I've enjoyed photography since I was a kid, but in 2011 I became "serious" about it. The photos my Canon 400D was producing were - ummm - nice. I suppose. But, I wanted to do better than nice and I started a fascinating, frustrating but ultimately rewarding journey. 

These 5 tips are some of the unexpected results from that journey. They are out there if you look hard enough, but they aren't the first bits of advice you find.

TIP 1 - Don't buy a new camera yet

This became obvious several years after spending a small fortune to buy a new camera, lenses and other bits and pieces. Because I didn't like the photos I was taking, and because I'm a technology nerd, I assumed a better camera would take better photos. Under some circumstances, it does. But you've already realised the problem wasn't the camera, or whether I understood the controls - I just didn't know how to take photos because I'm not a photographer. For example, here is a photo of my new camera, a Canon 60D, taken with my older 400D and a $100 lens. Apparently, my old camera takes great photos after all. Who'd have thought?

TIP 2 - Learn why good photos are good

I can't over-emphasise educating yourself using whatever method you like - face-to-face, online, books, whatever. The trick is to not assume you know how things work. Challenge your assumptions and go beyond learning basic exposure and composition. Pick a style you like and research it. Also research the photographers who take the photos you like. Get inside their minds and understand why they think a photo is good.

TIP 3 - Stop taking bad photos

No, I don't mean you should suddenly become a photographic genius overnight. Once you've learned what makes a good photo, ask yourself before you press the shutter whether the shot is worth taking. Is there enough light? Is the subject worth it? Are there background objects that will distract the viewer. I have taken thousands of photos that shouldn't have been taken, only to delete (or even worse - store) them.

TIP 4 - Find interesting subjects

Taking technically-perfect photos isn't the goal, unless you're doing something like product, food or architectural photography. Photography is meant to spark something in the viewer that grabs and holds their interest. A perfect photo of a boring subject won't do that (see my camera image above - a good example unless you're a gear nerd). Instead, find a fascinating subject, shoot it in an unusual way and get the technical bit good enough so that it's not obvious. Otherwise you're chasing the wrong perfection.

TIP 5 - Photograph everything and work out what you like

I caution you against starting a photo-a-day project unless you have the time. But have you're camera around the house and take a camera - any camera  - with you when you leave it. Even your smart phone is worth using just to practice finding subjects and capturing them. The photo of the cathedral above was taken using my iPhone. The image of Balmoral, below, is a panorama I took at Balmoral beach on a day off - with my old 400D and the kit lens.

In conclusion

These tips aren't new, but in a world that is gear-obsessed the skills, attitudes and experience that lead to taking better photos are often overlooked. I'm not a professional photographer, but my photos are much better than they used to be. It's amazing how much better my old camera has becomes since I learned what to do with it.

Do you have a similar story?

I now have a shiny new Rode NT1 condenser studio mike. It's a cardioid vocal and instrument mic that has be re-released as a successor to the popular NT1a. I'll be using it for my customer service podcast - Serving The Human... http://servingthehuman.com and other projects. This is my first unboxing video.
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AuthorDavid Griffiths

This week marks the beginning of a new project called Serving The Human. It is a podcast in which I discuss the human aspects of customer service with my good friend Alex, who manages a successful coffee business in a corporate location in central Sydney.

The podcast came about because I approached Alex to start a discussion. He is an excellent customer service practitioner and I wanted to see whether the techniques he uses would apply equally to the corporate world. The good news is, they do.

We have already planned a year's worth of topics to discuss, recording every 2 weeks. It's a fun, relaxed chat between two people who are passionate about the topic and want to see others share that passion.

The distinguishing feature of our podcast is that we don't focus on the usual business outcomes. Whilst customer retention, loyalty and sales are always important, the person at the counter or providing advice in your office doesn't always have those as goals. Service is a uniquely human trait that connects people. If this part is done right, the rest will follow.

Serving The Human is available through the iTunes store and from http://servingthehuman.com. We can also be found on Facebook and Twitter!

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AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesGeneral
A detailed look at the Miniatures iPhone and iPad app. Miniatures allows single frames to be taken at a range of intervals and combined into a movie. It also provides a tilt shift effect that can make large items in a landscape look small by blurring the top and bottom of the frame.

Even I've been surprised I'm still going. Day 13 and I'm still remembering to take a daily photo. I can see why so many others have tried taking a photo every day as a project. It's a real discipline to think of something and execute it to the standards you set for yourself. Above is my latest attempt...

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AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesPhotography

I don't think there's been a single day since I left school that I haven't had a second job or equivalent hobby and increasingly I don't think I'm the only one. Like many people I've always done something that aims to be more than a hobby but never quite becomes a full-time job. Since 2010 I've been working to change that. Here's how.

An interesting feature of the 21st century is the breadth of options available to many people to follow their dreams, try new experiences, learn new skills and make a difference in the world. Up until we acquired the ability to share information electronically, there were few mass-communication options open to ordinary folk. To produce TV you had to convince a TV station to buy your show. To make radio you had to do the same, or start your own station. Printing in newspapers was controlled by editors and writing books to release en mass was similarly at the mercy of a publisher. These days that has all changed, depending on what you want out of it.

An early episode. Even this was an improvement over my first few. 

An early episode. Even this was an improvement over my first few. 

