'How to Move from Good to Great Photography' 24 April 2018   

There was a very good turnout at Devizes Camera Club to welcome back Andy Beel and to hear his latest presentation. Andy brought several boxes of, predominantly, monochrome prints and announced that we should not expect a smoothly scripted talk as he had no fixed plan for his presentation. However he said he would include prints made from slides that he took in the 1980’s when he started his photographic journey, and come up to date with some of his latest work using a range of digital cameras.
Andy BeelHis first print, taken in 1985, showed a street of wet cobbles taken on a 400 ASA (ISO) film which provided a pleasing level of grain. He said, that he is still having difficulty getting the same level of graininess from digital images. Along with this image came his first tip for moving to great photography - recognise and develop a personal style.
AB chainHe said that his own style tended to be dark and moody monochrome photography. He demonstrated this with many images during the evening, including one of Stonehenge with a stormy evening sky to which he had added contrast, clarity and curves in post-processing.
Improving one’s photography is a series of stages, Andy suggested. Firstly you need to learn how the camera works and what different settings can achieve. He said it is worth practicing a range of different individual skills, such as focusing; exposure; depth of field; and so on, so that setting the camera for a shot becomes second nature and can be done quickly. Then, he said, it is worth trying different effects, such as including movement in a shot or even intentionally having everything out-of-focus.
Andy also showed how post-processing can greatly enhance the impact and atmosphere of an image. He recommended starting with global adjustment to effect the overall exposure and contrast, followed by local adjustments to bring out specific details. He suggested lightening what you want people to look at and darkening the rest. And he showed how a sense of depth can be enhanced by increasing the clarity and contrast of the foreground and decreasing it in the background.
AB EtheopiaAnother way to develop your photography, Andy pointed out, is to think about taking sets of photos and developing panels that tell a story. To illustrate this, Andy showed us several sets of images that he had created.
Of particular note were a series of images taken from the auditorium at the Ballet. These demonstrated how movement in images can be effective as they were taken hand-held at 1/20th second, so the dancers were blurs of movement. A split-tone effect in post-processing enhanced the whole effect.
He also showed us several sets of images taken in Ethiopia. There was a set on Worship showing the movement of women clapping, taken in dull lighting, hand-held at 1/20th with a f1.4 lens to create depth of field. There were two sets on Work in Ethiopia. The first showed images of artisans in a print shop, a barbers booth at the market and a sickle maker engulfed in steam and smoke. The other set captured the dusty atmosphere at a stone crushing plant in the Symian mountains.

In conclusion, Andy pointed out that the journey from good to great photography will not be a straight line. As one tries different techniques and effects, some things will work and others won’t, but they will all add to your experience.
Andy pointed out that camera clubs tend to encourage people to take images that will do well in competitions. But he said that you should try to move beyond a purely competition style and start to develop your own. Look at other photographers’ work, accept influences from them and work out how to develop them in your own images. Have confidence in your own vision, but accept advice and criticism from others. Above all, keep taking photographs, even when you think you are in a rut and don’t feel much inspiration.

Our Chairman thanked Andy for sharing some inspirational images and for giving us all some very useful insights into developing our photography. DF
Images © Andy Beel FRPS