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Thread: In a slump. how do I get to the next level?

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    Ausphotography Regular bcys1961's Avatar
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    In a slump. how do I get to the next level?

    I'm not sure where to put this post so thought under "General Help" would be good , as it is a very general post.

    At the start of the year I decided to elevate my interest in photography from one of "holiday snapper" with a point and shoot to a more serious hobby.

    Step 1: Buy a better camera and start learning.

    I have had my OMD for 9 months now and have learnt a great deal through reading books, magazines and websites ( like this one) . I try to get out and practice every week. I feel I have a good understanding of the basic technical aspects like shutter speed, f-stop and ISO what they are and what happens when you change them. I'm off Auto mode and shooting mainly in Aperture mode . I have been entering the weekly competitions and been lucky enough to win a few.

    What's my next step?

    I wonder what I should do next? I feel you can only read so many books on aperture/ISO and shutter speed, and the last month or so I have been feeling in a bit of a slump. How does one get to the "Next Level". Looking at some of the wonderful landscapes and seascapes that recently won or placed highly in the competitions (There are a few on this site whose photos make me go WOW! every time they post) I wonder if I will ever get there.

    I'm interested to hear from others who have been on this journey as to what they did to get over the hump.

    Some thoughts I have had include:

    1. Put more photos up for critique , and do more critiquing. ( I can do that this week but should do it more consistently rather than in small bursts when I have time.)

    2. Join a camera club. I'm not in one , never been to one , and am interested to hear if others felt that improved their photography. ( I'm in Sydney North so if you know a good one let me know.)

    3. Other books, magazines or websites beyond the basic technical skills. Happy to hear of any recommendations.

    Any other advice or tips are welcomed. Thanks in advance.
    The name is Brad ......

    OMD EM-1, OMD EM-5MkII, m.Zuiko 12-40mm Pro f2.8, m.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 Pro , m.Zuiko 60mm f2.8 Macro, m.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 , Lee Filters




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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    I think this very recognition of your status quo will be a major help in itself.

    All that you suggest is reasonable. Take them up. Just one thing to be aware of is that you don't have to
    think you're falling behind if you don't feel you're progressing. Maybe it's just time for reflection.

    Having come to grips with (some of) the technicalities of photography (you never really learn everything, I reckon)
    ask yourself some other questions, like composition, variation in subject matter (different genres, but I don't like the word),
    and...

    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Ausphotography Regular bobt's Avatar
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    A very worthwhile thread this one, and you're probably not the only one who's been down this road. I think we all have slumps when we lose direction.

    Firstly, having people critique your work is one of the most useful ways of improving. You needn't agree with what they say, but hearing the views of others is often helpful. I joined a "real world" club partly for that reason but partly to engage with other photographers in the flesh, so to speak. There are benefits from being in both sorts of club.

    Posting your photos here is an excellent way of getting ideas and critiques, and there will always be plenty of opinions to ponder.

    I would say that the other great way of learning and getting ideas is to surf the web. Looking at the images of other people gives you ideas and sparks more ideas.

    Bear in mind that these days many of the great images you see are the result of good photography coupled with good post processing, so don't assume that everyone is a great photographer - they may also be very good with Photoshop! That leads to the other aspect of photography which is post processing. Hone your skills in this area as well and you stand a better chance of equaling what you see.

    Apart from those hints, I figure you're answered your own question really. Keep looking at photos everywhere, and remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Find photos you like and see if you can do something similar. At some point you may find one particular type of photography appeals more than others, in which case you can specialise.

    Learning and understanding the various settings on your camera is a must, and experimentation is an excellent way to master those controls. Basically, take lots of photos, see what work and what doesn't - and go from there!

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    Always learning Ionica's Avatar
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    I have heard some good things about the Mosman Camera Club from some members of the local camera club ( no experience of it myself, and am not a Camera Club member ).
    If you are interested, their site is http://www.mosmancameraclub.org.au/
    Last edited by Ionica; 02-09-2014 at 2:36pm.
    Constructive critique of my photos is welcome and appreciated.


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    Quote Originally Posted by ameerat42 View Post
    Just one thing to be aware of is that you don't have to
    think you're falling behind if you don't feel you're progressing. Maybe it's just time for reflection.
    Thanks Am. Very true!

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobt View Post
    Firstly, having people critique your work is one of the most useful ways of improving. You needn't agree with what they say, but hearing the views of others is often helpful. Posting your photos here is an excellent way of getting ideas and critiques, and there will always be plenty of opinions to ponder.


