Tag Archives: Photography tips

Upcoming photography workshops

Three photography workshops in the next two months.

First up is a Mobile Photography Workshop in the Gallery of Photography, Dublin on May 18th.

You can book a place here.

The last Street Photography workshop in Cork was nearly called off due to the bad weather, but we braved the torrential rain to get some good photographs and along the way we had great craic. The weather should be better on June 15th. Fingers crossed.

You can book a place here.

Then on June 29th I will be back in Dublin for another Mobile Photography Workshop. This coincides with one of the most colourful days in the year when the annual Pride Parade makes it way through the streets of Dublin. Last year it was a brilliant opportunity to hit the streets and make photos.

Check out my Instagram Story from last year.

You can book a place here.

Read more about the workshops here.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

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Protected: How can I take a great photo? Part 2

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How to make your photography fun

How can you say you love photography if it is 99% frustration? Do you even enjoy it?

These were some of the questions put to me after my last blog post. Not questions which got me thinking or made me feel anxious about how to answer.

No, I fully know why I continue to shoot and why I truly love everything to do with photography. But, how can you make photography fun? Well…

Toyko, 2017

SEE IT AS FUN

I do it because there are few things in life which satisfy my soul like photography. When I get in the zone, when I am on the street and lost in the moment, it electrifies me. I come alive and whatever worries or problems I may be carrying lighten in load.

It is exhilarating. It is life-affirming. It is fun. And fun is something I believe is so neglected in photography. I believe fun is something which is so neglected in adult life. Ask an adult what they do for fun and you will embarrass them. The word fun seems to become loaded when we pass from childhood. Fun seems like something illicit; something we ought to be ashamed of. Ask a child what they do for fun and watch how excited they get when they tell you. If you have a hobby, you should have that childlike excitement and passion for it. If not, abandon it.

Cork, 2015

YOU ARE MAKING MEMORIES

In August of last year, I gave a talk at at Zafigo X travel conference about photography and how it is all about moments, all about creating memories. Photographs are visual entries in your diary which become powerful in their capacity to catapult you back in time.

When I open up iPhoto (I use it to categorise events) and look through old images, it can launch me back to when and where I was and land me softly in the emotion of that moment. It is magical. It becomes something beautiful when I do it with my two kids. The dynamic of they discovering how they were when they were little babies or toddlers and my reminiscing of days that are now long gone is a gift that just gives and gives.

My little daughter and her grandfather

Sumi-Anna aged two reading Voltaire

YOU CREATE, YOU EXPRESS YOURSELF

I need to create. Why? Because it puts me on a path of discovery and understanding. Photography is about picking up a camera, pointing it at something or someone because your instinct tells you you need to capture that instant; to claim it and keep it for later examination. This in turn may lead to later learning and with some luck lead to subsequent experimentation. When I look back now at what I was shooting in and around 2012/2103, I see I was much more experimental. I shot much more blur; particularly on the iPhone. Why? Because of the limitations of the device. It performed poorly in low light, had no image stabilisation and working my way through this I discovered that these limitations allowed me to create beautiful blur imagery. Funny how these days I sometimes feel I have lost that freedom to create. 

Shot on iPhone 4. 2012

Photographic Punctuation

CONFORM TO ROUTINE

Conform to routine and routine will conform. I am a very ill-disciplined person. My life’s maxim is to not do today what you can do tomorrow, because tomorrow you might not need to do it. I leave things go forever and ever, discovering new excuses to put things off with graceful ease. I have wasted so much time. Photography changed things for me. Flickr found me wanting to share my photography on a regular basis. This meant I had to photograph on a regular basis. I began on Flickr in 2007. By 2009 I was posting photographs there on an almost daily basis. By 2012, I was posting to two accounts almost every day.

I committed to photography. I conformed to the routine and the routine conformed. This calms and soothes my soul. It gives me discipline. There is not a day goes by that I do not spend time taking/making photographs, looking at those of others, reading about photography, or hatching plans for my photography. It has been the most beautiful learning experience and has been so rewarding for me. I can say I have become a better person because of photography, because of the commitment to it. 

Tokyo, 2015

IT IS THE FRIENDSHIPS YOU MAKE

Want to become a better photographer? Here’s how. Spend time with other photographers. You have to. You need to spend time with like-minded people who get you. People who won’t find it strange or rude that you have the concentration powers of a puppy dog when you are walking down a street with them. Spend time with people who inspire you, people who push you to experiment, push you to achieve. People you can learn from. When I look back at the past few years, I see I have been so lucky in this respect. I have met some wonderfully creative people; wonderfully kind people. People whose work can stop me in my tracks and make me want to improve; to get to their level. And those few you might meet along the way who are insecure, jealous and negative. Cut them loose. There is truth in the saying to surround yourself with positive people. 

