So I was just recently going through some of my older photos on Flickr, and believe me, MY EYES HURT! It really shocked me I even took these photos, and then somehow thought they were good enough to post. What was I thinking?!?
Well we do all start somewhere. Most people cannot pick up a camera for the first time and start capturing compelling content. Becoming a photographer takes work.
So let me show you what I am talking about. Here are some of the images that were still posted on my Flickr as of October 2014. Warning: These could cause pain to the eyes and possible blindness.
Just look at the beautiful colors, composition and photographic ingenuity!
Please take some time to wash out your eyes.
Now, back to business. You might ask “Jake, why did you post these in the first place?” Well that’s a great question and one that will help you understand what I am trying to get at. See, back then I had a much different mindset. The only thing I was focused on was documenting “cool” railroad equipment. I didn’t care how the image looked, what the light was like or how I could edit the photo, all I wanted was the image. This gave me something to look back on and go “wow that was cool!”
Notice a theme with these images? All of them have “unique” or “rare” equipment. The first two have heritage units, which are a huge deal in the foamer community. The next photos depicts a freight train on Cuesta Pass and the final two show vintage equipment. All of these things made me post the photo even though the photo itself was terrible. I thought this equipment was more important than the photo.
The Transition to Railroad Photography
Now you might be saying “well the equipment IS cooler than the photo” and if you are saying that, cool! You obviously have a strong passion for trains and you should keep that. This next bit of advice is for folks looking to make the transition from “equipment documenter” to “railroad photographer”.
Like I said before, we all start somewhere. I guarantee when you first start out, the reception will not be warm. You might here “This photo will never be on RailPictures” or “This, this, and this are wrong with the photo”. It happened to me and many others out there.
And this brings me to my first point: Don’t be defensive.
It is easy to say “this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about” or “screw him, he’s just a terrible person”, but by doing that, you potentially cut yourself off from quality advice. I’ll tell you a story from when I was just starting out. I remember Steven Welch telling me “you need to learn the railroad” and “your photos are horrible”. For awhile I was defensive and arrogant. I thought, no way are my photos that bad and I certainly know the railroad. Luckily, I eventually came around to listening to him. He ended up teaching me the basics on composition, lighting and the railroad. By listening to him (and others of course) I was able to vastly improve my photography. So don’t get mad, start listening!
Next you need to: Want to learn.
Photography is like anything else. If you want to succeed, you have to want to learn. This will require time, energy and resources ($$), but can be worth it in the long run if you truly want to improve your photography.
What To Do Right Now
1. Go watch videos about photography. Go to youtube and watch a ton of free videos or buy a program done by a professional (I recommend CreativeLive).
2. Find photographers you like and view their work on a regular basis. Constantly view photos you like and that style can slowly come to your work.
3. View photos that are not of trains. To be great at railroad photography, it helps to know the basics of other kinds of photography (landscape, environmental portraits, photojournalistic approach).
4. Then ask yourself “what elements of this photo do I like or dislike”. Do your own critique. Figure out what you like, then go find a way to capture it. To this this day, I still view at least 100 photos a day.
Now there is a lot more that goes in to becoming a good photographer and I’m sure I’ll touch on those in future tech tips. But the last point I wanted to make was about keeping a quality portfolio.
Like I showed you above, there are a lot of images on my Flickr that should be in the trash. This is a good reminder that you need to occasionally go back through your portfolio and delete the “trash”. Deleting photos can sometimes improve your portfolio as much as adding photos. So if you’ve been shooting for awhile, go back through and take a look. Don’t end up like me!
What do you think? Do you edit your portfolio often? If you find some laughable throwbacks share them with me. I’d love to see them!
Comments, questions, concerns? Leave a comment or hit “Contact Jake“! I love to hear from you guys.