1. jamesev

    jamesev

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    Ok this might open a bit of a can of worms as there could be different views.

    What in your view makes a good photographer?

    There are those who are technically excellent (ie win competitions because they tick all the theory boxes with a photo), those who are commercially excellent (I guess you could put instgrammers who make a living from insta presence / influencing). There are those who can instruct photography very well.

    Of course you can fit in to all of these categories but often its one of these.

    This came about from a photographer friend who knows their stuff having been in the industry for years but admits they will never make their fortune from photography.
     
  2. Phil V

    Phil V

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    I can answer this bit:
    Photography is just like every other business, commercial success has no correlation with quality.

    As for the rest of it; ‘good’ is a subjective criteria. It’s impossible to rationalise because of this, and the reason all photography forums are filled with discussion about gear; because we can ‘sort of’ agree about technical excellence.
    Even the critique is often distilled to ‘sharp’ comments about the processing and very often the subject :confused:
     
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  3. KIPAX

    KIPAX Waldorf

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    A good photographer is someone who takes good pictures

    A bad photographer is someone who takes bad pictures



    next? ...............


    PS
    a good [insert anything] is a good [insert anything]
    a bad [insert anything] is a bad [insert anything]
     
  4. Mr Badger

    Mr Badger

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    Cutting it back, the whole description is problematic as there are different interpretations of the meaning of the words 'good' and 'bad'. So much so that you can have easily have a 'good' photograph of a 'bad' subject (an emotionally disturbing yet captivating war photo for instance). Then there are the different categories, a photographer could be technically good, or artistically* good, or both; but I doubt someone who is bad at both of these could be a good photographer?

    * including documentary style photos.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  5. Harlequin565

    Harlequin565

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    I think this bit is interesting because there will almost certainly be so many different opinions. Does Marmite taste good?

    For me - it's about storytelling. I don't give a monkeys about sharpness, tone, highlights blown or not, commercial excellence, popularity, number of likes, or anything other than whether I find the image interesting. And if I find it interesting, it's because there's a storytelling aspect to it. In the 'swipe & go' Instagram generation, I think photography - or the appreciation of it - is changing. However today, I haven't changed along with it and still like to look at an image, nice and big, and have a think about it.

    (For example) Elliot Erwitt, Fay Godwin, Don McCullin, Cecil Beaton, & Andy Gotts are all amazing photographers in my opinion. Some are more renowned than others - but all have made a career out of their work. Robert Mapplethorpe, David LaChapelle, Gregory Crewdson... Likewise are popular and well regarded. However their work isn't my cuppa - so I rarely even try and consider whether they are a good photographer or not.

    Looking at the "Beginner" tag though, if you want to know what a good photographer looks like, you need to ask yourself what you would use to define "good". Is it financial success & self sufficiency? Is it fame? Is it pin sharpness? Is it no blown highlights? Is it about a story? Is it all of these things?
     
  6. KIPAX

    KIPAX Waldorf

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    The question is good/bad photographer not good/bad photograph. therefore surely a good pic of a bad subject = good photogrpaher ??
     
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  7. Mr Badger

    Mr Badger

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    In that case, what would a bad pic of a good subject equal?

    Also, could a good pic of a bad subject merely = good camera?
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  8. KIPAX

    KIPAX Waldorf

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    a bad pic of any subject = a bad photographer... it really is that simple isn't it?

    Like a good cup of tea = a good kettle ? NO! :)
     
  9. KIPAX

    KIPAX Waldorf

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    @Mr Badger I am not suggesting someone who takes one good picture is a good photogrpaher.. let me expand on my original anser :)

    Someone who consistantly takes good pictures is a good photographer
    Someone who consistantly takes bad pictures is a bad photographer

    Probably harder to pick at the above :)

    I was prompted to rewrite my answer as I recall one of the best pictures I took was by accident.. didn't even see it until I got home and looked on compurter. :)
     
  10. Mr Badger

    Mr Badger

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    Don't worry, I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just pointing out that it's not that easy to define in words what is good or bad in terms of a photo, let alone whether or not the person who took it is good or bad. As for the kettle, all that does is boil water, a modern camera takes care of exposure, focus, dynamic range (for rescuing badly exposed shots!), ISO, etc. So it's never been easier for people to take sharp, well-exposed photos (i.e. good pics of bad subjects).

