Photography Skill Improvement – Suggestions

Summary – A number of skills go into making a good photograph. These skills depend and build upon one another. If you’re learning woodworking, there are many skills to be learned before concerning yourself with paint, stain and other finishing skills. You have to learn to build something first. So it is in photography.


Click on any image to open a slide show

Monet had his haystack and water-lily series

I have this grand old oak tree

Much more instructional & rewarding for me than

Making multiple post-processing versions of the same capture


A photography club  friend recently attended

Van Gogh Repetitions at the Phillips Gallery

35 paintings made up of

Multiple versions of 13 subjects

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In Van Gogh’s day making copies was

A key part of art training (but probably not VG’s motivation)

My friend thought that repetitions, applied to photographs,

Might be a good project for club members

He suggested –

….give an image to people, then ask them to come up with 3 or 4 versions by different processing, then explain what they were trying to accomplish in each one….


While I thought the idea was very worthwhile

Starting with post-processing puts the cart before the horse

Post-processing is part of craftsmanship

and – a minor part at that (as I wrote previously)

Camera skills and technique are more important

Good composition (visual design) trumps post-processing

and – Is learned using a camera, not a computer

My suggestion was – and still is –

Spend time with a subject – work it

Shoot it in different seasons, different light, etc.

With different lens from different angles & positions

Vary exposure, focus, DOF, color (yes, change WB)

Then, and only then, is it time to take these images

and – See what P-P adds or subtracts from the equation

Both in-camera and post-processing are parts of the total package

but – the order in which they are learned should matter


Van Gogh wasn’t the only painter to do repetitions

Monet was another famous example – he called his “series”

One such series was “Haystacks”

Monet’s approach to “copies” differed from Van Gogh’s

Van Gogh’s approach more nearly approximated

My friend’s post-processing suggestion

OK, since VG had his basic painting skills down pat

Monet’s approach is closer to my suggestion of

Working the subject to explore basic techniques

He didn’t limit his series to haystacks

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Monet’s greatest series was his water lilies

About 250 paintings of lilies in his garden

Made over a period of 30 years

He was attempting to feel & see a subject

in different ways at different times

VG’s repetitions were about applying different

Color schemes & adornments to the same composition

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Neither artist’s approach is right or wrong

It comes down to what you want to accomplish

At our amateur level of photography

We all need camera skill improvement first

Before post-processing


If you look at VG’s repetitions

They not only changed a painting’s color, tone & contrast, but

Also added or replaced major elements of the painting

Somewhat similar to replacing the sky in a photo

Or adding a person to provide a subject or point of interest

(look at the water reflections and the people  in the first pair

very different

and – the background in the portrait

completely replaced

“advanced” PS, all)

Not where someone with average or worse camera skills should begin


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2 thoughts on “Photography Skill Improvement – Suggestions

  1. Ed, Great post. I really like the comparison of the “Haystacks” and the “Tree”. Great job with the post processing.
    On your point “Good composition (visual design) trumps post-processing and – Is learned using a camera, not a computer.”
    In the days of film shooting slides, I worked hard on composition, and all aspects of capturing an image, because there was no post processing and it was too expensive to take a lot of frames. I tried to make every shot perfect. I think I got to about 80 or 90 percent. It definitely made me a better photographer.
    Thanks, keep posting.
    Nick Ide

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