Friday Foto Talk: Learning Photography – Part I   7 comments

Ranch land in southwestern Colorado

Ranch land in southwestern Colorado

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.

Spruce and aspen, Colorado Rockies

 Tip 1

  • 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.
Weather moves into the spruce forest of the southern Colorado Rockies.

Weather moves into a spruce forest in the southern Colorado Rockies.

Tip 2

  • 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.
Are you tired of fall colors yet?  San Juan Mtns., Colorado

Are you tired of fall colors yet? San Juan Mtns., Colorado

Tip 3

  • 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.

Tip 4

  • 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.

 Tip 5

  • 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!

The sun sets on golden aspen in leaf as viewed from atop a ridge of burned trees.

The sun sets on golden aspen in leaf as viewed from atop a ridge of burned trees.

7 responses to “Friday Foto Talk: Learning Photography – Part I

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  1. Before I got somewhat serious, I would have thought you just find a nice scene and point the camera and not that much learning was involved (f stop, shutter speed and you’ve got it). Now after several thousand photos, I think I’m starting to figure out what I want to do with a camera, so your comment on 10,000 photos and a few years seems to be about right.

  2. I forgot, if anyone is interested International Media Service’s ph is (800) 428-3003

    Annette Arnold-Boyd
  3. Great Photo Talk! Being over 65 I was able to take the photography class at Portland State U. for free last year. It was a lot of work and I learned a lot. Got my camera on manual! There is so much to learn and practice is so important. I have my camera manual handy and read much of it over and over. Your Photo Talk has been a huge help. Also, I subscribe to Digital Camera World magazine which I think is fantastic. There is in it’s 148 glossy pages so much learning info and creativity that it makes it truly inspirational to me. It also comes with a computer disc with lots of info. Now, they’re doing a 10 part series on learning Lightroom. And it comes with 8 little handy info cards. A couple months ago it also came with a really big poster showing 24 ways to do a portrait and July through Sept. it came with nice booklets giving the history of photography. And I had a photo in the mag last January. Powell’s Beaverton carries it for $14.00. International Media Service (in VA) has a special of 6 issues for $52 something. It’s much more expensive to order from the UK or amazon. I’m on a limited budget but I’ve taken some nice inexpensive classes at the local camera shops. I took a little more expensive one on Lightroom but it was a waste because being visually limited I couldn’t see what they were doing. From all of this I’ve gotten a lot better this past year. A mom in the neighborhood paid me well for doing her daughter’s senior photos. They were so happy and didn’t have to pay huge bucks. I’m so grateful for your posts and continuing to share your incredible knowledge with us. Thank You.

    Annette Arnold-Boyd
  4. I know your series is about learning photography. And I agree with your assessment of Scott Kelby. But give a listen to Serge Ramelli sometime concerning post processing. Though he leans towards heavily saturated colors, I’ve been learning a lot from him as well as Scott Kelby, and others. And from you! 🙂

  5. I have found some of the online Craftsy photography classes to be helpful.

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