Lockdown has seen many of us take up new hobbies. I’ve got friends who have got into knitting, crochet or cross-stitch, others who are doing puzzles and of course lots of us have been baking. There is endless joy in artistry as well as enjoying the fruits of that creativity afterwards.
My unexpected lockdown hobby has been expanding my photographic horizons. I’ve always been an aspiring David Bailey, largely thanks to my dad. He is rarely seen without a camera close at hand, and I got my first camera when I was aged ten. By the next year I’d graduated to a hand-me-down Olympus and was snapping away happily.
I vividly remember the anxiety of dropping off a canister of 35mm film at Boots then coming back later to pick up the envelope of developed prints, flicking through them to see if the images I captured on the glossy prints resembled what I saw and experienced in real life. Some of the photos filled me with great pride and joy but the blurry or over-exposed ones naturally left me a little disappointed.
These days, taking photos is easier than ever before thanks to the rise of digital photography. You can snap anything at any time or anywhere with your phone, edit it in moments, use filters to make it look pretty before letting it loose on the world for likes.
I turned to experimentation in the early days of lockdown, with the first full moon of isolation back in April. It was a ‘supermoon’, extra close to the Earth, and it was visible from my living room window. I got out my telephoto lens and tripod and started snapping away.
The response from friends was amazing. That encouraged me to keep going, and since then I’ve spammed my social media channels with pictures of the May and June full moons, the waxing moon in late May, and an attempt at a time-lapse of the International Space Station for good measure.
I also took my camera for a walk in the local park in April, when the blossoms and stunning spring flowers were out. More recently, I lugged the telephoto lens to Richmond Park to take deer pictures and am contemplating a morning trip there for the sunrise.
However, you don’t need a fancy camera to enjoy photography. I love my trusty Canon, but also love the fact that I have a camera in my pocket every time I leave the house. My phone gallery is filled with pictures of flowers, cooking and views from bike rides.
So how to get the most out of the ability to capture beautiful things and special moments, whether with a phone or a ‘proper’ camera?
First off, practise. Just take pictures. If you see a cute dog, or a stunning sunset, take a picture of it. Share it. See what gets the most reaction from your friends.
Secondly, learn about the rule of thirds. This is a loose guideline for imagery which suggests that the important features of your photo – such as a horizon, or a riverbank, or a tree – be placed along one of two equally spaced horizontal or vertical lines. Don’t be afraid to crop your picture to make the rule of thirds work.
Thirdly, get used to tweaking your photos with editing software. Most phones and computers come with decent free editing tools that are easy to use. Straighten your horizons and vertical lines, adjust the exposure if the picture is a little too light or dark, clone out dust spots or red eye. I don’t spend hours digitally improving my photos, but I always go through and fine-tune them. A little adjustment can make a huge difference.
Fourthly, enjoy your pictures! Use them as desktop backgrounds, profile pictures, or get them printed and hang them on your walls. Almost every picture in my flat is one I’ve taken. Every day they bring me pleasure and memories of the moment I took the shot.
My lockdown photography has been a joy, and I’m sure I’ll carry on with it when normal life resumes. I hope too that it has helped bring a bit of happiness to friends as a reminder that even in the worst of times the world is still a beautiful place.
Joanne Harris, freelance journalist