I am regularly asked just what is Fine Art Lifestyle Photography? There may be clever definitions out there, but this is my own personal take on it that has been decades in the making…
To brake it down into elements is the simplest way to explain what it means to me.
Traditionally, Fine Art Photography was see as photography made solely for exhibition – whether in galleries or other institutions. I believe that this vision has shifted since the birth of the internet. The intention of the photographer as artist is still the same but the way in which this art is now seen has become different.
Fine Art Photography is photography created in line with the vision of the photographer as artist, using photography as the tool for creative expression. The intention of Fine Art photography is to express an idea, a message, or an emotion.
To put these thoughts into the context of my Fine Art Lifestyle Photography, it is more of an approach. It is about creating a cohesive body of artistic photographs – whenever I take a photograph – whether commissioned, for brand photography, editorial purposes or generated for content creation, it is my vision and mind that align to produce a photograph that conveys an idea, message or emotion that is at a level which is ultimately capable of being thoughtfully printed, framed and hung.
I am often asked by student clients which camera they should buy? It’s a minefield out there – so much choice, new terms and you really do not know where to start looking. There is no one definitive answer to this question, so here are a few guidelines that I regularly offer to help…
Don’t buy a pack – buy body and lens separately. The idea of a pack may be sold to you as being very attractive and a good deal, but the chances are that the lens included will be a zoom lens and as such will not offer a low enough f-stop to enable your creativity to shine though.
As said, don’t buy a zoom lens – a good place to start is 50mm – such a versatile lens – what is called a fast lens, known for its ability to capture low-light photographs. The focal length, when put on a full frame camera is more or less how the human eye sees. They are small and therefore light and will happily shoot most types of photography. My own 50mm lens was a gift from my mum about 20 years ago and has been a workhorse ever since. If you are investing in a 50mm lens, do your homework as the prices vary tremendously depending on the quality of the glass and how fast they will shoot.
Buy the best lens you can afford – it will be a life long investment – you can upgrade the body anytime. As you have read above, my own lens has been with me a long time and has seen four or five bodies during that time.
Consider a full frame camera rather than a crop frame camera (or crop camera) Does the camera have a full frame sensor or a crop sensor? The full frame camera will always be the more expensive of the two. When you look through the sensor, it is like looking through a large or a small window. This does not bother some people, but if you are going to take most of your photographs in a small space, then a full frame camera is the one to go for.
Factor in money for a tripod… you will get so much more value from your lenses if you do – and buy a remote shutter release cable for a few extra pounds whilst you are at it. Again, which tripod I hear you ask. The answer is the one that will keep your camera safe! Many cheap, flimsy tripods may blow over in the wind or wobble over if you accidentally knock it indoors. Yet again you only get what you pay for – the more expensive the better the spec. I have had the same Manfrotto tripod and head for more years than I care to remember. That says it all…
Always consider second hand – there are specialist dealers – ring up and talk to them, I have used on particular supplier for my film cameras for over a decade and they are always so very helpful if i ring up. Going back to the full frame camera against a crop frame one. If you can’t afford the full frame camera of your dreams, then I would strongly recommend looking into second hand. Things to be wary of are how many shots it has fired and also if you buy from abroad check on any taxes that you will have to pay over and above the asking price. Once again, I prefer to use my two or three tried and trusted outlets here in the UK.
Do your homework so that you are completely happy with what you are investing it – speak to people, do go a local camera club exhibition, go to trade shows, speak to shop owners – online or on the high street. Write down what you want from your new kit to avoid being overwhelmed. If you are, then make your polite apologies and leave to consider and do more homework!
I know I said 7 tips, but here are a couple more. Ask yourself these questions…
What is my budget?
What do I want to shoot – this may change but be clear in your head when you buy your first camera. If you just want to take up photography then ask yourself what resonates with you, look at photographs that you really like – are they indoors or outdoors, children and families, nature, landscape… Chat to your family and friends if you are not sure – the answer may be right under your nose 🙂 To help further – have you read my previous post? Maybe go back and reread that and grab the checklist to work through to help you.
