Virtually every family has access to a camera and judging by the number which I see in use at events and tourist resorts, it seems that nobody goes anywhere these days without feeling the need to record everything in sight.
For many people this is where photography begins and ends, as a simple recording medium. But there is so much more which can be done and with the advent of digital cameras itís easier than ever to get great shots.
It is my belief that photography was the first really ďmagicĒ technology to take the world by storm well over one hundred and fifty years ago and for this reason we still think, even to this day, that there is something quite uniquely complicated about cameras and photography.
On the photography courses which I run out of my studio in Camden Town London, I do get quite a broad cross section of society and many of them are very professional people. However even lawyers, doctors or accountants seem to hit a brick wall when it comes to understanding photography.
The modern digital camera works in exactly the same way as the first cameras back in Victorian times, the only thing which has altered is the way that the image is saved. The process of exposing the image has remained virtually the same and when this is explained it all falls into place very quickly.
But even if you are not bothered about the technical side of things, and just leave your camera on one of the auto exposure modes, there are a few very simple mistakes which most amateurs make when composing a photograph.
The main one being that they do not change the way that they look at the world when they pick up their camera. In other words they look at the subject through the camera viewfinder as if the camera was not there at all. However it is extremely important to be aware of one thing, more than anything else when looking through a camera and that is to know where the edge of the frame or viewfinder is, in relation to the subject.
If you go and get some old photographs from the attic or the desk drawer, I am sure that in many of the photos of people for example, their heads and eyes would have been placed exactly in the middle of the frame and therefore end up in the middle of the print. This means that there is always a great deal of dead space above the head of the subject and missed information below.
A good photographer, be they professional or amateur, becomes very aware of the edge of the frame. Once you are sure where this is, then itís a simple matter to fill the viewfinder by bringing the top of the frame down to the top of the subjects head, you will then have made a much better use of the space.
If you only have a point and shoot camera, the one advantage which these have over the more expensive devices, is that you tend to hold them in front of you when taking a photograph. This in fact makes it much easier to see the entire picture area and therefore make a much better composition.
With a so called SLR camera you have to make more of an effort to look around the viewfinder when itís up against your eye.
Similarly you could experiment with the placing of your subject within the frame. For most amateurs itís always the middle, as explained above, but there is no reason why your main subject cannot be to one side so it has a space to look into or exist alongside.
Itís a common problem that most amateur photographers simply go around the world recording what they see in the way that they see it and there is nothing wrong in this approach, if you want your photo to be nothing more than a visual memory aid. Fine for you and the family but a dreaded torment when inflicted on friends!
But the real trick in photography is to say something about the things and the people which you have seen. I have often said that amateurs take photographs of great things and make them look ordinary, while photographers take photographs or ordinary things and make them look great.
So if you have ever had the feeling that there is more that you could be doing with your camera, then you may benefit from attending a short photographic course and who knows it may lead to a fascinating new hobby or even a new career!