I recently watched a video that involved Photoshop guru Scott Kelby spending a day with Jay Maisel, a highly regarded photographer who lives in New York City. They explored the streets of Manhattan all day, cameras in hand, and Jay shared his extensive knowledge and experience the whole way through. I loved seeing such an experienced photographer talk about his methods and thought processes while out creating photos on the street. Seeing the way he interacted with people in order to get natural photographs of complete strangers was also a real treat.
There were tons of great points on improving your photography that Jay expounded on during the photo walk, but a few of them really stood out for me.
For example, he said that one of the greatest ways to improve your photography is to practice it regularly, daily if possible. This involves committing yourself to carrying a camera with you at all times. He mentioned that if the camera is with you, you’re improving your skill even if you don’t use it. How? Your awareness of your camera causes your eyes to search for interesting subjects while you’re out on the street, which helps hone a a key skill for a photographer: his or her ability to observe, anticipate, and react to what happens in an environment.
Another point I appreciated is that photographers should be more concerned with “picture quality” instead of “pixel quality.” He encouraged the use of high ISOs out on the street, even in relatively good light. Why? It keeps your shutter speed high, and gives you the depth of field and bracketing flexibility needed for capturing good frames in a highly dynamic environment like the streets of New York. Basically, it helps you “get the shot.” Sure, lower ISOs give you technically cleaner images, or better “pixel quality,” but our aim as photographers should be, once again, the “picture quality.” After all, what’s the point of a cleaner image if it’s blurry or you couldn’t nail the exposure? Jay typically shoots at ISO1600 on his Nikon D3 when out on the street (yes, having a D3 helps).
His lens of choice? The bargain-priced Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR. Does it matter to him that it’s not the sharpest, fastest, highest performing glass in Nikon’s lineup? Nope. He chose this lens for the photo walk because of its smaller size, lighter weight, and wide focal range. A good example of choosing an appropriate tool for the job.
As they roamed the streets, Jay demonstrated how highly tuned and focused his photographic eye is. He was catching moments, shapes, colors, and compositions in the environment that Kelby wasn’t even aware of. It really inspired me to get out and try exploring my own neck of the woods and looking for interesting things to photograph with these new points in mind.
So, on a day off last week and after having lunch with the wife out in the city, I started walking the neighborhood with my camera. I brought along a single lens (the 70-300), and slowly explored the neighborhood. Check out the gallery above for a sampling of what I came back with that day. Not really the best images I’ve ever taken (and WordPress degrades the quality on these unfortunately), but I had such a fulfilling time out there that I’m anxious to head out again for another photo walk and to continue developing my skills. I just wish I had more time!
In other news, I just found out that Adobe Lightroom 3 is officially out of Beta and available for download! It’s got great new features and runs much faster than before. If you’re a Lightroom user, you must check it out!