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Archive 2012 · How did you Learn ?

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · How did you Learn ?

Newbie ALERT !

Being new to Photography as a whole and being a strong believer in *Role Modelling*
I was wondering how you seasoned Photographers learnt your craft.

I understand that there may be a myriad of opinions, views & experience regarding this subject, but I was interested to see what different paths people have taken to become proficient Image Creators.

Apart from reading all I can and asking questions on forums such as this, I am currently reading
Bryan Peterson - Understanding Exposure.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts, experience & learned advice.



Jul 24, 2012 at 09:01 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · How did you Learn ?

I watched a Chase Jarvis interview, when he interviewed Zack Arias (you can look it up, it wasn't that long ago... few months.) They talked about learning technique, and they were both very different.

Zack Arias learned in a school environment with curriculum.
Chase Jarvis was self taught/trained.

My recommendation is doing the method that you'll learn the best. Being self taught is great and cheap, but if you don't learn well that way, then I don't recommend it (which basically was Zack's and Chase's conclusion. Zack said he needed the book learning, or he wouldn't have bothered. Chase preferred the way he did it.)

If you learn by reading, then there is tons of material out there. I would say the first thing to really learn is the exposure triangle and how each of the functions of the camera affect one another (specifically aperture, shutter speed, and iso/film speed.) Really, almost all photography comes down to the exposure triangle, composition, and lighting (that is of course outside of finding an interesting subject, and if you're doing modeling, or working with people, how to interact with them.) That sounds simple of course, but really those bitten by the art know it's a moving target, an obsession, and a lot of work.

If you have an iPad, I highly recommend using Flipboard and getting Flipboards photography feed. Outside of that, I would recommend using any RSS reader and subscribing to photography websites that give tutorials or articles on technique. The photoblographer does that a lot. I subscribe to dpreview, fstoppers, Joe McNally's Blog, Zack Arias' Blog, Vincent Laforet's blog, and others. Reading about their photography techniques helps me to work on mine.

Outside of reading books or stuff from websites, I recommend using a camera... a lot. Digital is cheap (as opposed to film.) I experimented a lot with aperture (as an example) so that I gained a ton of experience just learning how it would affect depth of field. For the first 3 years, I ONLY used full manual. Not Aperture or Shutter Priority on the camera. This forced me to really know the exposure triangle, and it also forced me to pay attention to the lighting level and all of my settings. I recommend doing the same thing (maybe not for 3 years) because as I mentioned, it will force you to take care of all your settings and know how they interact. Yes, at first it will slow you down a bit, but after you become proficient and understand them, then it won't seem like a burden. Now I shoot mostly in Aperture Priority out of convenience, but I am convinced that learning the nuts and bolts in Manual during the time was critical (I do still use manual of course, for certain things.)

Kinesthetic experience and learning was probably the most useful to me. Experiment a lot, change settings, angles, perspective often. Learn by doing. Experience will teach you more than anything.

Jul 24, 2012 at 09:35 AM
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · How did you Learn ?

Glad to see you picked up Brian's book it's a great starting point.

As for advise...

- Go slow, gear wise, exploit what you have in your hands...buy only what your budget will permit, this can be a very expensive hobby...so go slow

- Shoot as much and as often as possible, shoot everything.

- Learn your gear, use M mode, manual everything teaches you how to tell a story, your story. Shutter speed, apreture, etc...depth of field, motion (sharp and or blurred), lighting, detail...they all tell a story; how you see the world.

- Don't expect stunning results/images right away, your eye for composition, light, will evolve with time, as will your style...give yourself permission to fail and succeed, it's all part of the journey!

- Above all, enjoy your discoveries! There's a lot out there to see, feel, investigate!

Here's a little something from our backyard garden, a delicate cluster of Roma tomato blossoms. I tend to shoot mostly in natural light, use flash rarely; mostly for fill purposes only. This shot is handheld, a 40D and 100mm f2.8 non-L macro lens were used; no flash, there was enough light even for the shadows this time.

I like the image, but my composition is slightly off. It would have made for a more complete story if I hadn't cut the tip of the blossom off on the left edge of the shot. I'll look/see better next time...even after 40+ years of shooting you'd think I'd have figured this one out

Enjoy and happy shooting!


Jul 24, 2012 at 09:44 AM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · How did you Learn ?

WannaTakePix wrote:
Newbie ALERT ! Being new to Photography as a whole

Welcome to the FM forums, WannaTakePix.

WannaTakePix wrote:
and being a strong believer in *Role Modelling* I was wondering how you seasoned Photographers learnt your craft.