I remember I certainly was when I bought my first DSLR! In my photography courses, programmes and workshops I only teach students how to shoot manual. Why? It simply provides the key that opens the door that takes you from your comfort zone and into the creative zone – this space is where the magic happens – it may be uncomfortable at first, but see these as growing pains. Stick with it and it will become your best friend. You won’t even think about it. By shooting completely Manual, you will find that door that has been locked to you is open wide.
Another point to bear in mind is that if you don’t use manual, then think of all that money you have spent for that facility is wasted… not to mention how much of your creativity you aren’t able to access.
Always remember this, whenever you pick up your camera…
SLOW DOWN – LESS BUT BETTER
7 TIPS FOR SHOOTING IN MANUAL
1 UNDERSTANDING DEPTH OF FIELD.
So many of my students struggle with this. If you see DoF or Depth of Field mentioned – don’t panic that you don’t understand. Simply think of it as Depth of Focus. You can control the of your photograph that is in focus from front to back and more – you can pinpoint where you actually want that focus to be. More of this later…
Do you want your background to be sharp or blurred? The aperture setting controls the size of the hole the light falls through thus again determining the amount of light falling on the sensor. Aperture settings control the Depth of Field – Depth of Focus mentioned in number one. Different lenses will have different numbers – at the very extreme, f2.8 will give a more blurry background and f32 will give a sharp background. To use depth of field in manual is so much easier than in semi-automatic as you can control both the shutter speed and aperture without taking your eye away from the camera.
3 SHOOT IN RAW
The simple answer here is that RAW files contain a lot more information. With Jpeg files, your camera – the computer inside does the processing for you – so you are allowing it to second guess what you are seeing in your minds eye! Computers are not creative – they think in 1’s and 0’s. In black and white. They don’t know about all the shades in between. This is where shooting RAW comes in. RAW files have much more depth to them, much more information that you can alter to align with your vision. This will be done in your editing software – the same as you would use to edit your jepgs. By choosing to shoot RAW, you are able to access that illusive creative zone.
4 CREATIVE EXPOSURE
Once you work in the Creative Zone by shooting on Manual then you will be smudging boundaries and breaking rules that aren’t really rules at all. Take exposure – there is absolutely nothing that is correct exposure, apart from what you see it to be in your mind. When you look through your viewfinder and see the exposure compensation guide – there will be 0 in the middle then minus and plus on either side. Think of 0 as merely an average – if you are wanting dark and moody then explore the minus and if you are wanting bright and airy then look at the plus settings.
5 PICK YOUR FOCAL POINT
This is a really important reason to get away from your comfort zone and using your camera as a point and shoot camera – the focal point cannot be altered by editing. When you shoot in Manual, you have control over the focus and you have control over where your want the focal point to be…
It is very simple to do – simply choose the focal point that you wish to be in focus, semi press the shutter release button and whilst holding it down, simply reframe your shot then press the button down fully to take the photograph.
6 THINK WHAT YOUR SHUTTER SPEED CAN DO FOR YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS
This is how long your shutter is open for… You can have pin sharp photographs or introduce some movement with blur – it will be your choice. Pop your camera on a tripod and spend an afternoon playing with this to see what you can find! I often suggest a cable release here – the sort that plugs into your camera side. This will ensure less camera shake for pin sharp images if your tripod is a little spongy. So many of my clients are camera shy, so I use a longer shutter speed introduce some blur on a sharp background.
7 BECOME BEST FRIENDS WITH YOUR CAMERA
By actually deciding that you are going to get to know your camera better and actually understanding everything works is possibly the greatest step you can take to becoming a better photographer. Find your instruction manual to find out where the various buttons are on your particular camera. By really understanding how things work and being able to use all the controls without having to think so often the only barrier that stops you being really creative with your image making. This is possibly the key that will open that door from your comfort zone to your creative zone – where the magic happens.