Most beginners bitten by the bug of street-photography dream of quickly becoming the next Henri Cartier-Bresson, or Eric Kim, and they imagine wandering the streets confronted suddenly with an almost endless stream of strange looking people and odd situations, all just begging to be immortalised, and so feverishly machine-gunning away, they are convinced that every shot they take will be a guaranteed classic.
Sadly though it doesn’t quite work that way, for although the streets maybe a stage, upon which the whole of life can be observed and captured as it plays itself out before you, it takes mastery of some very basic skills before anything worthwhile is ever captured.
Because as I’ve mentioned before, photography is very similar to music in many ways, if you want to play an instrument, you have to practice playing the thing, which often just means playing scales, and practicing pieces for hours on end, much to the neighbours rather subdued delight.
And it’s exactly the same with photography, if you want to take better photos, you have to practice, but where and what?
Why the Botanischer Garten?
Personally I have zero interest in nature photography, looking at endless photos of flower arrangements does nothing for me at all, except maybe to induce an overwhelming sense of drowsiness, but I have found that taking photos of the very same plants and flowers can be an extremely rewarding experience.
Because the same rules of composition and technique that apply to street photography also apply to nature photography too, with the added advantage that the subject is usually stationary and colourful contrasts are available which make practicing concepts such as the rule of thirds, figure to ground, balance, colour, contrast, depth of field etc. so much easier.
It becomes possible not only to practice concepts and techniques, but to repeatedly practice them under the same conditions, and to therefore refine them, techniques which can then be utilised with confidence out on the street and in more challenging situations.
In my opinion there’s no better place to practice.
If you wish to get the most out of this, invest in a cheap set of macro filters, they reduce the focusing distance between the lens and the subject enabling better close-ups to be captured.
Some examples illustrating techniques
Depth of field
Light and shade
I never use the hyper-realistic type of photograph so beloved by many when illustrating techniques and concepts on this website, because I feel that perfect photos can so easily overwhelm the absolute beginner, instilling a sense of failure at the inability to replicate obviously heavily photoshopped images, so I purposely always only ever use photos I’ve taken almost straight out of the camera, with little or no cropping and at most with only the “enhance” button having been applied in the Mac-OS Photos program.
© Andrew James Kirkwood – 2018