  17. Your explanations make it sound so easy to have that perfect photo!But in reality at the moment, I dare not touch that auto dial yet, I will of course in time will try to adjust manually...but not yet! Anyway, thanks for sharing the information, appreciate it.

  18. It sure is wonderful to be able to shoot with the fancy cameras we have today, but composition is key because it's what the photographer wants you to see and feel. Thanks for the book tips too. I'm always trying to improve my shot.

  19. LOVE this post, Cat! (I really want to check out the "Tech.of Natural Light Photography" - especially after today's rainy, gloomy day!)

    It's funny, I've been taking pictures for years with an SLR, but I didn't appreciate it enough until my daughter took a couple of photography classes in h.s. (she's my 'budding photographer' - I swipe her photos for my blog after she swipes my DSLR!)

  20. Hi Cat - this IS useful, very! And if learning to stop using "auto" settings on my camera results in photos a fraction as good as yours, I will be thrilled!

  21. Have been shooting on manual mode for a long time now... anyway, very useful read, this post of yours... thanks!

  22. That's a high compliment Karin, as I think many of your photos are breath taking ;) Glad you found the article worth reading.

    Thanks Sage Butterfly. I felt the same way when I started blogging. I would see images and think, "I want to do that!" It's frustrating when you see a flower or plant in a certain light with your eye but can't capture it in the frame the same way. That is what has spurred me on more than anything else...just wanting to be able to convey the beauty I see in the garden.

    You're welcome p3chandan. Thanks for stopping by!

    You're welcome Ramona. Exactly, you may have a perfect shot technically but if it's not interesting it won't hold your attention for long. My desire is to have a shot someday that you want to return to over and over because there is more to discover each time you view...

    Shyrlene, that is funny. My girlfriend and I were just talking yesterday about how we wish we had slowed down a bit as younger women and tried some of the creative expressions we now find fulfilling. But, everything in its own time I imagine. I didn't really start exploring photography until I started blogging last August. I became frustrated when I could't capture the image the way my eye saw it and decided to start learning more about how to do that and now I feel I spend more time on photography than gardening! But it's the love of the garden that calls me to photography. It's definitely my muse. Very few shots of my family ;/

    Thanks Christine, glad you think so and if you decide to give it a try, let me know what you think.

    Lrong, that doesn't surprise me one bit...your photos are mesmerizing and never fail to elicit an emotional response from me.

  23. Cat, I love what you said about painting. So timely as we are considering painting our floor red. Not exactly something you can hide if you don't like it! But I'm not worried as I can repaint quite easily. I struggle with photography and like you, have found myself frustrated when I can't capture something that I see in photos. A year into blogging I can see some improvement but I have a ways to go. Thanks for linking this great article.

  24. Oh Marguerite I can't wait to see your red floor!! It sounds awesome. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

  25. Beautiful photos! And I appreciate the link to the article. I now have to work up the courage to take the camera off "auto." Fortunately we have digital photography and the delete button. :)

  26. If that article can help me get 10% closer to being able to take photos as good as yours I will be a very happy woman - thank you for the link. My composition tends to fall down because I don't manage to keep the foucs and change the view on macro settings. A little more learning and a lot more practice required! Thank goodeness for memory cards and "delete"!

  27. thanks so much for sharing these resources! i need to kick my "auto" habit. i signed up for a workshop from a local photographer. i especially appreciate your advice coming from someone who shoots such gorgeous photos all the time!!


Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."
~A.A. Milne

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