    Or for good photographers (whatever that definition might mean) to concentrate of the subject rather than having to constantly or repeatedly manually configure the camera they're using.

    Perhaps that should be the litmus test that defines a 'good photographer': one that can still get good looking photos from a totally manual film camera using slide film? Or does that just mean they're a good camera operator? :confused:
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  11. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic

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    There are very few wealthy Photographers.
    At best the "Better" ones make a comfortable living.
    You become a photographer because you can not imaging spending your life doing anything else.
    If you do not have that compulsion and want to be wealthy... better try something else.

    Photography is a business like any other. To be successful you need to be a good businessman.
    It helps if you can produce the sort of photographs people want to buy.

    "Goodness" is a religious concept not a photographic one.

    A skilled photographer has to know his trade and how to produce what is needed to the required standard on demand, every time, not just occasionally.
    This needs a deep understanding of all the necessary skills and techniques useful to that work.

    Equipment is decidedly secondary. The best equipment is rarely needed to produce the best work... but it helps.
    Suitability of the equipment for the job in hand is the key.. the best equipment available might be totally unsuitable.
     
  12. john.margetts

    john.margetts

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    What is a photograph? A good photographer is someone who produces good photographs and that depends on what photographs the photographer is trying to produce. A good product photographer will study light and composition carefully - this will be a disadvantage for a wildlife photographer who needs to get the shot while the subject is in view. A good wildlife photographer needs to also be a good naturalist but a good product photographer does not need to know anything about the thing they are photographing.
     
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  13. Bearair

    Bearair

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    Professional- A good photographer is one who makes a living out of it.
    Amateur- A good photographer is someone who takes photographs they are happy with. (much much harder than you would think, and why very very few photographers describe themselves as good!)
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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  14. jamesev

    jamesev

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    or is it about being able to deliver these when appropriate and being able to recognise the "when"

    Could technically be the best taste in the world EVER but if it doesn't sell and is not commercially viable.

    how consistently does one have to take good pictures "by accident" to morph into a good photographer though? Like being lucky - I quote a line from the colour of money - The only ball that means anything, that wins it, is the 9. The player can shoot eight trick shots in a row, blow the 9 and lose. On the other hand, the player can get the 9 in on the break, if the balls spread right, and win. Which is to say that luck plays a part in 9-ball. But for some players, luck itself is an art.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  15. benhben

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    I would say a good photographer has something that you cant really teach so easily.

    1. The enthusiasm to get up at stupid hours and put the effort in to get to the best places at the best times and therefore is more likely to encounter amazing conditions not seen by many.
    2. The eye for a subject and composition.

    You can train anyone how to use a camera and photoshop, but you cant always teach people to put in the effort and have a natural eye for composition.

    Personally I think myself and probably most of us fall in the middle. We can think of images we would like to take and probably make a decent effort of it in the right place at the right time, but struggle to make time to go and find them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  16. Harlequin565

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    How many artists and musicians through the ages died paupers? Does that make them less good? Not in my eyes. Vivian Maier's work was superb, but she received no acclaim while she was alive. However if *you* think she wasn't good because she wasn't commercially viable/successful, then that's your opinion - because that's your benchmark of good. And it's no more correct or incorrect than mine.

    (P.S. You misquoted me on the third one. That was @KIPAX)
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  17. RichardC27

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    This. Whether a photo is good or not is such a subjective thing that it's impossible to quantify.

    For example, there's this thread in the Creative Photography forum about Intentional Camera Movement shots (https://www.talkphotography.co.uk/threads/show-us-your-icm-shots.673281/).

    To me, this is a fancy name for camera shake and there's not one photo in the entire thread that I wouldn't have deleted. It's a style of photography that does absolutely nothing for me. But, if you're into that sort of thing and that's the effect you were going for, then it's a thread filled with great images.
     
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  18. f/2.8

    f/2.8

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    Always going to be a matter of opinion but I tend to find myself really liking more artsy stuff over good technical stuff.
     
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  19. Phil V

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    This is the issue, how is a well exposed and in focus image automatically ‘good’?

