A friend of mine once quoted,
“The quickest way to make money with photography is to sell your camera”
Food for thought. . .
What I’m about to share with you is most of what I know in my heart about what makes a good photograph. It is something instilled so deep that I cannot simply give it away. It isn’t merely a gift either; it is a privilege, a pleasure, and an everyday pursuit of mastery. Keep in mind that these basic principles I am about to share are applicable in most if not all situations regardless of what type of camera you may have. Though I will say owning a camera with manual settings will reap the most benefits and most of what I will discuss pertains to digital photography while not so much as film.
Composition and Balance is key.
To obtain optimum exposure, the aperture and shutter speed must be balanced.
To tell a story, your composition must have depth.
These are two main goals of a photographer: know them well.
At first these steps may seem slow to follow one after another as you think about what to do next, but after awhile they will start to become second nature as you practice and you will begin to follow them almost subconsciously and in a much more fluid way. Before long you may find your self adjusting settings without even realizing it and had already taken the perfect shot.
There is a religious saying in digital photography of mine that goes,
“Always shoot RAW and always shoot manual”
One reason: Control.
Control: The more control you have over your camera, the light, and your subject, the better your photography will turn out. However, we cannot always be in as much control as we would like so we improvise, adapt, and prepare for what we cannot imagine because anything can happen and anything that can go wrong will.
Confidence: Be confident in taking your photos; make it your passion, and let the resonance of your passion swell and splash amongst everything around you. Let the very nature you capture hear you proclaim its beauty and how much you enjoy taking its picture.
Organization: look for patterns, symmetry, texture, lines, and depth. Photography already being a flat medium requires you to make it deeper than a piece of paper or an image on a screen. Naturally, photography tells a story—realistically, your composition only imitates life but it still can transport your audience only as effectively as your composition will allow. Each of the elements stated above can be used to direct attention and create a field of vision that encompasses the desired subject matter and story you wish to share.
Balance: Your exposure is based on two things: 1. Aperture and 2. Shutter speed. Let the dial in your view finder be your guide and find your balance between your chosen aperture and the shutter speed. Be willing to adapt and be knowledgeable of what works best in varying situations. When in the dark, the iris of our eye increases in size to let in more light and in direct sunlight it decreases in size; so should our camera’s aperture when adjusting to these situations. Timing of an exposure will also be crucial so be prepared to adjust your shutter speed as well and know that the longer the exposure the more motion blur will occur which can be both negative and positive depending on the shot.
White balance is also important. Understand that Sunlight and Artificial Light give off two different colors and we need to adjust our cameras accordingly–although there are automated settings, they don’t always turn out the best. The best way to avoid taking pictures with the wrong white balance is to know the proper settings and to shoot in RAW. Camera RAW samples an image at all temperatures of light (among other variable settings including exposure) and saves them into the memory allowing the user to manipulate the white balance later in post production.
Technology: Digital cameras are rather smart and have very helpful automated settings; however, they still lack the artistic vision of the complex human mind. The better we understand not how the technology works but rather how to use the technology to our advantage is most essential. Understanding ISO ratings for instance may help in low lit situations but also understanding that adjusting these settings can affect the quality of your image is also important. The higher your ISO, the more sensitive your sensor will become; the more sensitive your sensor becomes, the more likely it will make mistakes and create noise in your image degenerating the quality but allowing you to see better in the dark. For bright sunlight, try to use the lowest ISO possible, and for dark situations, use an ISO rating that develops the least amount of noise but still gives a bright and clear enough image. Touching back on automated settings, be able to know how to use both automatic and manual focus, and know that using “aperture priority” or “shutter priority” vs. going completely manual can save a lot of time and guess work–remember, “Balance is key.”
Creativity and Ascetic: Although art may be subjective, know where your inspiration comes from and why. Then let all that influences your life flow through you with ease and allow it to navigate your way into an artistic vision with an intending purpose. Use all that surrounds you, both in the past and present making note and borrowing what you can from others along the way. There is nothing new under the sun, so do not be afraid of originality or taking another’s idea—only be prepared to use your perfectly unique conscience to take your creativity and make it your own.