    Bear in mind that these days many of the great images you see are the result of good photography coupled with good post processing, so don't assume that everyone is a great photographer - they may also be very good with Photoshop! That leads to the other aspect of photography which is post processing. Hone your skills in this area as well and you stand a better chance of equaling what you see.
    Thanks Bob. I've posted a few now for CC.
    Yes I was surprised to read the recent Seascape winner was a composite. I'm not saying it is wrong , as if it is in the rules it is OK , but to me it not quite the same thing as a real photo . But I think we went down the old photo vs. photo manipulation debate in a previous thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ionica View Post
    I have heard some good things about the Mosman Camera Club from some members of the local camera club ( no experience of it myself, and am not a Camera Club member ).
    If you are interested, their site is http://www.mosmancameraclub.org.au/
    Thanks Ionica - yes they were on my list . I think I will try a few visits and see what it is like . The other on my list was the Norths Photographic Society. ( http://nslps.org.au/ ) Might visit them as well.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    One way out of a slump is to get out of your comfort zone. Pick a genre you have not really had an interest in, study up on it a bit and set yourself a goal of achieving a great photo in that genre. Go out and achieve it. Nothing like going to the local park and trying to get some good bird-in-flight shots..Good as in well taken, well exposed, well focused, good composition, interesting subject etc.

    Camera clubs can be good, but I find I tend to take my best photos when I have set my own personal goals and work alone to achieve them. In a group, we as photographers tend to produce group shots.. as in.. all the same or similar. I find alone, I am not influenced by someone else's viewpoint, composition thoughts etc and I have to work and achieve what I (capital) want.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

    Constructive Critique of my photographs is always appreciated
    Nikon, etc!

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    So far, it seems, you focused on technique. Perhaps now is the time to move into the next areas: subject and form. Experiment with angles, look for surprising details, learn to read a scene. Composition and light are keywords here.

    Just pick a topic (preferably something abstract like "decay", "loneliness" or "work") and think about how you would go to visualize that topic. Go out and shoot. Than post here to get critique, not just on the technical part of the image but more on the contents (composition, light, editorial storytelling, whatever). In short: it's time to get creative!

    Camera clubs on one hand can be good for this step, but OTOH may be too restrictive - they may or may not provide the challenges you need in this part of your journey. If you look for one, make sure they offer the type of challenges that fit your goal. A camera-club that just organizes outings into nature or cities probably won't.
    Last edited by jev; 02-09-2014 at 7:39pm.
    Ciao, Joost

    All feedback is highly appreciated!

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    As others have said, I'd be getting out of my comfort zone. Get up at ridiculous hours, go travelling for a bit to find subject matter, or, maybe you want to go somewhere you've been before and challenge yourself for a new perspective. Work on composition, play with lighting, flash setting...maybe buy a new flash? There's always something out there, it's just a matter of what YOU want to do and what interests YOU.
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    I can only echo what has already been said. But another tack is to find someone else that can Mentor you, someone that you trust will tell you the truth (how they see it) and don't get upset when they tell you things you don't want to hear, not saying you will.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    Camera clubs can be good, but I find I tend to take my best photos when I have set my own personal goals and work alone to achieve them. In a group, we as photographers tend to produce group shots.. as in.. all the same or similar. I find alone, I am not influenced by someone else's viewpoint, composition thoughts etc and I have to work and achieve what I (capital) want.
    Thanks Rick , I know what you mean . I also like wandering with freedom to do what I feel like , but may find it good to be in a group for a while , particularly if most of the others are better than me and happy to share .

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    Quote Originally Posted by enVision View Post
    Get up at ridiculous hours, go travelling for a bit to find subject matter
    As someone who likes their sleep-ins , twelve months ago if you had told me I would be getting up before dawn , to get somewhere by sunrise , I would have laughed in your face! My wife is still amazed. This photography bug makes one do strange things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jon View Post
    I can only echo what has already been said. But another tack is to find someone else that can Mentor you, someone that you trust will tell you the truth (how they see it) and don't get upset when they tell you things you don't want to hear, not saying you will.
    Thanks Jon , yes that is one thing I thought might be good about joining a club. Your critique on this forum is excellent BTW.

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Just be aware that whilst going with a group can be a wonderful learning experience, that in doing so you do not just become a photographer who copies what others in the group are doing. Yes you can learn new things, but you can also be restricted from creative freedom by adhering to the group concepts and ideas.

