Sharpen Focus by 'Assigning' a Tough Shoot

Times Staff Writer

One of biggest roadblocks to good photography is the alibi--the rationalizing that allows you to feel better about not working hard on a photo project.

Well, one good way to get over these mental blocks is to give yourself a photographic assignment. Pretend you just got a call from Life or National Geographic and you need to shoot a "day in the life of" photo story.

Try and be creative with different camera angles. You should move in close and pay attention to detail. In short, rely on composition. This assignment will give you plenty of time to think and visualize as you go along.

Jot down a note and have a game plan. Figure out what types of film you will need.

Taking pictures in the early morning hours, at sunset and at night really will add variety to your images. You may need to step up to a fast 400-speed film for the low-light situations, unless you're using a tripod. Hand-hold the camera at slow shutter speeds (1/30, 1/15 or 1/8) to test steadiness.

Also, use various light sources--window light, direct sun, open shade, backlighting, sidelighting, candlelight, light from neon sign, strobe light or even a flashlight. Even consider using a time exposure on a tripod to vary the look.

When you finish the shot, the most important work begins--editing and critiquing the work. Be firm yet objective. The bad frames go in the circular file and the good ones to slide trays or the photo album. Then enjoy your work.

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