Things My Mother Taught Me About Photogrpahy

My mother was one of those people who took lots of pictures and cared about what she was shooting. She actually would submit her pictures to contests and win prizes. The first thing she said to me about taking pictures was “watch your background”. Told more than once, I daresay – like many other thing that were hounded into my thick skull. You might say, “Watch your background – Well of course!! Who wouldn’t?” Yeah, I know, but one needs to look further – see what resulted from that simple command.

When you are watching the background, hopefully you are really looking at the whole picture. That’s what this imperative got me to doing: looking. Instead of just pointing away willy nilly with the camera, even as a youngster I tended to slow down and look. This fared me well later in life when I was in India visiting my father. You can see photos of that trip here and I’ll tell you more about how and why on another page.

Even as a child the photos that had fewer and fewer clothlines and spires sticking out the tops of people heads. Not only that with the simple drill of looking the composition naturally became more attractive.

Nor did it hurt that my siblings and I had use of a camera that used 2 ¼ film. We really had no idea of how fortunate we were. I never really notice what others were using so didn’t know what was being generally used back then.

So the next time you pick up a camera and rush out to take pictures of the cousins from Nebraska , slow down a bit and look – tell me if you can see what the camera sees.


Posted by Cyril O

1 comment

Erik Dam Denmark

Dear Martin
Nice to see teh picture of Jeannette and read your little story.
Having known your mother for quite some years I must agree that she really carred taking good pictures. And I agree that many pictures (specially of my own) are very poor because of the background. The problem is that most good pictures need both af foreground and a background and of course you are more in contact with the foreground. I must also say that the principle of looking at the background could quite often be a nuisance to those people your mother wanted to photograph. Normally it is not possible to remove the background so the only possibility is to move the foreground (the persons) around so they were in front of a proper background. You probably know yourself how difficult it is to move 3-4 persons around for taking “just a picture”

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