Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thoughts on Specializing + My Top 10 Tips for Making Beautiful Butterfly Photographs

© Rick Sammon
I'm often asked "What's your specialty?"

I reply: ""My specialty is not specializing." You see, I try to do it all. And, I encourage young photographers not to specialize - because being good at many aspects of photography is often better than being good at just one. What's more, what you learn in one area of photography can often be applied to another.

I'd like to hear from you in the Comments section here on my blog. Do you think specializing is a good thing, or not? Do you specialize?

Before you answer, think about your investments: Do you have all your savings in one place, or are your savings diversified? That's also something I recommend. Kinda like not having "all your eggs in one basket."

All that said, I specialize in certain types of photography from time to time, as I did when I was into photographing butterflies, which resulted in several butterfly projects:

Rick's Flying Flowers - my latest iPhone and iPad wallpaper app. This app was  developed by my friend Keith M. Kolmos, who also developed my Rick's Big Cats wallpaper dapp.

Butterfly Wonders - my iPad app that features camera and behavior info on each butterfly, plus a detailed section on close-up photography.

Flying Flowers - my coffee-table book on butterflies.

If you are into butterflies, here are my top photography tips:

1) Use a ringlite - for even and ratio lighting. Also to shoot at small apertures when hand-holding your camera.

2) Use a true macro lens for true macro photos. Close-up settings are zoom lenses are not true macro settings.

3) Use a wide-angle lens for close-ups with good depth of field - as illustrated by the opening photograph for this post.

4) Make the background as important as the subject. The background can make or break your shot.

5) Make your own backgrounds.

6) Focus on the eyes.

7) Experiment with depth of field. Sometimes, shallow is good, and vice versa.

8) Expose for the highlights. Check your histogram and highlight alert.

9) Be patient. Wait for a butterfly to come to you. Don't chase one around.

10) Plant a butterfly bush or two in your backyard.

11) Photograph a butterfly when it is backlit so that the light shines through the butterfly's wings.

12) Experiment with different shutter speeds to stop or blur action - with and without a flash.

13) Spend a morning or afternoon at a butterfly center. Call in advance and ask if tripods are permitted. Also ask about special photo tours.

Check out more of my butterfly pictures on my Butterfly Wonders SmugMug gallery.

Explore the light,


Anonymous said...

hi rick,
i agree completely with you on specializing. i love to take photos of so many different things, that i can't even say what i love best...

landscapes, wildlife, people, locations and of course...abandoned places!! lots of opportunities on long island for abandoned places!

:) roni

Eric B said...

Great post Rick.

As a developing photographer, I want to learn it all, and to experience all areas of photography.

How else can you discover what specialty you might become truly passionate about? Or if you're passionate about all types of photography?

Pretty often, I hear pro photographers say you have to have a niche to be successful. But, I think you first have to have passion for a specialty.

Kelvin Dickenson said...

Have to agree with Mr Sammon - specialize in being a generalist and if there is a genre you are not comfortable with - go shoot it

Labels are tools they do not define me said...

I also believe that breadth fosters depth when it comes to photography!