How long have you been into photography? Are you just starting out? If so, you’re in for an adventure! Learning how to make images you’re really proud of (as opposed to snapshots) is much more involved than it may seem at first. That’s part of what makes it so fun!
We all come to photography in ways unique to us. I believe strongly that there is no “right” way to learn photography. But I also think there are things worth focusing on and things that only serve to distract you as you mature as a photographer.
Photography is interesting in that you can pick it up fairly easily, and yet struggle for years trying to get truly good images. Anyone can take a picture. And these days especially, everyone does. But it’s a different ballgame altogether when it comes to creating images that look good hanging in a gallery. Photography is like any art form. It takes practice and dedication to produce something that is worthy of being called art.
Every post in my ongoing Friday Foto Talk series is, of course, about learning photography. But this short three-part series gets away from the theme of how to do photography. Instead it covers how best to learn photography.
- Make sure you know what you’re getting into. As just mentioned, serious photography is a fairly intense undertaking, and that applies to both your time and money. While you certainly don’t have to spend as much money as camera companies would like you to think, you’ll still put a serious dent in your bank account. Also, you will be investing a large amount of time in order to get good. Much of it will be alone. Make sure you are ready for that. If you’re not ready, that’s perfectly fine. If you just want to record life – its milestones and funny moments, a bit of its beauty – there’s nothing wrong with sticking to snapshots. Leave the serious shooting to those who want to invest the time and money. Don’t feel pressured to become a photographer if your interest is only casual.
- Think about how you want to learn the basics. This isn’t really about what kind of learner you are. After all, ultimately we all need to practice something to really learn it. However, in order to learn basic principles, you’ll need to take advantage of books, videos, classes or workshops to one degree or another. Personally, I like books as long as they’re good. I got a lot out of Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Photography Field Guide, for example. Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Books (vol. 1-3) give great tips on how to shoot a wide variety of subjects. He also has a well-regarded training website, chock full of training videos.
- Workshops can be a fun and engaging way to learn. But they’re also expensive and can include too many other (travel) aspects besides learning photography. They are also mostly run by folks with no teacher training. Good ones are certainly worthwhile, but are probably best done further down the road, after you’ve gotten the basics down. The worst workshops are merely some guy’s (or gal’s) attempt to have you help pay for his trip to shoot in an exotic locale. Unfortunately the latter are ubiquitous. A regular photography class with field trips may be a better option for you.
- Get the right gear, but no more. More on this in a later post. For now just realize you’ll need to strike a balance. You need enough gear of sufficient quality of course. But you also need to avoid going overboard.
- No holding back. Once you decide you’re going to learn to produce great images, you have to focus your energies. Don’t let anything become an excuse. Absorb and learn. Get out and shoot anytime you get a chance. From the beginning you should adopt a mindset that allows (almost) nothing to come between you and a great image.
- Patience is key. You won’t get good right away. Every new photographer thinks he or she can shorten the learning curve, and many even think they can leapfrog ahead by buying high-end, pro-style gear. Believe me, the saying “Your first 10,000 photos are your worst” is true for all of us. Depending on how much you shoot, it will take at least one, probably two years of serious shooting to become a decent to good photographer.
Do you have any experiences to relate about learning photography? Anything you would recommend or avoid? Please comment below. Do you have any questions to ask about this topic? No matter how irrelevant they seem to be, I want to hear them. So please don’t hesitate. Stay tuned for Part II, where you’ll find more tips on how best to learn photography. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!