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  • Kraig Brachman

Skills for Success and Photography

What’s a great way to get physically active, inspire creativity and innovation, work on your digital skills as well as adjacent skills like adaptability, communication, and problem-solving? Photography!

You don’t need a DSLR or mirrorless camera to start approaching photography. If you have access to one and want to use it, then bust it out! If you don’t, well that’s okay too. Unless you are still rocking a Nokia 3310 from the 2000s, your phone you keep with you 24 hours a day has a camera – and if you have a newer phone, it likely has a decent one that can do a bunch of fancy tricks.

But we’re not here today to talk about the iPhone 14. We want to pass on a few basics, so you can get clicking pictures and have something to do while you get your needed 60 minutes of physical activity and practice some useful skills like creativity, digital use, and problem-solving.

Basics of Photography

Be intentional

Before anything else, the most important and essential thing you can do with photography is to be intentional. Most people in the world have taken a picture at some point in their life, people take pictures all the time, but it isn’t photography without the intent behind it.

Don’t be afraid to take a picture

There is a good chance you are working with digital photography. If you see a photo you wish to capture, just take the shot. At worst, it won’t work out. Sometimes you can even capture gold accidentally. If by chance you are working with film, it will be different as the analogue medium has its costs and restrictions, but you still can't be afraid to try and capture images.

Frame your shot

A photo is nothing but what is captured in the frame, so you better capture everything you want! There is much to be said about what to leave in or out of the frame, but that is more complicated than we want to get for this post. Instead, just start thinking about the frame and what is in it.

Get it in focus

The old saying of you first need to walk before you can run, well, getting pictures in focus is photography’s “walking.” Autofocus will be your friend, but pay attention to how light changes your picture. That is a result of your camera adjusting its aperture, sensor, or shutter speed to the right exposure.

If you're like me, you'll want to get to those fancy pictures with backgrounds with a soft focus, or an out of focus foreground object right away. Those will come once you understand the how and why; for now, I recommend just focusing on getting everything in focus.

Use the rule of thirds:

Somewhere in your settings, there will be an option called “grid” or “thirds” or the “rule of thirds.” It is an overlay on your view screen that places three evenly spaced lines horizontally and vertically. It is a tool to balance your image, find points of interest in the composition, and overall, just help compose your shot. There are other methods, but the rule of thirds is one of the first everyone learns, and one you'll keep coming back to.

Look for things you find interesting:

Okay, now we’re getting into the fun stuff. Take everything you’ve learned and apply it while looking for something interesting, anything you find interesting, and take a picture of it! People, things, animals, stores, clouds, garbage, whatever it is, it’s your goal to make that as interesting as possible in photo form.

Have fun:

Most importantly, have fun with it. It’ll help carry you through the challenges and keep you coming back to the hobby. The best thing about photography is you are grappling with many skills while having fun in order to achieve something magical withing the confines of your camera's view.

And when you are comfortable, you can take it a step further and show it to your family and friends. Talk to them about where you took it, when you took it, why you took it, how you took it.

Places to go look for pictures

Calgary Parks

Calgary has hundreds of parks and green spaces that are beautiful and free to use. They are great places to get outdoors, discover nature, and see others enjoying the weather. Take pictures of birds, bees, the trees, and people knees!

In the city

A personal favourite subject of mine, the city itself. Street photography is about seeing the everyday in new ways. Downtown is usually an exciting place to take pictures of with stuff happening anytime of the day, but you can find places of interest at any time of the day in all of Calgary, you just have to get out there and keep an open mind.

At home:

Take pictures of your kids, parents, pets, plants, a dust mote in an interesting stream of sunlight. Find the beauty in your home and show it to the world.


With the proliferation of phones that can take pictures and record video, the question of when and where it is appropriate to take a picture/video is an increasingly important one; as well, the question of “who can I take a picture of” is just as important.

In the simplest terms, you can take a picture in any public space, and you can take a picture of anyone in that public space. The trouble comes from knowing what is public and private, and it’s best to practice politeness when taking pictures – if someone asks you to stop taking a picture, either in a space or of them, it’s best to stop and move on even if you are “technically” allowed.

Another important aspect of photography etiquette is to mitigate how you disrupt the flow of a situation, event, or people you might be taking a picture of. If you have the time and space to find the perfect picture, go right ahead, but if you are in a busy situation, or an event, nobody wants the camera person to become the centre of attention; take a picture or two, then be on your way.


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