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What I Believe About Photography

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If people call me a pro or a hack I really don’t care. Either way, clients pay for me to take pictures for them. For personal work, I create images that are both photography and art, some of which are liked, some are ignored, and some tic up an occasional nose — I do it because it feeds my soul.

I don’t care what camera anyone uses. I can get a great picture or an awful one with any brand or price point. If you’re asking me what kind of a camera I use, you’re missing the point of my photography.

My exposure settings aren’t relevant, since the sun angle, light and shadows are different every time anyone goes back to a place.

It doesn’t do much good to tell you where I took a picture so you can get the “same one.” You’ll never get a picture like mine because the seasons, wind, fog, humidity, plants, and most everything is different every time.

How expensive your camera is doesn’t really matter; my most sold picture was taken with a $300 camera. I don’t care what brand of camera you use or if you use digital or film, DSLR or mirrorless. I care what results look like. More megapixels don’t make for a better camera, but big numbers do make for great ads.

If you are going to ask a question online, check your manual and try an experiment first. Take the initiative to learn everything about your camera yourself — asking @Random45684 won’t get you there.

Before you upload to Facebook, please delete your bad shots! I won’t look through your 700 shots of Paris no matter what. Absolutely will not. I might look at the best 10 pictures from that trip, but if I see junk in your gallery, that’s the end of my looking.

Do I edit? You bet. I always fix color, brightness, white balance, and straighten. On a few pictures that show promise, I will remove distractions. Do you want to see 90 TV antennas or another photographer in this beautiful Italian harbor shot? Probably not.

I don’t add elements to my pictures unless I am creating art. I think pictures with oversized moons or the Milky Way Photoshopped into the sky look fake to the point of being insulting. In my “Imaginary Places” gallery all bets are off, everything is layered and Photoshopped. No such nonsense in my other galleries – no passing ‘shopped’ off as real.

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In my real estate work I capture the true look of properties. I don’t fix drywall, clean windows, green lawns, paint walls, or other tricks. Once I did remove a moose head from a living room wall — but that was not being sold with the house. Occasional edits include removing a doorknob that intrudes on the edge of a shot, a wrinkled bedspread, or a crooked throw rug. I adjust color balance and brightness of rooms so they look good on the internet.

It’s fun to cruise through the beautiful pictures on 500px or other sites, but looking doesn’t go far in making you a better photographer. Taking and editing thousands of pictures will make you a better photographer. Creating and sharing one great picture every day for a few months will make you a better photographer.

Knowing how to use every feature on your camera well enough to operate it in the dark will get you better pictures. Knowing all of the editing features in Lightroom will make your pictures much better. Knowing how to use Photoshop layers and adjustments on those special 0.1% of your pictures can make your best pictures sing.

For the past few years I have taken about 10,000 pictures a year — not a huge number. I base my comments on that experience and spending too many hours reading nonsense about photography. Great photography takes practice, real work, and a bit of theory — not web surfing.


I wrote this as I was putting together my 2015 retrospective and goals for 2016. I used to believe a lot of web photography conventional wisdom. I am pretty much over it.


P.S. The more you have invested in your kit, the less you will like this post.


About the author: Dennis Smith is a landscape, real estate, and corporate photographer living in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in the Blackstone Valley. You can find more of his work on his website and more of his writing on his blog. This article was also published here.

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