With the return of our CapturingTheMoment 2019 photography competition, we spoke to Ross Dickie about photography tips and what he will be looking for as one of the judges. Ross is one of Scotland’s leading photographers, with his work taking him to Greenland, the Italian Dolomites and across much of Scotland.
Like most people my age, my first camera was a 35mm point-and-shoot that my parents bought me to take on family holidays. That might have been what sparked my early interest in photography, but it wasn’t until I moved to Bordeaux that I really started to take it seriously.
Through one of my friends, I’d been introduced to a young French couple who spent their free time roaming the city with old film cameras, taking candid street portraits of passers-by. The fact that they were choosing to shoot film when everyone else was taking photos with their iPhones just struck me as the coolest thing in the world. When I returned to Scotland, I borrowed my parents’ old Olympus Trip 35 and haven’t looked back since.
In early 2015, Instagram were kind enough to add me to their ‘suggested user’ list, and my account took off over the following two weeks. This opened the door to paid ‘influencer’ work with tourist boards and outdoor clothing brands. That was great while it lasted, and it allowed me to see parts of the world I would never have been able to visit otherwise, but I’m currently trying to transition away from that type of work towards long-term partnerships with brands I admire. My photography has come a long way in the past few years, but I still have a lot to learn.
I’m looking for images that challenge the way I look at our rural communities. It can be easy to get caught up in the technical elements of photography, but technical ability is ultimately meaningless if your imagery doesn’t have something to say. This competition is quite literally about ‘capturing the moment’. That, to me, is much more important than the gear you’re using or the way you choose to edit your photography.
Particularly when it comes to landscape and wildlife photography, you can’t rush a good image. Almost all of my favourite photographs have been taken as a result of getting up before sunrise or staying out until sunset. As with all things in life, you get back what you put in.
Always be shooting
En route to becoming a better photographer, you’re going to take bad photographs. If you’re just starting out, shoot as often as you can. If you don’t fancy lugging your DSLR around with you every day, then use your phone. By doing this, constantly being on the lookout for potential images, you’ll start to learn what you like, what you don’t like and what works best for you. Over time, you’ll take fewer and fewer bad photographs.
Don’t obsess about gear
Sure, it’s nice to have the latest cameras and the most expensive lenses. But gear won’t make you a better photographer. Focus on mastering the equipment you have before investing in pro-level kit. If you’re planning to buy a new camera or lens, you should understand how it will impact the type of imagery you can create.
Shoot in manual mode
This can seem daunting at first, but forcing yourself to shoot in manual mode is by far the best way to learn how your camera works. The great thing about digital photography is you get instant feedback whenever you take a shot. If something doesn’t look right, adjust your settings and try again.
Learn the rules, but don’t be afraid to break them
Understanding ‘the rules’ of composition and exposure is important when you’re starting out. Rules are rules for a reason. That being said, you shouldn’t allow them to stop you from experimenting and testing out new ideas. If everyone followed the rules all the time, photography would be pretty tedious.