Greetings everyone, thank you for your time! Now that you are aware of the importance in Preparing For A Macro Trip and the Knowing Of Your Subjects, it is time we move on to the 3rd article of the series on Becoming A Better Macro Photographer (or any Photographer in fact): the willingness to share your knowledge, offering and accepting criticisms towards your work.
Sharing of Knowledge
As a passionate photographer myself, I have always look up to experts who are willing to share their knowledge on Photography and help beginners to improve. I remembered how hard it was to learn how to use my Nikon D90 when I was a beginner, especially when problems arise. For example, I had been playing around with bracketing for High Dynamic Range (HDR) shots and I forgot to turn off the bracketing function so I could only take shots at intervals (exposure, shutter speed etc.). Being a complete noob that time, I had no idea how to troubleshoot my problem: It is very hard to Google for an answer when you cannot even describe the problem. Luckily I posted my problem on a forum and got an informative reply from a nice former there and I really appreciated it. Of course, this may seem like a “no-brainer” issue to the pros, but for beginners, it might be too much to handle.
I enjoy spending time in forums or photo-sharing sites looking at the information, discussions and also the photos. Again I am really grateful to the gurus who are willing to share their knowledge to improve the Photography World as a whole; you guys are the champs! However, there are always two sides to a coin; sadly I have also noticed some who do not like to share at all. As a Scientist, I am curious about the behaviour of these people (especially professionals who earn a living via Photography); do they feel insecure by the upcoming photographers who might be better than them? Are they afraid that one day the people they taught might surpass him and steal their business? Or do they think that a beginner should go through the same difficult path as they did if he or she wants to really improve?
I have not been in photography for very long, but I have definitely learnt that there are really no disadvantages in sharing your knowledge with people. First of all, it takes A LOT of effort and experience to develop your “Photographer’s Eye”, something that is not simply passable to a beginner: You can teach a novice every trick you know but his or her photos will not be as good as yours, at least not before years of practice.
Secondly, you often get what you give. Those who share and guide will always be remembered and appreciated. When your student becomes successful one day, I am sure he or she will still regard you as a great mentor and wouldn’t mind sharing projects with you- This is NOT a fact applicable only in Photography. On the other hand, if you have been mistreating your “protégé”, expect them to surpass and overwhelm you as an act of revenge. No man is an island, no matter how great you are, you still need help sometimes.
Thirdly, shouldn’t you feel good and proud to know that the people you taught become successful? After all, they are fruits of your constant guidance and support. Why the insecurity? Why the need for hostility? Wouldn’t it be more fun if we could improve together and bring Photography that we love so much to a whole new level?
Of course, I understand that some professionals have tools-of-the-trade techniques that cannot be shared or techniques that can be taught only at a certain price; but I am sure sharing basic tips and tricks to Photography wouldn’t hurt. Now, I suppose I do not need any more examples to tell you how important it is to share your knowledge XD And I also understand that not everyone is good at teaching in real life; there are many different means of knowledge sharing nowadays e.g. forums, websites, youtube, workshops etc. Try them out, who knows you might like it? XD
Before I end, I would like to dedicate these advices to eager beginners in Photography:
- If you need any help from more advanced Photographers, please remember to ask nicely. I know many of them don’t mind helping out, but no one likes a rude person, and it is not like they are obligated to help you in the first place.
- Please do a little bit of research before you ask a question. Most of the time, the question you are about to ask has already been answered on the internet, so try researching a bit first- It won’t take more than a few Google clicks. If there are still things you do not understand, then feel free to ask, but then again, be polite.
- Try to join the big boys on Photowalk or Photoshoot sessions. Of course, ask for permission first and inform them of your level in Photography so that they may prepare the “syllabus” accordingly. You will learn a lot faster than trying everything out yourself.
- Youtube is an extremely resourceful channel that will improve your Photography. In fact, I have learnt most of my skills online.
- Attending workshops and reading Photography magazines wouldn’t hurt, though it will still be cheaper to hang out with the big boys or watch videos online XD
- Regardless of how much homework you do, the only way to really improve your Photography is to shoot often. But make sure you think of what you want in the resulting photo before you shoot. All the best!
Offering And Accepting Constructive Criticisms
I noticed that most people from Asian countries tend to be more reluctant when it comes to offering criticisms in Photography. I for one will usually only give criticisms when the photographer writes “Comments and Critics (C&C) welcomed”. We Asians prefer a peaceful and harmonious lifestyle, so we tend to keep thoughts to ourselves unless if requested. It is also unfortunate that unlike most Westerners who are strictly professional, Asians tend to take things personally when criticized (without permission). [*A useful tip for our friends abroad!]
Nevertheless, a good Macro Photographer (or any Photographer) should be willing and able to give constructive criticisms when asked. His or her comments or advices for improvements should be logical and also polite: Could he have gotten a better shot given the same equipment and settings? I have often see some supposedly more experienced photographers bashing the hell out of beginners, which is a very demoralizing and lowly thing to do. Even if your criticisms are good and constructive, that doesn’t give you the right to scold or look down on another person. You started as a beginner yourself, didn’t you? Of course, I have also noticed that some advanced photographers can be really nice people in real life but absolute jerks online: This might be attributed to poor command of English or online courtesy. If you are poor at these aspects, then it is definitely time to learn them, especially when online communication has become so prevalent. But as a general rule, don’t type words or sentences that you will not use when conversing face-to-face with another person. People tend to accept criticisms better when you put it nicely (regardless of your rank), a fact not applicable only to Photography.
Okay, now we always say that you should follow your own taste and style when you take your photos; this is true but don’t let your confidence and ego blind you from apparent flaws within your photos. This is especially true as you become more skillful and experienced. Being experienced doesn’t mean you become absolutely flawless; learn to accept and be grateful of good criticisms, regardless of who is criticizing. It will help you improve further.
Alright, coming back to Macro Photography, the most constructive criticisms I have received on my macro photos are mostly on light diffusion: The flash coming off my Macro Rig was still too strong despite some diffusion, resulting in a less than ideal shot (see below for Before and After shots). I have seen then been trying to improve my light diffusing system. Although I have not had any major breakthroughs, at least I know where to improve courtesy of the aforementioned criticisms.
Ops! Looks like I have gone a bit overboard with my article length this time XD Anyway, before I end, I would like to quote a simple saying from my trusted friend “The moment you think that you are great and above everyone else, that is the moment you stop improving and start sinking.” Think about it 😀
The next article will be the final one of the series, which is about Caring For Nature. Please do check out that one too!
Okay, see you again guys!
** All photos in this website are taken and owned by me. The use of any photos here is not allowed without my permission.