by Damian McGillicuddy Published 01/11/2012
Grand Master and multi-disciplined Fellow, Damian McGillicuddy discusses the importance of training and how it can improve your photography.
People say I'm lucky - and, yes, I do agree. I get to travel the world, work with a wonderful team and make my living from my passion. But when it comes down to the quality of the images I produce, that has nothing to do with luck. Over the years I have noticed a correlation between knowledge and image quality. The more I have educated myself, the 'luckier' I've become...period!
As I am not just the 'biggest', but also one of the 'oldest' dogs in the yard, I have seen the equipment that is available to us as photographers change dramatically over the years. Film changed format and then ultimately has made way for digital, and mega-pixels are no longer limited to single figures. All of the developments that have been made have no doubt made our jobs easier - particularly when it comes to transporting kit for jobs on location. Just recently I was sitting in the departure lounge at Bergen airport (for those of you who haven't been, let me tell you it is without doubt the smallest international departure lounge I have ever sat in) thinking to myself that if it wasn't for micro 4/3 technology, I would be a very unpopular man indeed, as the people that I was sharing the space with would be standing outside in the cold due to the fact that my old full-frame kit and studio lights would have filled most of the room. The advances in photographic technology that have allowed for smaller, lighter kit that gives immediate feedback are - let's face it - a godsend, and will no doubt allow me to keep doing what I love for a few more years. The kit that is available today really is fantastic. It works well, and produces image files of a quality that was unimaginable even just five short years ago. But as good as all of this new equipment is, it couldn't create anything if it wasn't for me - or indeed one of you - controlling it. Yes, technology does have its advantages, but for a real grandmaster, technology is only there to augment, facilitate and ease the photographic process. Technology will never render photographers obsolete, it will never replace education and the application of knowledge when it comes to creating 'A grade' images.
As an old school traditionalist I am a firm believer in knowledge - not kit - being the secret to good photography. A stunning image is not just created by pressing the shutter button and clicking away with a camera. To cross that fine line that separates good and brilliant, a photographer has to take several things in to consideration. Lighting, posing and composition. What story do you want an image to tell? How do you want the image to look? How do you want the image to feel?
Lighting an image in the correct way is key. Without the placement of hi-light and shadow in the correct places, a three-dimensional story can not be told through a two-dimensional medium. It is hi-light and shadow that gives an image depth and makes the subject feel real. Light is definitely the most important aspect of photography. It is no secret that ever since using the Olympus EM5 OM-D and adopting a micro 4/3 system I am on a mission to reduce the size of all of the kit I use, but I can guarantee you that this reduction in size will not come at the cost of sacrificing quality - especially not when it comes to lighting equipment. As much as I love and am amazed by the capabilities of my OM-D, it is not the most important bit of kit in my bag, my lights and their modifiers, however, most definitely are. Whether they be speed lights, my beloved Qflash or a full studio lighting kit, they are massively important. Without them I could not use the secret weapon that is fully responsible for the quality and consistence of my images. What is this secret weapon? Well I will tell you...It is the knowledge of how to control and manipulate light. How can you get this secret weapon for yourself? In the same way that I did, through education and years of practice. Practice makes perfect, it really is that simple.
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