POSTED ON 6 NOVEMBER 2013 BY CLAIRE BUTLER
Any creative will tell you that it's sometimes hard to take criticism, especially when you're just starting out. In 2010, after a year of halfheartedly dabbling in photography, I decided to start sharing my photographs with people other than my mom and boyfriend. I joined two online photographic communities (the names escape me now) and enrolled for a part-time photography course. My work was suddenly out there, for all to see, and for all to scrutinise. It was honestly a terrifying step to take. However, looking back on it now I'm so incredibly glad that I took that leap. There are a few pieces of advice that have stuck with me, and although they might seem simple and obvious, I wanted to share them with you in the hope that they might help you grow your photographic eye too.
1. STRAIGHTEN YOUR HORIZON
The first time I shared an image online (2009), someone left a comment on one of my landscape photographs and said "nice shot, it would be better if you corrected the horizon". I was shocked. It was a photograph that at the time I loved and had worked hard on to get the composition just right. After my initial disdain for the comment, I swallowed my pride and sought to learn how to correct the horizon in Photoshop. I reopened my image, straightened the horizon (which resulted in a slight crop) and my-oh-my was I amazed at the drastic improvement to the overall shot. Sheepishly, I returned to the comment and thanked the kind stranger who had taken the time to give me this small piece of advice that would stick with me for the rest of my photography career.
2. GO WILD WITH THE RULE OF THIRDS
This might be an obvious piece of advice, because anyone who has ever studied one iota of art or photography should have been exposed to "the rule of thirds". The first time I learned about the rule of thirds was in photography class, and it really was an eye-opener for me. I learned that it's not just about dividing your image vertically or horizontally into thirds; it’s about strategically choosing at which point your subject will be the most exciting. Experimenting with the rule of thirds and making drastic compositional decisions makes a photograph visually appealing and interesting. One of my favourite photographs by Chris Burkard is a perfect example of a photograph that makes fantastic and interesting use of the rule of thirds. After my initial learnings about the rule of thirds, I’ve made it my aim to challenge the compositional boundaries as far as possible to ensure that I can produce visually exciting images 100% of the time.
3. COMPOSE WITH YOUR BODY
I remember the first couple of photoshoots that I did. Using a Canon 1000D and kit lens (18-55mm), I’d stand statically in one position and zoom in and out to compose my shot. That was until I started photography class where one of the requirements was to purchase a 50mm prime lens. When I first got this lens, I hated it. It was so restrictive; I could never get the shot I wanted because I was always too close or too far. During a rant to my photography teacher about the impracticality of what, to me, was a seemingly useless lens, he turned to me and said “compose with your body”. Duh. How could I have missed something so simple? To zoom, I had to use my legs. To change composition, I had to use my body. Learning to harness the power of my “nifty fifty” was one of my biggest lessons and probably the one that influenced my creative eye the most.
When I started out, the criticism and feedback that I got both online and in class was invaluable. I learned that instead of getting defensive and protective over my work, I should embrace the comments I received and use them to grow my creative eye. I owe my style today to those who dared share an opinion of my work right in the beginning, and I'm so grateful to the few who did offer their thoughts. My experience taught me that as a photographer I should never be so arrogant to assume that there's nothing left to learn, and by committing to always being a student of photography, I'll always be improving.
WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE HAS INFLUENCED YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY? LET'S CHAT - LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!