Teacher Profile: Sherman Shen, Photographer


Sherman Shen

“Photography is one of those things that a person can quickly become proficient at, but it takes a life time to master,” stated Mr. Sherman Shen, BYMS social studies instructor and professional photographer, who has advice for beginning photographers looking to improve their skills.

“I am learning new things all the time, and one of the best things you can do for yourself is read books, watch Youtube videos, visit photography forums and learn as much as you can.  Be proud of your work, but know that you can always learn more and become better,” advised Mr. Shen.

Mr. Shen started taking pictures professionally around the winter of 2013.  He mostly does family portraits, head shots, senior portraits and events like plays and recitals. He also has a blog in which he posts photography tips and work he has done.  “I have been approached about weddings a couple times, but that is a huge amount of work that he does not have time for at the moment,” he added.

Many of Mr. Shen’s live action and event photos from BYMS have been published on the Matador Messenger website, as well. As a professional photographer, Mr. Shen also knows the common mistakes that new photographers can avoid.

“There are a lot of mistakes people make even after quite a lot of practice like holding the camera at a slight angle or over/under exposing a picture. Those types of things decrease with practice, however, I think one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make is falling in love with your own photography.  Always be willing to take criticism as well as be critical of yourself,” advised Mr. Shen.

Mr. Shen also offers  some additional quick tips to help beginning photographers take better pictures:

Pay attention to the light.  When the sun is bright and directly over head, the light is harsh and casts shadows that you may not want in your pictures.  Taking pictures when it’s cloudy or the hour or so before sunset makes great pictures.

Learn your equipment.  Whether using a phone or a fancy DSLR, you should know what your camera can do and can’t do.  Try to figure out the settings and don’t be afraid to take the camera out of “auto” mode.

Take lots of pictures.  There’s a saying, “Your first 10,000 pictures are your worst”.  It takes practice to improve.  Look over your pictures and be critical of your work; ask yourself: what worked, and what didn’t?  Then be mindful of that the next time you take pictures.

Post Process.  Taking the picture is only half of the equation.  Use a photo editing software to adjust your pictures after you’re done.  Play around with your picture’s colors, cropping, and so on.  There’s a reason Instagram offers ways to crop your picture and apply a filter, photographers almost always fix up their pictures before showing them off.

Today, photographers have many equipment options from cell phones to digital cameras.   “Good pictures can come from almost any camera, but getting a camera that has interchangeable lenses opens up quite a lot for people interested in photography,” stated Shen.

“One equipment recommendation that I give many people is to get a prime lens.  This is a lens that is stuck at one focal length (no zoom),” he added.

“The trade off is that they perform very well at that focal length and offer a larger aperture.  The large aperture is important for gathering more light as well as producing those blurry backgrounds that people like,” explained Shen.

Mr. Shen also advised that beginning photographers take advantage of the many available post processing software programs. “I use Adobe Lightroom, but there are free ones like Google’s Picasa that can do the trick,” explained Mr. Shen.

For more details about Mr. Shen’s work as a photographer, please visit www.shermanshen.com.