A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

After ten years of patiently insisting that I deal only in words, not visual arts, I am learning the visual art of photography. It turns out that you learn to take pictures the same way that you learn to write–by doing it consistently; photo after photo, event after event, failure after failure.

The way you know you’re getting better is when you get frusterated with the limitations of your technological tools. So one day I realized my cell phone camera wasn’t going to cut it any more and started puzzling my way through the vocabulary of my family’s DSLR. And then last week I woke up and realized I had moved on to shopping for lenses on Amazon.

There’s a big difference in what a high quality camera can do compared to your phone. Here’s a little illustration for you. This photo was taken on my phone camera three years ago at a fireworks display. At the time I thought it came out pretty well.

And here is a photo I took of the same display two weeks ago on my Canon Rebel, using a tripod, some research, and quite a bit of trial and error:

 

But as proud as I am of that shot, I realized that it’s not the technically difficult photos that get noticed or stand out as “good photography.” Someone browsing my portfolio isn’t going to stop and admire a stock-photo-perfect shot of a fireworks display, and probably won’t even realize the technological brilliance of the photo set I too with Elizabeth Lewis of last year’s solar eclipse. There’s nothing visually striking about a high-quality image of something everyone’s seen before.

The images that get people talking are the ones that have a story to tell. Not the photos you set out to take, but the ones you shot by accident when no one thought you were looking. The photos that take a thousand words to explain.