The city of San Francisco … making it your own

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San Francisco, just like New York, Chicago, Paris and London, is one of the world’s most amazing cities. It is also one of the most photogenic, and hence, one of the most photographed. Anyone can snap a picture of San Francisco, and for sure, take home an image or two that looks like a postcard. As a matter of fact, daily, with the non-stop influx of professional photographers and tourists, the collection of beautiful and amazing images of its vibrant and iconic architecture, historic landmarks and amazing natural formations just grows and grows.

It’s really easy to take beautiful pictures of San Francisco. Just point a camera, and shoot. A lot of people do it every day. Photographers, and specially tourists who are returning from vacation, always take home with them amazing landscape pictures. This is what makes picturesque San Francisco anybody’s city. Anyone can take home a piece of it, even if just in pictures.

The problem begins when each and every photograph of San Francisco begins to look the same. One person’s snapshots is the same as the next. In this case, there is no longer anything unique and surprising and different, hence beautiful, in a city such as San Francisco.

The challenge, therefore, to a real photographer like yourself, is how to make San Francisco your very own. How do you come up with photographs of world-reknowned landmarks and make people see it as if they are looking at it for the very first time. How do you make something familiar look quite unique in your photograph? How do you make it your very own?

Here are a few ideas on how you can photograph a beautiful city such as San Francisco, and in the end, come away with familiar, and yet still uniquely awesome photographs.

  • Plan your photographic trip. Even before landing at San Francisco’s airport, make sure you already have a very good idea of what places you want to photograph, and where they are. One of the most useful tools to a photographer today is the Internet. Conducting online research will help you determine which places you want to take pictures of. Also, bookstores offer photography guides to some of the most famous cities, including of course, San Francisco. Doing your research weeks before your trip will help you figure out places of personal interest to you.
  • Do not try to take pictures of all the landmarks. It’s not a good idea to rush from one place to another. If you try to capture as much famous landmarks as possible by rushing here and there, you might end up with a bunch of ordinary-looking photographs. Be selective of the places you want to visit, specially if you only have a limited number of days to spare, and, spend as much or as little time as necessary in all these places. Enjoy experiencing the sights as much as you might enjoy photographing them.
  • Enlist the help of a local. If you are visiting a place for the first time, it is often helpful if you know someone who has been living in the city for a long time. A “local” meaning, a friend or a relative, or even an acquaintance introduced to you because of this trip, can easily point you out not only to the best places, but how to go around these places easily and quickly. Knowing and going around with someone who has an “inside knowledge” of the city makes for a really worry-free and enjoyable photographic experience.
  • While you may be busy taking pictures of the familiar and iconic landmarks and architecture, keep an eye out on the unfamiliar. It’s easy to get drawn into the same thing that everyone else is photographing such that you lose sight of other beautiful and amazing sights that’s all around you. Just because something is not familiar or typical, and does not appear in the guidebooks, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worthy of your photographic attention. Take time to photograph the unexpected and the unusual that may happen to present itself along the way. This is a great way to personalize your collection of photographs.
  • Bring as few photographic equipment as necessary, but also bring as much as you need. There’s no point in lugging so much stuff that you might not even end up using, and that it just weighs you down. And it’s also foolish not to bring the things you know you know from experience that will need. The less you bring, the better. But, don’t forget to bring the really essentials. One of the things you need to bring is a sturdy but lightweight tripod. This simple piece of photographic accessory often comes handy, but sadly, is often forgotten. A tripod can make a huge difference in the quality of your photographic images.
  • Perfect timing is everything. The beauty of a landscape is not just in the main subject itself (the iconic architecture or historic landmark), but how that subject is bathed in perfect light. Shooting at a perfect angle, and at a perfect time (when the light is just right), makes for a huge difference between an ordinary and an extraordinary photograph. Be patient enough to wait awhile to get the right kind of light, and be prepared to come back when lighting conditions are ideal when taking pictures of certain landscapes.
  • Be bold, be brave, and be different. Sometimes, all it really takes is the right mindset. You can choose to photograph something in the way that everyone else is photographing it, or you can choose to be bold, to be brave, and to be different by following your own vision. Being safe is understandable. Taking “safe” images is reassuring. But you can go beyond that. Think and imagine what else can be done, how it can be done, and then, just do it. Experimenting with something different may not always yield the result you expect but it can open up possibilities you may have never thought possible before.
  • Almost everyone will be shooting the same things you are shooting are going to shoot in high resolution JPEG. Be different from them. Shoot using your camera’s RAW format setting. You are making the most out of your digital camera’s capabilities by shooting in RAW format. While JPEG has its certain convenient advantages, it does not give you enough latitude that can translate to amazing post-production work. RAW is the right way to go when shooting landscapes. RAW allows you to make the most out of the details and bring out the best from each of your photographic images.
  • Use the right post-production tools. Shooting is half of the creative challenge. Digital capture is just that: digital capture. It is simply the beginning of an exciting and creative post-production workflow. Any photographer worth his grain of salt knows that the other half that really makes the image pops out is how a photographer injects the right kind of post-production work. The final, resulting images can really come out stunning and amazing! Choosing the right set of digital post-production tools is mostly a matter of personal preference, but many creative photographers handle their post-production work using Mac computers and with a pro software such as Apple’s Aperture 2, Photoshop CS3, among others.

With these ideas, you are on your way to creating unique and unusual images of even a much-photographed city such as San Francisco. It’s great when you are able to show pictures of something familiar but in a quite different way. It’s fun when people who are looking at your photographs are seeing something that they’ve seen countless times before, and yet, feel as if they are looking at it for the very first time. It’s a wonderful experience to unexpectedly “re-discover” something all over again for the first time. There is therefore no excuse why you cannot create unique, special and amazing images that you can call your very own.


Written by dominiquejames

March 18, 2008 at 7:50 PM

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