So you wanna be a Photographer …..

Written by Yusuf Hashim a.k.a. Digitalartist a.k.a.Spider


A Bangladeshi young man paddling his boat in a flooded part of Sylhet, Bangladesh. Your unique perspective is what makes your photo compelling.

Photography is all about learning to see, about selecting a perspective, about being sensitive to the photographic elements around you, about deciding what to include and what to exclude in our frame, and about MYA (Moving Your Ass) to achieve that. Your unique perspective is what makes your photo different.

Its easy for an artist to paint a picture. He starts with a blank canvas, and simply adds in his subjects to create his picture. No sweat.


Like any child she was curious, but she was also a little scared of the stranger with that huge Canon, so she peeked out at me from behind the doorway. What she didn’t realize was that anyone can see all of her….reflected in a half mirror attached to doors in some cultures to reflect away evil spirits which may come a-calling. It’s a good “Aha !” moment for any photography buff.

A photographer, on the other hand, is confronted with a myriad of dynamic events going on all around him. He wants to make a visual story of a small section of the myriad events unfolding before his eyes. These are constantly changing, evolving, happening. They are simply unrepeatable moments in time. His challenge is, he has to make choices. He has to decide which of these dynamic multiple events and moments in time, to include in his frame. He has to be clear in his own mind, what is the visual story he is going to tell visually. How could he tell a good story if he himself isn’t very clear what is the visual story he is going to tell? He has to to think on his feet. He has to anticipate. He has to be fast. That’s the challenge facing us as photographers. How do we do all this, and at the same time operate our cameras for perfect exposures  instinctively without fumbling, as if  the camera is simply an extension of our being. Fortunately, all these can be done, as evidenced by the  zillions of beautiful photos we have  no doubt seen. All it takes is a bit of humble pie learning, and asking, and reading, and practice, and more practice. Try to see and imagine  a frame with your visual story even when you don’t have a camera with you, and you are driving or sitting in public transport to go somewhere. Mentally practice shooting without cameras. Next time when you have  your camera with you and the real McCoy appears before you, you’ll be  able to  freeze that moment instinctively. Its a little difficult, but its doable, and it needs learning.  Unfortunately, what it takes to be a sensitive photographer, doesn’t come packaged with the RM50,000 limited edition, latest model camera you  just bought.  For good photographers, it comes free even with a lowly  RM500 point and shoot camera.


The Pool Queen of Seam Reap. She was hustling kids twice her height, and double her age. And she was naked below the pool table.

A photographer has to be familiar with his camera controls, such that he can operate them instinctively, just as if the camera is an extension of his fingers and his eyes and his mind. He excludes those elements which he doesn’t want in his frame, by shifting his frame and his viewpoint by MYA (Moooooving Your Ass). He moves his ass to select a perspective which will create the visual flow in his frame that will tell his story. He crafts his frame to include a beginning and an ending. And in between he places the elements of his story, ensuring they do not visually overlap.

There is extensive Layering in this shot. The rock is the lead in point, with the boy, the boat, the trees, the ship, the island in the distance and the horizon creating depth within the image

This “layering” creates a three dimensional  illusion of depth in his frame. The visual flow in his frame is his storyline. He uses directional light and shadows to create  form, texture and structure. It’s all about choosing a perspective which is uniquely his, and using light and shadow for maximum impact.

In my photo on the right, shot at Nirvana Beach in Java during one of my PhotoSafaris, the rock in the foreground is the  lead-in line. Your eyes flow from this rock to the  boy, to the trees, to the boat, to the horizon and then to the setting sun. Without you being conscious of it, you are led deeper and deeper into the frame. The  warm colours have been  possible by the use of GNDs or graduated Neutral Density Filters to  handle the  wide  exposure lattitude between the brilliance of the sun and the shadows of dusk. The camera is of course sitting on a tripod for maximum stability.

And you thought photography is easy-peasy.

Come and join one of PhotoMalaysia PhotoSafaris. Each PhotoSafari is a unique photo-graphy experience. Since 2008, we have  gone on more than 35 PhotoSafaris to exotic locations around the world. We will share with you all these not-so-obvious little tips  that can help make you a better thinking photographer.  We are going to Ha Giang in Vietnam from 18-23 Feb 2014, to the Himalayas in Nepal from 16-28 March 2014, and to the Bromo and Ijen Volcanoes in Java from 17-20 April, and to Ethiopia from 1-18 May 2014. Message Digitalartist for more details of how you can join us.

Here’s a couple of parting shots from Ethiopia for you. The pretty ladies were participating in a ceremony during which a young man from the Karos tribe in Ethiopia, was to pick one of them as his bride.


The next photo is a 12 year old Mursi boy. That Kalashnikov AK-47 he’s  carrying is a real gun. You dont want to be messing with him. When I shot his photo he asked me for 20 Birs. I didn’t  hesitate to give him the money. Twenty Birs is about 20 Malaysian sen.





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