Copenhagen, 2014

IT IS THE STRANGERS YOU GET TO KNOW

But they are all just photographs of strangers. People you do not know. What is it about random people that interests you? This is what a friend asked me once about my photography. Ya, I don’t know them, but there is something in every one of them that I recognise. Something that resonates with me. I may not be able to immediately (or ever) say what exactly it is, but I photograph them because something attracts my attention to them. It can be a look, a gesture, a posture. It can be because they looked at me. It can be because I want to look at them. They are characters in my story. I can construct or deconstruct their reality to suit my perception; to build my interpretation. 

Waiting for hair to grow. Hanoi, 2012

And then there are those strangers who I get to know a little. Those who I stop and ask if I can take their photograph. Those who I continue to ask questions as I shoot them. Those who I tell little things about myself as I try to get them to reveal who they are. I love these connections. This opportunity to get to know people a little. It can be amazing what they tell you, and it can be beautiful what their portraits can reveal. 

We all want to be seen; we all want to be heard. Photography can allow this.  

Bangkok, 2017

IT GIVES VALIDATION TO WHAT YOU DO

I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a buzz from winning competitions or being selected for big global ad campaigns. The first time I won a competition (Mira Mobile Prize) I cried. It was a dream of mine to win a competition and truthfully I never believed I would. When it came, I was overwhelmed and felt so relieved. It was a form of validation. Any artistic pursuit is framed in doubt. We can never be sure if it is right; if it is worth anything. Competitions provide some validation. But you know, it is bullshit too. Photography should not be a competitive pursuit.

Winning photo: IPPA 2017

IT IS ALL ABOUT LEARNING

What is life about if it is not about learning? It never stops. There is nothing which enriches life more than learning. Granted I could spend my time learning more about the technical aspect of photography or learning about photography gear, but that does not excite me. What does excite me is that with every photograph I take, I learn. Learn about myself, learn about life. See mistakes and ya, get frustrated. But that frustration is positive. It is what drives me to learn and improve. 

London, 2015

STORIES; SO MANY STORIES

So many. Stories that are immediately evident and others that slowly reveal themselves. 

Delhi, 2016 (Nikon D7000)

IT DRIVES YOU ON

I have often talked about how viewing the photographs of my friends has inspired me and pushed me forward in wanting to improve in my own photography. It is so true. Seeing friends posts photos on a regular basis keeps me wanting to do the same. Seeing them shoot something new excites me to get back out and get shooting. I try to spend some time each week looking through photo books of established, renowned photographers. This is a different type of inspiration because these are not photographers I get to engage with. Their work is polished and presented as the finished article. Yet, there is so much to learn as you explore the connections in the photographs they showcase in a coherent and cohesive presentation in book form. 

Mumbai, 2016

YOU DISCOVER HOW TO SEE

What is photography about for me? It is trying to see what can be seen and how to see it.

As Dorothea Lange said: The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. On every photo walk I have been on, one thing always strikes me. While we all walk the same route and can see the same things, how we observe and interpret them can be so different. It is what makes photography exciting, it is what gives it endless possibilities. When you are working with fractions of seconds when the shutter opens and closes, you are also working with slight shifts in centimetres, angles and aspects which can dramatically alter images.

Photography doesn’t allow me to see, it pushes me to see; to construct, deconstruct and create. It elevates beyond seeing. It allows me to begin to understand. To be part of my surroundings and to be an external observer of it too. 

Tokyo, 2017

So is it really 99% frustration?

Of course it is not. It can feel like that at times, for sure. But it definitely isn’t. It is what I do for fun. And whenever I experience that ongoing frustration, I keep coming back to why I photograph. And the answer is always the same. I do it for fun. I do it for me. 

Bali, 2017

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography, iPhone, iPhone photography, photograph posts, Street Photography, Travel Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Photography is 99% frustration

Photography is 99% frustration.

99% frustration. So often I arrive at this spot and ask myself why do I do this. I never seem to be satisfied with what I shoot. I am constantly looking at the work of others and thinking mine is pale and lacking in comparison. I scour my photos and rarely find what I thought I had shot, or what I want to capture. Flaws surface to overshadow and silence elements I had thought were strong.

And this is only after the act. The real frustration is out shooting.