    It’s not! (IMHO as a photographer, but then I appreciate to some people it might be) to me that’s simply ‘competent’

    So, any discussion of a ‘good photographer ‘ is likewise flawed, because good is subjective.

    If the bar is as low as ‘can take a picture that’s well exposed and sharp’ then we’re all ‘good’*



    * nearly all, but I can’t get my head round how anyone can fail nowadays.
     
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  20. Mr Badger

    Mr Badger

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    That's the point I was making. As I've said before, many of the most highly regarded and iconic photos of the last century aren't 'technically' perfect, but this doesn't stop them from being exceptionally good photographs. I fully agree with you that 'good' is subjective, hence my comments above about defining the word 'good', let alone applying it to photographs and photographers.

    So, the words good and bad are subjective, personal taste is subjective, and even exposure can be subjective, with some people hating dark and moody and/or grainy images. So perhaps a photographer can be both good and bad, depending who's judging... and after adding that to the equation there's probably very little hope for any of us!

    As for luck, as the saying goes... the harder I practice, the luckier I get! I find that looking for, and putting myself in, a likely place to get a 'lucky' shot seems to improve my luck considerably. As for completely accidental shots (depending on the subject of course) the more photos you take the more chance you've got of capturing something by accident, be that good or bad.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
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  21. john.margetts

    john.margetts

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    I am always drawn to Julia Margaret Cameron's photo of Herschel. Possibly over exposed and very definitely out of focus (on purpose!). Is it a good photograph? I would say it is one of the best. Would it be improved by being in focus? No!

    https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/L.1997.84.6/
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2018
  22. Petrochemist

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    Someone who's constant kind to those around them & also takes photographs is a good photographer, but may not be any good at taking photos!
     
  23. Mumbles

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    I'd say a good photographer is one who takes photos and when looking at them after developing or downloading them from the camera and either with or without any post processing sees what they were hoping to capture when clicking the button, be that in focus, out of focus or whatever, they had the ability and vision to capture a scene, still life, portrait or whatever it may be that they had in their minds.
     
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  24. Phil V

    Phil V

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    (Sorry - not personal)
    The problem with this view isits somewhat naive.

    It’d be great if all of us were self aware and honest enough to see whether we’d achieved what we had in our minds...

    But think back to the recent thread about the guy doing ‘jobs’ who consistently fails to get shots in focus; yet still thinks he’s a great photographer achieving the shots he wants.

    I’m always amazed by people on FB defending poor work, trying to protect the feelings of photographers, and supporting that with ‘art is subjective’.

    Of course quality is subjective, but let’s agree that there’s a baseline of ‘competent’.
     
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  25. jamesev

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    agreed a pet peeve of mine too
     
  26. myotis

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    This seems to have turned into an "essay" as your question reflects something I have been thinking about a lot recently. What makes a good photograph? So although I have dramatically truncated my thoughts, and I am still working on it, here is my rather long answer.


    I like the shorter definitions that have already been offered , and would go with:

    "A good photographer is a person who regularly makes good photographs"

    But, I want to deconstruct this a bit

    I have very deliberately used "make" photographs rather than "take" photographs, because this implies intent and purpose to the photographs, which better connects "good" photographers to "good" photographs. than "taking" I've also used "making" photographs to help define photographer as I don't think a photographer is just "anyone" who takes photographs.

    Just writing out shopping lists with a pencil, or using a word processor to write letters doesn't make someone a "writer", and similarly everyone that takes a photographs is not a photographer. So I am excluding the millions of people who take billions of photographs every day of their cat, their breakfast, their child looking cute, a holiday sunset, a majestic view from their hotel bedroom, themselves and the multitude of other subjects recorded every day as digital mnemonics. That is not to deny the value of these images, I just don't believe they show the level of intent or the emotional and intellectual commitment to the photograph, that would justify the taker being called a photographer.

    I have used "regularly" as it implies "often, but not always". Even the best photographers have days that don't go well, but on balance, most of the time, good photographers produce photographs somewhere between "fit for purpose" and "good", with the occasional "better than just good". Regular also takes on different meanings depending on circumstances. A good wedding photographer needs to produce, at least "fit for purpose" photographs every time. A good wildlife photographer, may have many days that don't produce any good photographs at all. A "fine art" photographer may only produce a dozen or so good photographs a year.

