Smitty - November 25, 2016
The best way to dramatically Improve your photography skills is with practice! When we were kids we learned the phrase – practice makes perfect. That phrase has been around for ages and it is still around and won’t go away any time soon. The reason – it is sage advice. Practice is how to take better pictures.
The best athletes are the best – not just because of genetics – but because of a dedication to practice. The best musicians are the best – not because they were born with a talent, but because of practice. How did you learn how to ride a bike? Practice. How did you learn how to drive a car? Practice.
I promise you – the BEST photographers are the best – not because they were born with an extra creative gene in their DNA – but because of practice. Practice makes perfect. Being a skilled photographer is the same thing as being a skilled athlete. It doesn’t just happen because you want it to. It is the result of practicing the best photography techniques.
When I was 15 years old, I got my first motor drive for my very used Nikon F camera body. I had a Nikkor 200mm lens and I desperately wanted to learn how to take great sports photographs at my high school. One of my early idols was Sports Illustrated Photographer Neil Leifer. I would come home from school day after day and load a 36 exposure roll of black and white film. For those of you not around in the film days – you could buy film in 100ft long bulk rolls and then use reloadable film cartridges to load your own rolls of film. I would walk down to the end of my street where there was a busier roadway and take a seat on the curb. I would practice follow-focus as cars came up the road. My task was to keep the front passenger bumper in focus as the car approached and then passed me. I would do this for about 15 minutes and then put the roll of film in the camera and I would shoot the entire roll on the next car. Remember – no auto exposure – no auto focus – no zoom lens – just a 35mm Nikon F with a motor drive that sounded like a machine gun and a 200mm lens. I would then run home to my darkroom that my Dad had helped me build in the basement and develop the roll of film. I never printed these photos – but…. I did go frame by frame with a magnifying loupe to see how many were in tack sharp focus – and I kept a chart on my darkroom wall so that I could track my progress. Yeah – total geek. When I was 18 I won my first of several awards for newspaper sports photography.
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