How do you capture that perfect photograph?

Knowing what to take can be harder than taking the picture with today's latest feature-filled digital cameras, so we sat down with the current grand prize winner of the Photography.Book.Now competition, Beth Dow, to find out what she does when she's thinking about taking pictures.

What advice do you have for people looking to develop their expertise with a camera?
If you’re new to photography and wondering where to begin make sure you look at as much photography as possible – check out your local galleries, photo-libraries, museums and other photographer’s websites. You will quickly begin to learn what you like and what you don’t like.

Many museums provide access to their collections online. These are good sources of information because they have additional descriptive materials to accompany the photographs.

Once you’ve got the camera in hand, try to put other people’s photography out of your mind. While taking pictures, never think - this would be great for a certain gallery, a magazine or will fit brilliantly into your photobook project. These thoughts will distract you from the creative process and will invariably result in poor quality shots.

What practical advice do you have to take a successful shot?
A photograph is more likely to be successful if you throw the rule book out of the window and just take the shot you want to take. Try to capture a significant moment, something which sparks your interest or captures your imagination.

My favourite shots wouldn’t satisfy rigid rules of composition, but when you’re starting out it is important to learn the basic techniques needed to use your equipment. Start by taking basic shots of things to master your own technique.

You need to make your own work identifiable but you might not know what that is until you’ve created a certain amount of pictures. So the best advice I have is to take lots of shots and explore your own interests in the process.

Photographers have different ways of working – how do you approach your work? Do you work on several projects at once?
I tend to work on several different long-term projects at once and when opportunities arise to take a particular type of photograph I grab them.

It might be quite unusual for a photographer to work on so many open-ended projects but I’m amazed that some people can devote such time and energy into a project and then say it’s done. I can’t ever imagine exhausting a subject and I like to keep adding pictures to my body of work. By doing this, I spot threads to my work and see opportunities for other sub-sets of work. It’s a very organic process driven by creativity – and that’s why I love what I do!

Do you have any advice for photographers looking to emulate your success in this year’s competition?
Keep your mind open and receptive to ideas. You might be walking down the high street or taking the dog for a walk and be suddenly inspired with an idea for a photography book. Be willing to change your mind though and don’t rule anything out!

Are you going to enter this year?
Of course, I'm working on my entry again at the moment for the 16 July deadline. The $25,000 prize pot would come in handy.


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