Getting better at Photography #1: Pioneers of photography

This week we start a series of posts based on simple things you can do to become a better photographer. Warning: some of the suggestions here can be extremely challenging, and can take you down a notch in regards to how you think about your photography.

First and foremost, reading an article such as this should be considered the first step to becoming a better photographer.  Creating art from the world around us using light has been around since Mo-ti was attributed with using a pinhole camera in 400BC.  Whether you are a new camera owner, or have been shooting since the dawn of time, chances are that someone has tried to take or has taken a similar image to the one you are trying to capture at any given moment. Does this mean that it has all been done before, and you should not bother? Absolutely not, it just means that others before you have likely made the mistakes and learned things that can benefit you in your journey along the road to learning or getting better at photography, and most importantly, finding your style.

I am a huge advocate for taking the time to look at photographs, checking out the work of the pioneers in photography is something you can do a little at a time with a simple google search on the history of photography.

This is not to say you should copy the works of the pioneers, but rather look at what they have done and how they did it. From a technical standpoint, look at where the light is coming from in an image, was a strobe used? Was natural light used? From an artistic standpoint, how is the image composed? Why do you think the artist did what he did? Evaluate the image from what you would do in the same situation, and what you could do if you were going to recreate the image.  Pay attention to the light; look at how it was used and pay close attention to what is and is not lit. Look at abstract work, look at journalistic work. Learn about how the artists built a body of work and how the images in a portfolio or collection work together as a collection.

Here is a list of some of the artists who have inspired me and inspired some of my bodies of work. Take a look, maybe they will inspire you too.

Lewis Hine documented Child Labor

Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. His style of “street photography” using small format cameras still influences photojournalists to this day.

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Sally Mann

Mathew Brady: Civil War Photographer

Alfred Stieglitz

Ansel Adams: BBC Master Photographer Series