Make Mistakes: One of the only real ways to learn is to fail and to fail miserably. What’s important though is that you learn from your mistakes and keep on keeping on. It’s truly one of the best ways to learn because you can only get better as long as you elect to. And experimentation is always allowed. Though balance has been described up until this point as a critical aspect of a good photograph, allow your muse to turn the balance upside down every once in a while and reveal the world in a different light and with new perspective.
Collaboration: As much as it is important to have a sense of independence, self-reliance, and self-respect, know who your community is and let them be a part of your artistic family. Although the thought of competition at times may seem brutal, your willingness to collaborate and learn from others will be most beneficial along with a diverse network of talented individuals who will refer your credibility.
Remember to be in control and confident about your work; you must be passionate! Be organized and balanced; you must be ready for anything! Know that technology is every bit a part of our organic body and understand its limit of creativity–being creative is believing you are unique and capable of incredible imaginative vision that only your conscience possesses and be willing to share it with the entire world. Know these things, understand these things, and believe in your abilities.
Finally, wisdom comes from experience so go and do.
Of course, I wish you the best and godspeed.
I was required to write a biographical sketch as a part of my application to Summit Ministries. This was required, of course, because I’m hoping to be accepted as a video production intern for the entirety of this upcoming summer. I’d like to share a little bit of what I wrote because writing has little worth if only seen by a few eyes in my opinion and I rather not have any of my writing go unpublished. I hope you can take from this as much as I hoped to put into it–a vignette, if you will, of merely part of my life’s work.
I came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ when I was eight years old. At the time I described to my father my fear of dying and losing loved ones. I was terrified of the fact of death because I didn’t understand fully what happens and the thought of never being able to live again was unbearable. This was all due to a recent funeral my family attended of a distant family member and I had lots of questions that needed answers. Of course, I was privileged to have grown up in a Christian home; and that night, with tears in my eyes, I called out to my earthly father who then shared with me the story of Christ and how much my Heavenly father loved me so much that he humbled himself as a man and died on a cross for my transgressions. None of it really made that much sense before until that night. From then on I looked at life from an entirely different angle; I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. The stories I heard in early Sunday school were not just stories anymore—they were chronicles of an epic journey made by incredible people. The Bible is full of history and fulfilled prophecies ultimately revealing God’s handy work in all of creation and His perfect plan for redemption by conquering death and freeing us from our sin.
Like any Christian walk, everyday is a day to further one’s sanctification, I believe my faith grew the strongest during my teen years, for at that time I experienced many trials and temptations that challenged and overall enforced my walk with Christ and His influence over my life. One of my favorite books of the bible is the book of James. I once heard it described as “The proverbs of the New Testament” and it is there I turn to most for answers in trying and hard times. My life verse is James 1:2-4 …
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (NKJ)
Further on in this chapter, James goes on to talk of wisdom and that if any man lacks of it, that he should ask it of God who gives to all men freely. I know with all the knowledge and understanding the world has to offer I could never be fulfilled or truly happy without the Lords wisdom and guidance in my life. Other readings I have enjoyed and have had great impact in my life are “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyon, “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis along with his many other works, and “Understanding the Times” by David A. Noebel.
The desire to work for Summit Ministries this summer is a strong one to say the least. I am always keeping my heart open to opportunities like this. It has been my dream to one day film and produce narratives and documentaries alike with the message of Christ in them. I’ve also had the passion and desire to teach what I know on both personal and technical levels. Being the eldest of six siblings has had a major impact in my own interest to raise and lead a family. As I am still young and unmarried, much of this desire has been fulfilled quite simply by being an older brother, helping and teaching my younger siblings with what it means to be a child of God and that with the capacity to read and learn all that which is in the will of the Lord can be achieved. I can see doing this at Summit but with an opportunity to grow and learn from others just as well.
The most recent experience I have had with Christian service was a mission trip to the Rio Grande Bible Institute and producing a series of videos for the West Houston Pregnancy Help Center.