    Taken together "make" and "regular" excludes the "lucky" shot. An occasional good photograph isn't enough to make someone a good photographer. An example of this might be photographs taken for scientific purposes, by a scientist, where some turn out to be spectacularly good photographs because of the subject matter, that may even win a photography award, but that doesn't make the scientist a good photographer.

    Which brings us back to what is a good photograph, which is a question I ask almost every day.

    For commercial work, the photographer will have the primary intent of making photographs that meet the requirements of the client. How good the photographs are will be primarily judged by client and photographer. How good the photographer is can be assessed by repeat business, industry awards etc. There are however nuances to this as many professional photographers have a much deeper connection to their art than commercial success, and their own judgement of how good their photographs are might be based on very different criteria.

    For non-client directed work, which could still be paid for (ie through grants, stock photographs, selling fine art prints etc), but is more often personal work, where the intent is almost entirely driven by the photographer, assessing good is more difficult.

    I have found it useful to use the mirror and window concept, where some photographers want to open a window on the world to share something you might otherwise not have been aware of. While for other photographers their photographs are mirrors reflecting their inner feelings about their place and interaction with the world, often more abstract, bizarre and difficult to understand. But, to continue the allusion, just as windows can also reflect light as well as transmit it, a good photograph is probably one that is both window and mirror, that demonstrates an obvious intellectual and emotional commitment from the photographer, and triggers an intended emotional and intellectual response from the viewer.

    A good photographer is therefore someone who can regularly produce this type of photograph.
     
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  27. Mumbles

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    No worries, no personal offence taken.

    Yes, my view does rely on people being honest with themselves and not suffering from any kind of delusion as per the guy doing 'jobs' and the "amazing shot" b*****ks on FB et al certainly doesn't help that. Any appraisal of work to determine what's 'good' requires a degree of honesty both from the photographer to be truthful about what they were trying to achieve and those doing the appraisal. I take your point though and agree, it does require a baseline of competent, as well as the imagination to picture something in your mind to start with.
     
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  28. mark.roper

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    I have some thoughts on this, FWIW.

    At the ripe old age of 53 I bought a "proper" camera for pretty much the express purpose of attending oval track motor racing events with my step-son who competes in a formula called Oval Track Legends. I used to film his races on a cheap camcorder, but having had a Praktica 35mm film camera when I was in college (many many years ago) I had an idea that I'd like to be "a photographer" now as well. :D

    I knew there were "official" 'togs at these events, but they were (mostly) not giving away their photos for free (why would they?) and, in my overinflated opinion, their photos weren't very good anyway. The official 'togs stand on the in-field, and therefore get unrestricted views of the action, guys like me have no option but to shoot through the safety fence from outside looking in. I soon realised how hard this was and envied the official 'togs their special access.

    I met some guys who, like me, were shooting from outside the fence, one of them who used to be on the in-field but gave it up because he felt it restricted his creativity. I saw his photos, and there were in a different league to the guys on the in-field, so much better. This guy took me under his wing and we've become good friends, and I've learned a lot from him, particularly how he uses ultra-low shutter speeds to blur out the safety fence (although after a year of practising I'm still rubbish at it).

    Most of these official 'togs I would not consider "good" photographers. Some of them post their stuff on FB and they include shots that are out of focus, incorrectly exposed, over-processed, not even meeting what Phil V above would describe as "competent" in my view. Yet they actually manage to sell some of these photos. My friend has explained to me they don't earn a living from it, they all do it for the love of the sport primarily, the money they make goes some way to covering their expenses and in particular they pay the promoter for in-field access so try to recover those costs if they can.

    So selling photos arguably doesn't make one a good photographer, even meeting the clients expectations doesn't, in my view, because in this case the "client" is the racing fan, and his / her expectations are based on the poor quality snaps that have only ever been available.