Street photography has to got to be the most frustrating of photography genres. You can control nothing. You see it, it’s too late. You can’t stop people. You can’t ask them to move back, to make that gesture again, to not smile. You can’t will the gods to part those clouds to let that light shine in. You become manic, like a lunatic trying to locate where that noise is coming from in the dead of night. You shoot more. You move, thinking the action will be around the next corner. As you’re moving on you look back and see it happening – see that moment you had imagined appear in the very spot you have just left. But you have distanced yourself from it. You think, will I go back? You find yourself stopped in the middle of the footpath. Pedestrians frustrated as they navigate around you. You’re looking up the street, down the street, all the time muttering expletives under your breath – you hope – under your breath. You realise by people’s quizzical looks that these expletives are escaping and are audible. You are talking to yourself out loud. Next you realise the looks you’re getting from the people sidestepping to avoid you would actually make good shots. You raise the camera, but soon realise it is pointless. That moment has also passed you by. Oh, fuck it! What’s the point. You find a doorstep to sit on and bemoan your lot and then notice an interesting crack in the concrete which gets your attention and you delight in this for a moment.

Then images of photographs you have seen, photographs you admire and aspire to get start to populate your thoughts and the frustration returns. Why can’t you get shots like that? How can others find and see and construct those shots? Why does it seem so easy for them and so damn hard for you?

You stop to do the numbers and you realise that almost everything you shoot is shit. On a given day you can shoot hundreds of images. At best they are mediocre. The subsequent swipe through can be swift. The flaws reveal themselves loudly. It’s crazy to calculate but when you are dealing in what can be a 1/250 of a second and you notice that you missed the shot, and had you reacted more quickly you might have gotten it – what are you estimating? – another 1/250 of a second? Is it really that narrow? Really just fractions of a second? Add those fractions up and what do you get? Frustration, that’s what. Disappointment.

But you persevere. That old maxim – leave your photos marinate – comes to mind, and you begin to put faith, or hope, in it. Ya, better to leave them be and see what difference time can make. But you cannot resist it. They are burning and smouldering on your Camera Roll. You give in and begin to work on some images. Editing is the cure-all, no?  How about converting this shot to black and white? Perhaps then the flaws won’t be as loud. What if you add a filter? Maybe a crop, a flip? Never! No matter how bad things get don’t crop; never flip. Except for the times you do. Oh, how you regret those!

Ya, you know what is coming next. Sharing. Social media. Instagram! That beast that must be fed. You need that dopamine hit. And you need it daily. Don’t post for a few days and you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. But how to choose? You find yourself second guessing your followers; hoping that this shot you will post will be one they will flock to and shower you with faves and comments. You post it and you are like a parent watching a child walk to school for the first time alone. What if no-one likes it? You wait? Those dreaded moments just after you have posted. You’re thinking – will I delete it? I shouldn’t have posted that. What was I thinking? But then the likes trickle in and the reward system cycle calms you with a warm feeling of knowing that your photo may be OK. Maybe it can walk to school by itself. How long does this feeling last? Probably until you begin to scroll through the photos of others’. Then you land on the images of people you admire and you start to compare. Start to become self-critical.

The more I think of all that is associated with photography, the more I wonder why I actually do it. At every stage you are going to encounter frustration, and probably none more than the so-called photography help articles. You know the ones: Ten top tips to up your Instagram game. The top twenty mistakes you keep making and how to stop them. How to teach literally anyone to take amazing, high quality photos.

Well, here’s the thing. You read all these, particularly the Instagram ones. You may not be not much of a gear head, but you are like everyone else. You would love to have a K after the number of Instagram followers you have. How do you get it? What’s the secret? There is none. It is a lottery. OK, you guess if you are going to have selfies showing your killer cleavage, or put your cute cat in a stream of sunset shots you might find favour with the algorithm and be pushed up and out on Instagram’s Explore page. But if you are trying to showcase quality images on Instagram and build an audience, you better have patience. Want a killer Instagram tip? Here’s one. Write out all your tags. You know those ones you spend so damn long on for every Instagram post hoping the hub will feature your shot. Ya, those. Now go to Settings, Keyboard, Text Replacement, +, and paste in those tags to Phrase. Underneath in Shortcut write, for example, tagsbnw. Now the next time you are writing your tags for an Instagram post, just type tagsbnw and click space. Hey Presto! There are your 30 tags all there. Done in a second.

99% frustration. But what about that other 1%?

There is of course that remaining 1% when things fall into place; when you hit the sweet spot and slide into auto-pilot and you get that gift that gives and gives and gives. But that is a photography post for another day. For now, let’s acknowledge the frustration, indulge in the constant challenge. You know, like most things in life, if it was easy, if there was no torment or obstacle, you would probably lose interest. Don’t! It’s all about the next photo.

Kiss the future…

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Brendan Ó Sé. Brendan Ó Sé photography, Street Photography Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , |