Guest Post: Photography Skills – By Anna Nelson

The Mastery of Skill you all know today had a slightly different beginning.  Originally, Jonathan had envisioned a database of sorts, a place where people could go to learn about all aspects of life and the skills needed to live a fulfilled life. Everything from the proper way to tie your shoes, to how to cook with cast iron, to how to fly a plane.  His plan was to ask “subject matter experts” to contribute to these articles.  Slowly, that original idea has evolved into the MoS of today, in addition to learning about life skills, it is also a place to find direction and inspiration, a community focused on world improvement through self improvement.

Why am I bringing this all up?  Well, months ago, Jonathan asked me to write an article on photography, to use on the website.  I started it.  Stopped it.  And I just couldn’t wrap my head around how to write a “Photography 101” article.

There is a great deal that goes into photography; from cameras, composition, the exposure triangle, post editing, etc., all of the technical and creative aspects of photography.  Yet at the same time it is very simple, a photograph is no more than a record of light captured in a single moment in time.  The idea of condensing all of that, essentially what I have been studying and practicing for over 20 years was daunting.

But, as I have watched MoS grown and change, the idea of writing an article on photography seemed less overwhelming and I decided to give it a go.  Focusing on three aspects of photography that can be applied to any aspect in life, not just when you have a camera in hand.  So, without further ado:

3 Simple Steps to Taking Better Photos (and Leading a Better Life)

1.  Just because you are in the same place and time does not mean you will view things the same way as others.  Individuals will pick out details differently, different focal points create different views.

Case in point.  How many times have you seen photos of the cherry trees in bloom in DC.  Have you ever seen it like this?  With hundreds of photographers all in the same area, each one was focused on something different.  You might see similar images, but you won’t see any exactly the same.

How many times does this happen in life?  Witnesses to a crime may report the sequence of events or describe the key players differently.  During an argument, how likely is it that both parties will remember what was said exactly the same?

Moral: Just because someone else experiences the same event you do does not mean they will remember it the same way.

2) An integral part of taking photos, for me, is looking for light.  Where is it coming from?  What color is it?  Do I need to augment it?  How does it change as time passes?









Looking for light is an actual act when taking a photo, but it can also be a metaphor for life.  For countless religious and philosophical arguments, light = good; so where is the good in your life?  Who or what illuminates a way for you or guides you?  Are you looking for it?  Are you a source of light for someone else?

Moral: Look for the light.

3) The last thing I would encourage you to do is to change your perspective.  This ties in a little with number 1, but is it’s own category.  Your perspective will influence the way you see (and understand) something.  It is also something you can take an active role in and change.

How?  Ask yourself, can you see the big picture?  Can you see the details?  For an image, how does changing your perspective change the image?  Does it change the mood?  Does it change the story being told, the context?

Does changing your perspective give you a better understanding of a situation? Does it help you understand what motivates someone else?

Moral: Changing your perspective may lead to greater understanding.

There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions.

As a photographer, these are just some of the things that I have trained my eye to see and look for when I go to take a picture.  The longer I pursue photography, the more I find that I’m always looking at the world as if I’m about to take a photo.  When enjoying a view, I know that no one else will see it quite the way I do.  When driving in the evening I see the way the light changes and how that affects the colors of the landscape.  And, when I see in general, I’m looking at both the big picture as well as the little details that compose it.

As an adult these are things I strive to keep in mind as I navigate life.  When I am a part of something I realize it affects me differently than others sharing the same experience.  Striving to see the good in the world and allowing myself to follow after it is difficult, but worth it.  And, knowing when to see the big picture versus focusing on details (or vise versa) is an essential life skill to have.

By no means am I perfect at seeing the world, or living life like this all the time.  I doubt anyone is, but when I do, I make my life, and the lives of those I influence, a little better.


    • Jon Nelson

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