Learning Photography

Remember back when cameras were all manual? Gosh it took folks years to learn how to master everything. Those days cameras didn’t have any light metering built into them so there was no auto exposure. You needed to adjust every single minute detail from aperture to shutter speed & ASA. You can’t quite turn out repeated good photos unless you really knew what you were doing!

Fast forward to this day & age, even cell phones have very decent auto exposure auto focusing cameras with CPUs probably smarter than the average monkey! Digital cameras these days are so automatic, you have to go through considerable effort to turn the auto mode off!! The good news is that because of this, photography became more accessible to people who never quite got the chance to learn photography the old fashion way. The kid next door or average Joe can now enjoy photography thanks to modern technology on a digital camera.

No longer do you need to understand much of the basics of photography to use a digital camera to snap some family portraits or gatherings. All that’s needed technically is to just point the camera at your subject & press the shutter release on the top. All that exposure & focusing is reduced to just having to frame the image & hold still while you press the shutter.

Is that a bad thing?

Hell no! The fully automatic digital camera is the best thing since sliced bread! Because of this, photography opened its doors to the masses & folks old or young are now able to enjoy what previously was only available to the niche market.

Should we be learning photography the old fashion way?

Why should we? Back in the days of manual film technology, it’s true that you need to learn all the ins & outs of a manual camera before you can do anything. That process took years to master.

Today, the way to learn photography is to focus on your pictures. Take a photo. Look at the result on the LCD. Stop to ask if you should take the camera off the auto settings because you’re not getting the results you want. When you become more experienced & know how your camera behaves, you can skip the looking at the LCD bit. Even after years of shooting photographs, I still rely on the LCD not to ensure I’m getting the results I want, but simply to ensure that there was minimal camera shake when I took the photo. I do this by reviewing the image at approx. 100% crop by zooming in & ensuring that the image I took was sharp.

Focusing on framing & composition is far more important these days than learning manual exposure the hard way. I too use Aperture Priority mode 95% of the time when I shoot. In those rare occasion when I need full control over the camera do I switch to Manual mode. Paying attention to your composition & subject will help you advance quicker because to get the desired results that you need, simply make changes to the camera settings to get what you want.

If you wanted to learn how to master your camera & software like Photoshop or Lightroom before going out to shoot photos, you will probably never shoot anything! Constantly worrying about mastering everything & worrying about your gear will prevent you from ever having any opportunity learning about photography itself. Falling into this category of photography… I call these people cameramen because they own lots of stuff but not really do any kind of photography… well this makes companies like Canon, Nikon or Adobe very happy because they’ll sell you all kinds of cameras, lenses & software you think you need & make huge bucket loads of money in the process.

If Picasso had a broken brush…

So what if Picasso really had a broken brush? Maybe he had… we wouldn’t have known. A great artist of the modern era… could have painted the Three Musicians (1921) using a bad brush… who would know? Not sure if that was ever documented!

Any great artist can get what he wants with any sort of tools. The quality of a brush for example would determine how easy it is for him to get the results that he wants. Even with a bad brush, an artist sees the final image on the canvas before he even begins to paint. The final result will always be as the artist imagined it to be because he keeps working on it until he got what he wanted. A bad brush will not stop him from doing that… it will slow him down no doubt… but as I said, if he were a great artist like Picasso, do you think he gets defeated by a crooked or somewhat imperfect brush?

How should we be learning photography?

In photography, no matter what sort of camera you are using, if you are focusing on the final result, you will naturally figure out how to get there as you progress from shooting photos. Your vision will drive you to improve & make tweaks to your settings whether they are in-camera or off-camera to get there.

If you want to learn everything about Photoshop for example, it may take you months or years even to master every available function that was built into it. Instead if you learned only what was essential to get the results that you want, hence finding your photographic style, you can get the results much quicker. You don’t have to stop there, you can continue to learn as you go along… a bit at a time.

Your interest in photography will drive you to do more of what looks good & less of what does not. Shoot first & ask questions later. And when you do ask questions, ask the real experts… not the snobs! The best people to learn from is from photographers who take photos that you personally like. So make sure their portfolio has the type of images that look good to you.

If you are unable to achieve the result that you want, don’t ask “What should I upgrade or buy now?” Ask yourself, “How can I use what I have to get what I want?”


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