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How to go from being a Monkey with a camera to being a decent photographer

Updated: Jul 28, 2019

It's the modern age folks. Practically everybody has a powerful camera in their pockets which is capable of taking some incredible pictures. Phones have come a long way in a very short period of time especially when it comes to the quality of images that they are able to produce. It's incredible what the engineers at Apple and Samsung and for that matter every mobile manufacturer are achieving today. Some, more enthusiastic people however, decide to spend their money on something slightly more professional... A DSLR camera.

Unfortunately, not all of these people have what I like to call the photographic sense that enables them to make the most of these amazing devices.

In this article I'm going to talk about what this photographic sense is, how to develop it and how to make the most of which ever camera you have.

Some people say that photography is all about how good the light is or how good the equipment is or how correct the settings are. And several wannabe pros say that you must always shoot on full manual settings on a full frame DSLR during the golden hour. A photographer that has photographic sense will be able to create amazing images regardless of the equipment they use. It's how you compose your images that makes or breaks the picture. And the ability to compose images has nothing to do with what camera you use. That is entirely on the photographer and is what separates the best photographers from the rest . Pro photographers have the amazing ability to perceive things in a unique way and a god like attention to details. It is the finer details that matter and paying attention to those can really elevate your ability as a photographer. Something as simple as the horizon being slightly askew or a persons feet being cut off from the photo should bug you as a photographer. These are the basis of photographic sense. You are either born with it or some of us unfortunate ones have to develop it over a period of time.

Developing photographic sense, like any other skill, takes practice. All you have to do is take your camera, any camera and start shooting the world around you. You need to have the curiosity to try different angles of the same subject. It's trial and error for the most part. However there are certain composition rules you can follow such as the rule of thirds or leading lines

Photo that uses leading lines to guide the eye towards the subject

Photo composed using both rule of thirds and leading lines

Photo showing how rule of thirds affects an image

You may have heard the phrase "Rules are meant to be broken". This is especially true when it comes to photography. But before breaking any rules it is important to fully understand and master them.

Let me share an exercise that I practiced to develop my photographic sense. Basically, I challenged myself to take one great picture every day for a month. I'd carry on with my daily routine but at the end of the day I'd have to have taken an interesting picture from wherever I had been that day. It was challenging at first because I hadn't developed my photographic sense yet and I didn't visit beautiful places worthy of photographing everyday. But once I got a hang of it and started seeing things in differently, it became like second nature, like a third eye had opened and I would take 3 to 4 decent pictures every day towards the end of the month.

Just my moms umbrella

I spilled some apple juice

Just my everyday cup of tea

An ice-cream I have every sunday

For the most part the pictures I took during this exercise were with my phone, which was the camera I had with me at all times. Most of the pictures I took were based on getting the composition right. And the other advantage of using a phone was I could place it in nooks, crannies and crevasses where my dslr couldn't possibly go. It didn't matter that I didn't have my Canon with me at all. I was still able to create interesting images of uninteresting things while having an uninteresting lifestyle using a mid range Nokia phone. That isn't to say that having an expensive camera is useless. I could talk about the technical mumbo jumbo of it all day long but I'll leave that for another day.

You shouldn't not take a picture because of your gear (or lack of). The best camera you can have is the one you have right now. The point I'm trying to make is that the best photography Isn't restricted to the best cameras. Yes, the better, more expensive dslr and mirrorless cameras give you a much higher potential for taking better images but unless you know what you are doing with it, you're just a monkey with a camera.

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