Late in the summer of 2010, members of Katy Bible Church, one of my brothers, and myself traveled very near to the Mexico border to aid and assist the Rio Grande Bible Institute in various tasks including striping and re-waxing an auditorium floor; scraping linoleum tile, removing a cinder block wall, and installing sheet rock in one of the dorm rooms. This was all done for the returning students of the fall semester who have dedicated their lives in the theological study of God’s Word and sharing it on a multicultural level, especially to the Spanish speaking communities. One of the most interesting aspects of RGBI’s ministries was their radio station where they broadcast the good news of Christ on a frequent basis to not only the school and surrounding area but also clear across Mexico and as far as South America where in some countries it isn’t even legal to send the Gospel in such a manner. Although I didn’t feel like I was ministering specifically to people while physically there. I know the work we did will speak greatly to the students who eventual returned along with those yet to come and those they minister to. One of the great lessons I learned while on this trip was that with even the mundane of things, God can do marvelous and magnificent work. My brother and I also became very close to two of Katy Bible’s leading elders, Barry Hays and Danny Snyder. It was a privilege and a pleasure to work with these two men and I’m looking very much forward to an opportunity like this again.
While all of this was going on, a very close friend of mine who is a very talented photographer had been coordinating and consulting with me concerning his Eagle project for the West Houston Pregnancy Help Center. His name is Stephen Herbert and he decided to produce a series of videos that would help train and recruit volunteers; inform and guide future and current clients; and with the hope of sharing the Gospel and saving the lives of the unborn at risk of abortion. Stephen did an amazing job directing the entire project, and I was privilege to have been a part of the production as a primary consultant and editor. Over the entirety of the summer, he and I spent several hours sifting through and editing footage of what eventually would become a series of videos made for online distribution and clips later authored to DVD. We used primarily Adobe products including Photoshop, Premier Pro, and Encore. Stephen and I learned so much from this project and I am pleased to report that his project was a major success in regards to both his career as a Boy Scout and the Pregnancy Help Center.
All of what has been stated so far has a lot if not everything to do with how I view the World. The need of a critical and discerning mind is especially relevant in today’s society due to the rise and increase of accessible information. I believe the internet, mass media, and current political agendas are hefty evidence to the changing times and desire of global conformity. This postmodern era of likeminded thinking is a dangerous one, for there can only be one ultimate authority to the existence of the universe. I for one am thoroughly convinced of the Lord God, Yahweh/Jehovah, His most Holy Spirit, and the redeeming fellowship and blood of Jesus Christ. Through His word, the Logos, all of this is revealed, and by only His word can truth be found. It’s easy to have one’s faith pushed aside, judged, and compared to lesser thinking. The culture we live in—as citizens of not just the United States but also the entire world—is a conglomerate of thinking in desperate need of sifting. Furthermore, having a better grasp of not only one’s own worldview thinking but also that of others can help us understand where our fellow man is coming from. We must not only know what our brethren believe, but whom they believe in and why. Only then can we effectively reach out and ultimately reveal the truth. Of course, I also believe that although our efforts can be highly influential to society, there is no change without the work of the Spirit; wherefore, it is even more necessary to have the capacity to pray. I believe to change a man’s mind is impossible; to influence his mind is essential. By living as godly examples, by living pure and undefiled lives, and by loving one another with an agape love we can make a difference.
I’m excited to report that a plethora of exciting images and articles will be coming to my Facebook page and Website in the coming weeks! I’ll be working on writing content for the site including “How-To” articles for anyone interested in starting a new hobby or career in photography or videography and will also be touching up on some great tips in postproduction work using Photoshop, Premier Pro, and After Effects.
In the mean time, please enjoy this short intro to Terrance and Johnathan Le Jeune’s beautiful wedding!
Please take 16 minutes to sit down and enjoy this amazing, spectacular, well thought, and well shot short film. I guarantee it’ll put a smile on your face and inspire to make someone close to you or even a complete stranger smile too. Feel free to pass this along as it has a message that I believe everyone in the world needs to hear.