The last few years has been an experiment for me. In January 2010 I set about learning online TV production. I looked at emerging web series by established actors like Robert Llewellyn and decided that I had the technical skills to produce a web TV series. I was wrong, and it's been a long road finding it out bit-by-bit. My lighting was terrible, I couldn't write or present and I didn't really have anything I wanted to say. Put all of that together and you have something that is aimless, unwatchable and somewhat embarrassing. Some people would quit at this point and dismiss the attempt as another failed attempt but for once I decided not to. Not this time. I set about learning.

The technical skills came relatively easily but after a lot of research. Along the way I bought a better camera, a cheap but workable lighting kit and better sound recording tools. I also devoted myself to learning the art and science of photography to better understand how to produce good-looking shots. I'm still learning but I've come a long way. 

A later episode showing the change in production values. Still messy, but much more professional. 

A later episode showing the change in production values. Still messy, but much more professional. 

The hardest part has been what to do in front of the camera. For many technically-minded people the interest stops at how to make something. Learning what to do with it is a very separate skill. Firstly, I started accepting invitations to talk at conferences as part of my work. They were small, but it was a chance to learn how to structure a talk and deliver it. However the real breakthrough came when I spent a weekend at a TV presenting short course at the Australian Film Television & Radio School. This was hosted by the very capable Faye De Lanty and ran through the basics of learning lines, presenting and interviewing. As an introvert, this was the hardest thing I have ever done. But the course paid off, and I am now much more confident in writing and speaking to camera.

The software tutorials I have posted to youtube have unexpectedly become a testament to how far this journey has taken me so far, with a reasonable number of followers and over 400,000 views since I began. Amazing. But what next?

My most popular tutorial to date

My most popular tutorial to date

I am aiming to have another go at a web series this year. I don't know the subject yet but I'll be choosing something where I can interview people on a subject that interests me and hopefully show the world something they haven't seen before. I'll present it and if I can con some of my friends to help I'll have a crew. Either way, I have the equipment and enough skills to make something watchable. 

Consider this when you look at your own dreams and interests. Maybe making a TV show isn't your thing, but a blog or podcast could be. For those of us lucky enough to live in countries with Internet access, the world is our oyster to learn, share and contribute to. As we've seen in Egypt and other places, this ability is now very widespread and accessible. Perhaps 2014 could also be the year you turn your passion into something new?

 

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AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesGeneral

Yes, it's that time of year - school holidays. A time to reorganise our social media presence based on all the new and interesting capabilities that have been introduced in the last twelve months. Oddly enough, I'm going back to an old favourite - Flickr. It's about time I got my act together and did the "take a photo each day of the year" thing. In my case, I'm aiming for high-quality photos or video. Can I do it? Who knows, but I'll try.

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidjgrif/
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AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesGeneral

This article should be compulsory reading for anyone using a DSLR, especially for video. Frankly, there is a lot of rubbish talked about this subject on the Internet because most people don't actually measure anything. In this article Lliah Borg discusses how noise appears to decrease at certain ISO settings and provides measurements to back it up. Thank you...

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AuthorDavid Griffiths

A quick, single shot to try out my new Samyang prime. I chose the 35mm Cine because on my Canon 60D it is close to being a 50mm "standard" lens, and the de-clicked aperture ring is amazing for video. This was shot from a lookout near Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains, about 30 minutes before sunset.

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AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesFilm Equipment

I must have been a very good boy this year, or seriously flown under the radar. Santa - actually my wife - bought me a beautiful Samyang 35mm Cine prime lens for Christmas. Lots of experimenting to do, but already it's putting to shame my existing lenses for sharpness and contrast. I'm not in the review business, but I will post  some experiences from using it shortly, especially for video.

Have a merry Christmas and I hope Santa brings you something equally nice :-) 

David

 

Taken with my new toy -  a Samyang 35mm Cine lens - wth my Canon 60D.

Taken with my new toy -  a Samyang 35mm Cine lens - wth my Canon 60D.

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AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesPhotography

This photo would just not have been possible to light with the gear I have. So, this is what I did.

I shot a base photograph to capture the tree lights. Then I held my flash and a diffuser to take separate photos of each element that needed light- books, bears, presents, angel etc. then I imported the photos into my iPad and used Photoshop Touch to combine them. Pretty good result. I'm looking forwarding to using Photoshop CC to have another go on the Mac when I get home. 

The final shot, incorporating eight layers. 

The base photo, exposed for the tree lights. 

The base photo, exposed for the tree lights. 

Lighting a bear. I'm using a painting canvas and a Canon 430ex II flash. 

Lighting a bear. I'm using a painting canvas and a Canon 430ex II flash. 

Masking the bear layer in Photoshop Touch on the iPad. 

Masking the bear layer in Photoshop Touch on the iPad. 

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AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesPhotography

Another small set of photos showing boats at Church Point in Sydney's North. Canon 60D and Adobe Lightroom 5. Short film to come...

Click the image to view all.

Click the image to view all.

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AuthorDavid Griffiths

As well as shooting some video, I also took equivalent still shots. I'm doing this more and more. Whenever I set up a video shot I also capture a still at the same time. That way I have a high resolution image to work with as well, giving me more possibilities later on. 

Click the image to view all.

Click the image to view all.

Posted
AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesPhotography

A sunset stroll around Collaroy Beach in Sydney's northern beaches. Equipment used: Canon 60D with 17-55mm F/2.8 lens, prolost picture style, Manfrotto tripod and video head, Zoom H1 sound recorder, Rode Videomic Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Filmconvert.

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AuthorDavid Griffiths
CategoriesShort Films