a photo study: the photographer IV

Sony RX100 3    f/11  1/250    8.8m   800 ISO

Learning should be a continuous, life long process. Each stage represents a learning curve and every time you feel yourself reaching a plateau, it is time to move on to the next stage of your development. Initially you learn from the greats, then you learn from your peers, then you learn from your own body of experience, but the key is to persist and break out to the next level. ~Dan K

This week’s a photo study is a continuation of last week’s blog, The Photographer III , in which I focused on the Dan K’s first step, “Get an Eye for Photography.”  So to help us learn the art of photography let’s move on to Steps 2 through 7.

Step 2: Grasp the Basics

  1. Develop an understanding of perspective (position and focal length).
  2. Gain knowledge about focus (distance, aperture and depth of field).
  3. Explore the shutter speed and exposure.
  4. Study all aspects of color.
  5. Create a project that combines a learning experience with a presentation
  6. Return to Step 1, Get an Eye for Photography.

Perspective refers to the visual phenomenon where objects that are nearer to us appear bigger while those farther away seem smaller. In photography, perspective is influenced by 3 factors: Focal length, Shooting distance, and shooting angle.


Focal length is a measure of the lens’ angle of view and is normally expressed in millimeters (mm).  Using a short focal length will offer the photographer a wider angle of view and less magnification.  These two elements create a strong perspective effect.

Conversely, the longer the focal lengths creates a narrower angle and  greater magnification while weakening the perspective effect.

Distance from subject (shooting distance or “focusing distance”): The nearer the camera to the subject, the stronger the perspective effect. The further away the camera from the subject, the weaker the perspective effect.

Shooting angle: The more parallel your camera is to the subject (the shallower the shooting angle), the weaker the perspective effect. Conversely, if you align the camera at a steeper angle from the subject, you will get a stronger perspective effect.

In short, the easiest way to get the strongest perspective effect possible is to use a wide angle lens, move as close to your subject as possible, and shoot from a steep, diagonal angle.

The perspective exaggeration effect unique to a wide angle lens can help to create impressive photos with a strong sense of depth, dimensionality and scale. This is a good effect to use with deep focus.

Depth of field:

Aperture & Exposure:

To demonstrate differences of exposure with variations of aperture the images below were photographed with the same focal length (8.8m), ISO (100), and shutter speed (1/500s).  The aperture in the first image is f/5.6, the second f/3.5, and the last f/2.8.

To demonstrate variations of exposure each of the images below were photographed with the same focal length, ISO settings, and exposure composition of -.03.  The shutter speed of the first image is 1/1000s. The middle image’s shutter speed is 1/2000s, and the last is 1/250s.

Color:  visit: A Color Primary, an elementary review of color theory.

At this stage it is good to develop a basic understanding of these basic so that you will be able to have some control over the composition of your images and to build your technical skills with each click of the shutter.

By starting out right, with an understanding of what a good photo looks like, confidence may take a beating at first but you’ll be on the right path with less time wasted with follies into unnecessary gear or special effects ~Dan K

Step 3:  Be Reductive

This stage includes developing awareness of the elements within your image that have the potential to be distracting and learning techniques such as selective focus and lightening to help you direct the viewer’s eyes within the image.  Learning the restrictions within elements of focal length, black and white, and ISO.  Explore bending  rules and identifying where the edge of the performance and aesthetic overlap.

This is also the point where you start to develop a signature style. As always, go back to the beginning and see how your new knowledge applies to what you’ve learned before. ~Dan K

Step 4: Once you can TAKE A Picture, Learn how to MAKE A Picture

This is the stage where you learn creativity rather than observation. Learn how to arrange things for best composition rather than position yourself. Learn how to find and use natural light, or how to mimic it with flash. Learn how much control you can exert over the subject, context and equipment without losing the dynamic of the moment, the freshness and spontaneity. The goal is to be able to pro-actively get the shot that you wanted rather than being a passive observer.

This is a watershed in many a photographer’s career, when they become dependable shot makers rather than opportunistic photographers. Do not consider taking on any semi-commercial work until you can reliably deliver a consistent work product…~Dan K

Step 5:  Learn to Edit

We all need to be better editors of our own work. It’s not just about fixing things in post; I’m talking choosing about which images to show and which to throw.

A portfolio is often let down by a bad image. Unfortunately, if you haven’t worked through from step one, you might not be able to tell the difference between a mediocre image and a good one ~Dan K

Step 6: Find Yourself

We eventually get to a point where we are comfortable with a certain look, a certain subject, or genre. Our work becomes recognizably ours. Sometimes this is done intentionally, sometimes we become well known for a subset of our work and everyone wants more of it.

Once you have your signature style and something to say, individual images take on singular meaning, rather than being about the gear and the mark it left on the image. You can’t buy this in a camera store and you can’t pay someone to teach it to you. ~Dan K

Step 7: Reinvent Yourself

Break out of creating essentially the same image again and again with subtle variations.  Break out of this rut and find a second and a third style.  Once well known many artists, especially commercial painters, get stuck reproducing essentially the same picture again and again with subtle variations.

By this stage, you no longer reference other people’s work; they reference yours. May we all reach this point! ~Dan K

9 replies to “a photo study: the photographer IV

    1. Thanks Allen…this post and the one previous were a bit overwhelming for me; yet, I am glad that my research introduced me to Dan K.

    1. Amy, thanks for visiting. I think these “a photo study” blogs are more like me sharing my research and maybe, just maybe in time…”expertise.”

    1. I so agree Laura. This one and the one before…I will need to review, again and again. Yet, as my research continues, I fear I will find glaring mistakes…Oh well, this is a learning project.

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