Comparison is the Thief of Joy!

Taken on the Greenwich Architecture Tour

My photography falls broadly into two camps: planned and unplanned.

Mostly I plan what I am going to do – I have something in my mind’s eye that I want to realise as an image or a piece of art (in a non-pretentious way of course) and I go out and shoot it. But sometime it is just luck, serendipity or too good an opportunity to pass up. Just like this picture of the Greenwich foot tunnel entrance.

I knew I wanted a shot like this, that I’d have to lie on the floor in front of the dome to get it and that if I waited long enough, someone interesting would turn up.

So since everyone these days writes a blog – I thought I would join the crowd and give you my top tips for shooting architecture.

Top of the list is a toss up between a) always have your camera with you (for the unplanned) and b) research, research research! If you really want to take a great photo then prepare – do your research and see what angles, light or mood you might want to achieve. Look at other people’s images for inspiration, visit galleries, look at books and then when you have the shot in mind, plan the route, the transport, the timings, the kit you might need. As you probably know I travel light – usually just a camera and a wide angle lens. I sometimes take a tripod and filters, but mostly it is just a camera and a lens.

Second on the list is to know your kit. And by that I mean you need to know your camera inside out and your lens like an old friend or a well worn pair of shoes. Get to know what suits your camera/lens combination and what shots you like to take. There are acres of websites devoted to the latest body, gadget, bag, lens etc. But I can honestly tell you it doesn’t make any difference to most people. It is just marketing. Why buy a 50mp camera to put your image on Facebook at 72dpi. You just threw away 49million of the pixels! All the gear in the world won’t make you a better photographer any more than better brushes made Renoir a better painter. It is all about practice. So don’t upgrade – learn to love your kit. And only if you’ve had one of your images exhibited as a billboard or published commercially in a Sunday supplement can you write in and tell me I am wrong about this one!

Taken on the Westminster to Vauxhall - Spy Trail walk
Tower of Power

Next tip: Slow down. It isn’t a race. The best authors, painters, sculptors, architects or whatever don’t try to produce 2000 things – one book, painting or sculpture might take weeks, months or years to produce. And so too a great image. From conception in the mind to the actual print in your hand (or on the wall) – it takes time so don’t rush it.

For the amateurs and enthusiasts among you, photography is supposed to be fun – so slow down and enjoy it. Find your angle, take several shots, visit and revisit the location if you can. Pay attention – look at everything and take it all in. Don’t expect to turn up, go ‘click’ and have an award winning shot. This one here of the Tower at Vauxhall was taken after staring at the building for at least 15 minutes.

There are many types of photography. Some folk enjoy documentary, travel or nature for example and that is great. For me though, it is like baking a cake – all the ingredients: imagination, light, camera craft and then it’s the final stage – putting it in the oven or more accurately the computer for post processing. The type of photography I enjoy involves post processing – the finishing touches that make it presentable to the viewer. Sometimes it needs a long time in the oven to cook; sometimes it’s just a dash of seasoning. But learning about processing to create the final image is all part of it – although I much prefer going out shooting compared with being indoors at the desk. Here’s the “before’ of the foot tunnel image. Unremarkable. But I knew I needed it for the recipe and the end result that I had in my mind’s eye – which, by the way, was inspired by a friend who is heavily into Dr. Who and has many replicas of the TARDIS.

So there you have it – those are my tips. Why not book on the City of London workshop which has just launched and see how it is done!

And if I can leave you with one further thought – do what you enjoy and don’t worry about anyone else.

Comparison is the thief of Joy!