Here's what you do....... 1. find a book on the subject of classical or dynamic composition. Study it well. 2. Read some pamphlets on basic photography just to get a feel about the science and mechanics of photography. Study a bit about the camera's aperture, exposure and focus. 3. Read anything that deals with light. Studio lighting, available light, sunset and silhouette light, paying close attention to the highlights and shadows, and learn how to use the the soft lighting under a shading tree or overcast area. Even dull cloudy weather can provide an even gentle lighting of a person. Silverware or glassware looks best in shaded light, but you might have to overdevelop your negative a wee bit, to highten the contrast of the scene or your subject matter. Or....use a harder contrast paper, if you are developing your own black and white prints. 4. Do some intensive research on Art. Study all styles of photography. Study the classical paintings. Observe composition, direction of light source, subject matter and perspective. Study in particular the photography of W. Eugene Smith and the paintings of Vermeer and Rembrandt. Observe closely the composition, lighting and the play of light and shadow. Study the Artists point of observation. (Their choice in point of view.) Find any book on classical sculpture. Observe always the arrangement of hands on the sculptured work. Very important! Observe how angle of head to body affects the moods. Study body language. 5. Study people. Watch their expressions and their moods. Observe all the body language that is taking place in real time. Occasionally follow the movement of hands on people who tend to use their hands together with their speaking. Now and then, try to follow a person's mood as if you were standing in their shoes. At this stage after doing the above, you can start to practice "shooting". When you see something that "touches" you, say "click" in your mind as if you were a camera, while holding one eye shut. Holding one eye shut is important because the scene will change to two dimensions, exactly how it will appear on the surface of the negative. When you finally hold a camera in your hands to photograph, it is important that you see what your camera will see. Observe with one eye, the subject matter that you intend to photograph. Seeing in three dimensions can fool you because you are then seeing the world selectively. When you are looking at a person close up, you never really pay attention to the background. The camera looks at everything all the time. 6. If you are in a hurry, developing and printing your own negatives and prints might be too time consuming,... if you are in a hurry to get started. Find a reasonal photo lab and have them process your work for you. Of course it won't hurt to enroll in a photography course to learn the fundamentals. When you get your pictures from the lab, go through them and try to select one of two prints to enlarge to a size of 24X30 cm. Do this as often as you can with every roll of film. It is necessary that you force yourself to choose only one or two prints. You will learn as you go along to choose the best photograph. Often it is not how good you are at photographing, but it is crucially important that you know how to choose the best print, and of course...in your own taste. The very best of your own taste. The best print is usually the one that "turns you on", that excites you, that "speaks to you",...letting you feel once again the incident you were following with your heart and mind. If a pictures gives you goose bumps or "touches" you, then you know that the photograph is very much a part of yourself, a reflection of your own private personal feelings. After you have gathered several such prints, in black & white or in color, find a place to exhibit them. After your first exhibition, you are launched, so to speak, and you will be on your way to making a name for yourself. Good luck! and always be true to yourself.
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Carl Toothman rewritten March 18, 2002 Halmstad, Sweden