The First Rule of Photography

Always take your camera!

I know I say this a lot. I take my camera everywhere. It is in my car when I go to the store. I carry it to work everyday. It is always by my side.

The case has been made that the best camera is the one that you have with you. In this day when there is an iPhone or Galaxy in almost every pocket, most of us always have a camera for those spontaneous shots. But if you have a good camera, a real camera, why settle for serviceable when you can have amazing. Your iPhone can’t stop a hummingbird in mid-flight or reveal the inverted image in a water drop. It can’t show you the structure of a snowflake. There are a few rare shutterbugs (like Allan) that squeeze every once of performance out of that phone, but the truth is that what most of us capture with our iPhones could best be classified as “snapshots”. You spent good money on that camera – why let it gather dust waiting for that next excursion. If you don’t shoot it often you are likely to miss the big shot because you are trying to remember how to use it.

Sometimes it’s not the rare creature or amazing sunset, sometimes the beauty in the mundane calls out to me. When you see something that clicks, you need to be ready to click.

I was ready to click earlier this week at the car wash…

As I sat in the carwash, I was frustrated that I had lost the connection to my satellite radio. I started to check my Facebook feed and looked up to see a sea of foam rubber orange and yellow sponges with soap engulfing me. I took a shot with my iPhone – it was in my hand after all, but the shot was noisy and couldn’t capture what I was seeing. I grabbed my fast 50 and started shooting. I did no color correction on these shots – you are seeing what I saw. The color of a sunset out my driver’s side window.

Shutterbug Notes:

For a split second I considered getting out the flash, but decided that the window would just bounce the light back at me. I shot in aperture mode and opened the shutter all the way. I had to turn off the focus assist to keep from getting a red reflection on the glass. I focused on the bubbles and hoped for the best. I only took 7 shots. All but one were keepers. Because I was very familiar with my camera I could make quick changes to capture something spontaneous without having to pay for a second run through the car wash.  

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60 thoughts on “The First Rule of Photography

  1. Pingback: Enough About Rules – Shoot What You Love | the eff stop

  2. Pingback: The Third Rule of Photography | the eff stop

  3. Pingback: The Second Rule of Photography | the eff stop

  4. I bought a Canon G12, essentially a point and shoot, just to keep in my car. Just can not get use to the phone as a camera. Love the colors, Sun+soap+water+fabric. Excellent!

  5. Totally amazed at the colors. I’d have guessed that you used filters. The colors might justify that second trip through. None of my trips through the car wash ever looked like that.

    • LOL – you know, apart from ND or polarizers I rarely use filters anymore. So much can be done in post processing. These colors were exactly what I saw, I was wondering if the carwash had installed new brushes.

  6. Thank you for the link to my blog. I love the colors and textures that you captured on the glass. Sometimes the best results happen when we don’t have time to think our way into our usual patterns of behavior (photographically speaking).

    • My pleasure Allan – your blog is a testament to what you can do with an iPhone. I completely agree with you – I know that when I push myself to get close I see things I never knew were there.

  7. These are wonderful. The colors are amazing. I have to admit that I have not been taking my “good” camera out and about with me lately. I’m still learning to use it, and feel like I miss good shots when I use it (because I haven’t learned how to use it). Catch 22. lol! When the weather warms up, I promise to start following the first rule. 🙂

    • Thanks Robin. I can relate. I just changed camera bodies and I am often tempted to get out the old one – but I find that I take so many photos that there is really no risk in getting used to my newer and better camera. Even so, I miss knowing where every button is where without looking.

  8. I love these shots, and all the more so because they are spontaneous.
    Have you seen ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’?
    There is a scene in that where the character played by Sean Penn did the opposite.
    In case you have not seen the movie, i won’t tell you.
    Go and see it. As a photographer, you will not be disappointed in its meaning.

    • I have been meaning to see it – I will check it out. I think I take my camera everywhere because I have found the opportunities abound when you are prepared for them. You can be spontaneous when you are prepared, if that makes sense. 🙂

  9. So true — last week I glanced at my Rebel as I grabbed files and an overnight bag for work and hit the road. I thought, “no, why worry about it.” Sure enough, I was blessed by the Northern Lights as I drove to my destination that evening! Something the iPhone can’t capture (and not sure I could have even with my Rebel as I am still a newbie with learning how to really use it!). Your post reminds me to not second guess next time, and just pack the “real” camera, too.

    • Wow – I would have to read up on that, but you are so right – your iPhone would not have done them justice. My inclination is to think a tripod and a slow shutter speed for that classic shot where you see the lights and some of the landscape. I would love to see that!

  10. These are just the type of captures I make when doing my normal daily chores… never thought to share them but I do love yours, much better than mine… brilliant…

    • Thanks Bulldog – I probably over-share. I think I have seen several shots from my friends on Facebook going through the car wash since I posted this – who knows, you could start a trend 🙂

  11. I love the colour. Ok, don’t think me weird, but I love going to the car wash…some of my fave moments were going through it when Michaela was little. These days when I go, I take a picture with my phone and text it to Michaela!

  12. I love this, Lorri. The foam in the car wash makes me giggle like a little girl. It reminds me of Easter eggs. Terrific!!! And I too always see a photo worthy sunset when I don’t have my camera. GAAAHH!

    • Thanks Steph – I remember riding through the carwash with my mom – the ones where your car actually moved through the building – she and I hid on the floor until the car was inside. I don’t think we were supposed to be in there:) I hate missing the chance to shoot a sunset.

  13. Such fun. But I am guilty of never having a camera with me. But even when I do, I neglect to download or develop. Or find them in the boxes. I am hopeless.

    • LOL – I see so many people trying to capture every moment with their phone, and that’s great. Downloading is just part of my routine. I guess years and years of saving photo files has be trained.

  14. Excellent advice. Love the last 2 shots in particular.

    I take my camera everywhere (including medical appointments – lol – but then I walk to most of my medical appointments through public parks and gardens). I don’t have a car.

  15. A true artist you are, showing us the beauty in the seemingly mundane. So great! My favorite is the tri color I think. These look like gorgeous abstract paintings. I would love to transfer these to canvas. Stunning.

    • Thanks Bridgette – I appreciate that. The tricolor is that wax they spit out at the end of the wash. I do sell a lot of canvases at shows, I may try a couple of these.

    • I keep a spare in the glovebox, but my camera bag almost always goes where I go. Today I stepped out to grab lunch without it and missed the chance to capture a hawk in flight.

      • ¡Guau! A hawk! In Spain there are many big birds, but it’s difficult to “shoot” them… and there’s the risk to be fined by the police if you stop beside some roads.

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