    Here is another way that I have recommended a few times now. Go into your bathroom with your camera. Shut the door. Now you have to take 50 photos before you can leave the bathroom..BUT no two photos can be the same. Everyone starts off taking photos of the shower, the sink etc, but then after about 10 photos you have to start to look at things differently. You look at the bristles on the hairbrush, the shower head holes, down the sinkhole etc. In other words, to get 50 unique photos in your own bathroom you have to start seeing things that are in front of you every day, but seeing them in a different way. You will be amazed at what you learn to 'see'.. and how doing this can improve your photographer cause you learn to LOOK at things in a different way.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    We all begin and start to learn. And then we get to a stage where we think we should be better than what we think our photos are, because we now know stuff and should suddenly be doing it better. Maybe those photos are better than what we think they are because we now know about photography and suddenly we become our harshest critic. I think this is a common stage in most photographers journey.
    It's okay for some to say get outside of your comfort zone, though I wonder what's the point if you still end up not being happy with the results.. Chose some genres you're interested in and get more in depth with them. I like taking photos of birds. I know my (and gears) limitations. So I work with what I have.
    Expectations have a lot to do with things also. Keep expectations low and you'll probably surpass them. If you expect great things, you'll generally be disappointed. It takes time to be great.
    Just my 5 cents worth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bcys1961 View Post
    ...., but may find it good to be in a group for a while , particularly if most of the others are better than me and happy to share .
    You (and they) may think they're better than you, but they are only more experienced than you, and thus you may learn from them.
    "Enjoy what you can do rather than being frustrated at what you can't." bobt
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    50 photos in my bathroom. Hmm... now some of those photos could be hacked and end up causing a nude scandal on the internet!

    Thanks Mark . "Keep expectations low and you'll probably surpass them" . Didn't Homer Simpson say that . I have high expectations and I'm impatient. A frustrating combination.
    Last edited by bcys1961; 02-09-2014 at 9:21pm.

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    I like Ricks idea of 50 photos in the bathroom, or any room for that matter. It would be a little harder than one would expect, especially when they all have to be different. As Rick has said, it would make you think about things very differently. I might have to give that a go. Lucky for me, my bathroom mirror is quite high up, so less chance of me, or other parts of me getting into the photos and ruining them (or starting a scandal!! )

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    We could start a 52 Bathroom Challenge!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark L View Post
    It's okay for some to say get outside of your comfort zone, though I wonder what's the point if you still end up not being happy with the results..
    As we say here: the marbles aren't important, it's the game that counts. The journey (Rick's worldfamous 50-photochallenge for example) is a good start to learn seeing things in a different light (pun intended). Chances are you won't grow as a photographer when sticking to what you like, to what you know you are good at.

    There is no "wrong" here, no wrong equipment (photographing birds using your phone's camera *is* possible when thinking out of the box!), no wrong results. There's just the road ahead...
    Last edited by jev; 02-09-2014 at 10:13pm.

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    Ausphotography Regular Brian500au's Avatar
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    I have been in your position. I think when you have high expectations it is very difficult when you compare your own work with some of the great photographers both here and on other forums.

    This is what I do every now and again when I am in a slump - I go through my own work on my own website and look at them - I normally come to the conclusion some of them are not bad and I am just being a little too hard on myself - especially when I see the improvement over the years.

    Secondly I start to look at other genres I have not really appreciated before, and then go and out and challenge myself. You would be surprised just how much work goes into a simple landscape or bird shot.

    I have found by mixing it up I can generate enough self interest and at the same time improve my overall understanding of photography - ie how to use different focusing techniques etc.
    www.kjbphotography.com.au

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    I think that this topic is something we have all had some learning from. Some of what Rick and Bob have written was scripture. Brilliant!

    I met a guy a few days ago who said he had flown from Sydney to Los Angeles, to new York and onto London, to Abu Dhabi and back to Sydney. He was gloating about having traveled right around the world. While everyone else (about 4 of us) were going "that's cool" and "good idea"; I was thinking (to myself) "what?".
    When travelling we want to experience a destination. Experience new cultures, see sights and try the local cuisine.

    The same is with visual imaging. It is about the journey, the experiences not only the stamp in our passports.
    Time and experience make us all better (unless you ask my wife, she thinks I am going mad).

    I just had a look at some of the images you have posted up. I like what your doing, I really do.


    "you gotta keep on, keeeping on", Joe Dirt

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