Gary’s Ten Tips to Shoot Like a Pro
DISCLAIMER:
(Not all of the tips necessarily come from Gary but he’ll take credit for them all.)
(These are General Tips and there will always exceptions to the general.)​

Photography is made up of many different components. Those many components come together/are combined in different percentages per the photographer and the genre. But a significant component in photography across all genres is craft. As such, the more you do the better you will become.
Consequently:
1) Shoot;
2) Shoot some more; and
3) At the end of the day when you think you’re finished, Shoot Again.

4) Find, Latch Onto and/or Hire … A Mentor.
Seek someone who is highly skilled and passionate in photography, (the greater the skill the better). A Mentor will teach you the ropes, keep you focused and most importantly … kick your butt. When you do a good job, the mentor will kick your butt and when you do a crummy job your mentor will kick your butt harder. “But, Gary … Why does my butt get kicked when I do a good job?” you ask. Because … You can ALWAYS do better. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the root for the passion and the challenge, which is photography.

5) You Can Always Do Better.
There is always room for improvement. Mr. Z asked me to bring my best stuff. It dawned on me that my best stuff is probably in the libraries/archives of the LA Times, UPI and the Orange County News. While that may be true, I never cared that my stuff was packed away, far from the light of day. Why doesn’t this matter, because tomorrow I expect to capture an image which is better than I took yesterday.

6) Previsualize the image.
(Okay, ‘Previsualize’ is redundant and not a proper word, but it is something Ansel Adams came up with … I won’t correct Adams, especially on something as trivial as English.) This is important, if you shoot enough, (1 above), if you harmonize with your equipment, (8 below), previsualization is the next natural and critical step. Before I bring the viewfinder up to my eye, I have a mental picture of the final image. In my little cream cheese brain I can see the image I desire to capture, then I proceed to position the camera (composition), select the lens (perspective), adjust the settings (exposure), to reflect my mental image.

7) Shoot for the Exceptional Image.
Go big or go home. As a journalist, I was taught that the written word wasn’t any different than the photograph. They both tell the story. Lenses to the photojournalist are like adjectives to the reporter. One can shoot with a focal length close to how we see … But what’s the point? What is so remarkable about that? Or you can use focal lengths which are perspectively much different than our natural vision … “Aye, There’s the Rub” … what the writer does with adjectives, the photog does with lenses … Embellishing, Highlighting this, De-emphasizing that, drawing us into the story and finally, putting your signature on the photo and making it exceptional. (Granted, there are stories which don’t require a helluve lot of adjectives, YMMV.)

8) Harmonize with Your Equipment.
Yes, new hardware is cool. Yes, shooting with a ton of lenses is even cooler. But, (the big but), Start out small and add to your equipment slowly over time. Start with one lens and shoot the hell out of it. Understand how the lens works, what the DOF will be at f/11 or the edge sharpness at f/2. Know where the adjustments are without having to draw you eye away from the viewfinder and take a peak. After you have mastered that lens, then add another. Repeat. Same-o for the camera. Use it to the point where all your adjustments are semi-conscience, performed in the background, allowing you to focus all/most of your mental capabilities on the image in the viewfinder … or the image you want in the viewfinder. (Pour moi and my cream cheese brain, this is vitally important.)

9) Be Your Worse Critic.
Kick your own butt, (it is physically difficult but not impossible). The delete button is your friend. Being your own worst critic will not only improve your photography but also make you as a person quite negative and socially repulsive.

10) See the Light.
Look beyond the subject and look at the light. Light is nothing short of fantastic, embrace it, work with it, capture the light. To add drama to your photos shoot towards the light (period).

General Stuff (a few common rules):
Rule of Thirds. When all less fails, use the Rule of Thirds.
Fill the Frame. Of course … Fill the Frame with your subject. Shoot with the intent of not cropping in post.
Do not bisect the frame with the horizon. (Enough said.)
Get it right in the camera. There is an imaginary, thin, meandering gray line separating the photographer from the digital artist. I prefer the title of photographer, others consider themselves digital artist and others don’t give a rat’s and do what they’re gonna do without regard to a label. This topic is just one more thing to think about … How much manipulation is required to change a photograph into fictional art? How much manipulation is used because the “photog” is too lazy, too incompetent and/or too ignorant, to Get It Right in the camera? What does copious manipulation say of the photographer … Imagination … Ineptness … Unskilled … Skilled?)

Remember that all rules are situational, use them or not … per your choice. But you need to know them so you can make a choice.

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