    I do wonder how these guys' incomes are being affected by people like my friend posting 100's of (much better) images on social media. He receives a lot of praise for what he does, but is it because it's free, or because it's good?
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
  29. Drew177

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    As a fellow beginner (and newbie) this thread is an interesting read and I think I agree with several points, but I was thinking that the question was a bit misleading. I was thinking that the first question should be "are you a photographer (insert own definition here)", yes or no and then the 'good' or 'bad' is subjective but would require specific focus and parameters in order for any king of judgement to be made (which is the gist I am getting from a lot of responses above)?

    myotis stated that "similarly everyone that takes a photographs is not a photographer" (which I agree with), but would the people who are taking these photos agree? So until the that question is answered the original question will be all encompassing.
     
  30. myotis

    myotis

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    This is probably an example where the client is likely to be exposed to "good" photographs in motor racing magazines and might actually have fairly high expectations. But feel forced to accept that the photographers at this track aren't all that good and if they want a record, this is all they have available and therefore cough up the money.

    I don't think that in itself, its any endorsement that they necessarily think the photographs are "good" or that they meet their expectations.

    Having said that, I agree with the principle that we are so bombarded with poor quality photographs, even when paying for them, that its difficult for the non- specialist client to know whether they are getting a good job or not.

    The few sets of professionally done (or at least paid for) wedding photographs that I have waded through in the last few years have astounded me at how poor they were. In spite of hundreds of images being presented, had I been the bride I would have struggled to put an album together (if brides still have wedding albums). To re-iterate Phil's comment earlier I struggled to see how it was possible to get some the photographs technically so poor, and struggled even more to understand why the photographer was letting the bride (and possible future clients amongst the guests and bridesmaids) see the worst ones.
     
  31. jamesev

    jamesev

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    I think this is applicable to all niche of photography. There was another post somewhere someone stated they used to shoot $5000 weddings and were on $50 an hour after all the time considerations but was saying now they shoot $800 weddings and it takes 8 hrs and they get significantly more booking so their rate is $100 per hour and hence they are much much better off these days. To which many pointed out the issue of "subsidising"
     
  32. Scirocco_09

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    I disagree with the ‘technical photographers win competitions’ bit. If you look through most Photographer of the Year books the shots are generally more artistic and quite a few you could say have technical flaws. There’s many technically perfect photographers who can’t create engaging pictures. I think to be a good photographer you need strong technical skills but more importantly an eye for interesting compositions and knowing what to shoot in different weather and lighting conditions. You also need to tie that together with excellent shot selection and post production skills. Not easy!
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
  33. KIPAX

    KIPAX Waldorf

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    It really is that simple.. not sure why so many people are trying to make it .......


    Oh dear god no :(
     
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  34. myotis

    myotis

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    :)
     
  35. dizzledazzle

    dizzledazzle

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    Ok, i see a few people mentioned photography is a business, i disagree as many photographers do not do it to make money.

    My view on what makes a good photographer, essentially, you need to understand 3 things.

    Light - Understanding light is one of the key elements to being a good photographer, light can make or break your images. Light is the key! (quality NOT quantity!)

    Composition - The second key element to being a good photographer, you understand light, now you need to know how to frame your shots, if you have great light and a great composition, you are winning!

    How to use a camera - The third key element to being a good photographer, understanding how a camera works.

    If you understand those 3 key elements and then can use them all to produce great images, you are now a good photographer! Well done!
     
  36. jamesev

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    I sort of disagree on the light quantity. the four aspects IMHO of light to be considered are quantity, quality, colour eg. blue hour. golden hour and direction eg sun streaming through an open window is visually more appealing than if it simply floods a room.

    I would add understand and execute

    and add execute consistently and as intended (should a good photographer envisage an intended out put and capture it, else you're just a lucky photographer [negating the earlier comment about luck itself being a skill])
     
  37. kendo1

    kendo1

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    It's easy. Just takes practice.

    Speaking from experience :)
     
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  38. jamesev

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    maybe the bar has been raised. if the algorithm in cameras set by those who are in the upper echelons of understanding exposure then how does the shutter release person add any value?
     
  39. kendo1

    kendo1

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    Subject, composition, timing, PP...
     
  40. myotis

    myotis

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    By making sure they over ride what the camera thinks the exposure should be and steer it towards the correct or optimal exposure, which may or may not be the same thing. Fortunately, exposure isn't just a technical decision, the shutter release person, with sufficient skill, can always add value, even if its only to check the camera has got it right.
     

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