I learned all ways. The most important way is to have fun, especially when beginning. Retain the enthusiastic exploratory mindset of the beginner throughout your life and you will go far in whatever you do.

Use all ways of learning, especially where they are fun. Study is important, but don't let it kill the fun. Photography is a practical art, which means that it is all about the doing. Study is for understanding and thinking about it. Then we practice until we know it so well that we don't think much about it while doing it and work at higher and higher levels.

Even more powerful than doing is re-doing. Go to a spot that you can return to or use a model you can photograph again or make a still life setup you can recreate. Make the best photos you can. Study the results and ask questions about things that didn't work the way you had hoped (known faults) and ask for critiques which will reveal things you hadn't noticed (unknown faults). Ask how to avoid or fix them. Then go back and re-shoot. Do this a couple of times and then move on, but whatever you do, don't kill the fun.

So I would suggest you petition Fred (moderator of the forum, look for the link upper right on the index page) for a subtle name change. Change it to GonnaMakePix or similar, for two reasons. 1) Don't be a wanna, be a doer: get out and shoot. 2) Make photos rather than take photos.

The "making not taking" orientation is key. Think about the photos and prepare before you go out. Look for similar photos in the genre for inspiration. Mull them over in your mind. Go on scene and before each photo you make ask yourself "What is this photo about?" That way you will home in on what's important (subject, lighting, mood, texture, composition, expression, technique, etc.) Robert Capa said "If your photos aren't good enough, get closer", which requires you to know what you are intending. Keep in mind the intention while you make the photo and consider each control as to how it helps or hinders the intention. When done, take them back and review after the shoot and again after a couple of days. Your reactions will change after a day or two.

Initially it will take a long time to make a photo. Don't worry. Take the time. But make many variations (since this is digital). And don't be afraid to experiment or to grab a shot in a hurry if an opportunity presents itself. Learn from it all.

There are four most important factors to always consider in a photo, and the fourth one is often neglected by even good photogrpahers: 1) Lighting, 2) Composition, 3) Timing, and 4) Emotional Connection to the Viewer.

Always be looking at lighting even when you don't have a camera in your hand (keep one nearby if at all possible), even when waiting in line for movie tickets and such. If you see a lighting effect you don't understand, try to trace the rays to see where light is coming from and what is making shadows. Look for reflected light and also for reflected colours (green casts under trees for example).

I got serious about photography in high school and taught myself a lot from reading and doing (including developing and printing in a darkroom). I then studied photography at a very good college (Ryerson) for two years of a four year program before going into software engineering. I found it invaluable, but even so I would have learned three times as much if I had the attitudes I have now. I'm a sponge for learning. In 2005 I picked up a DSLR after many years lapse out of photography, and I've never looked back, becoming more and more immersed, and of course more and more self-taught.

So use any way that appeals to you. Follow your nose and go deep into what interests you, but set your radar on wide scan because it is all interconnected and all helps.

Did I mention to always have fun?

Jul 24, 2012 at 12:48 PM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · How did you Learn ?

Trial and error, plus a lot of reading.

Jul 24, 2012 at 01:30 PM
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · How did you Learn ?

How have I learned all I know about photography, however little that might be ?

Simple, I've been learning by taking tonnes of bad pictures.
Some day I hope to be able to take some good ones too, and that sustains me in this hobby.

If you see any pictures of mine which you might like, please keep in mind that those were probably just lucky shots.

Jul 24, 2012 at 01:44 PM
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · How did you Learn ?

1) Know yourself and how you best learn as the folks here have already mentioned.

2) Again, to reiterate what has been said, take lots of pictures and make lots of mistakes.

3) Either give yourself projects to shoot or enter the weekly / monthly assignments here on FM. That will a) force you to shoot certain themes even when not feeling "artistic" and b) you will appreciate all the different ways one can interpret a very general theme.

4) Not up to that yet? Just post a shot to the "Photo Critique" forum here on FM and be prepared for some interesting feedback.

Jul 24, 2012 at 02:04 PM
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · How did you Learn ?

I initially learned from my grandfather who was an enthusiast just like myself. However, I endured a lot of trial and error (I learned using a film SLR so I wasted a lot of film). I also have a bookshelf dedicated to all the books I read to hone my craft. In the last 5 years or so, I have joined forums like FM and POTN to continually learn and better myself because I think photography is not something you just get. You are constantly learning everyday.


Jul 24, 2012 at 02:08 PM
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · How did you Learn ?

Same here.

Mickey wrote:
Trial and error, plus a lot of reading.

Jul 24, 2012 at 02:13 PM
David Baldwin
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · How did you Learn ?

The most profound advice I ever heard about photography was something like "the best photographers aren't that interested in photography". In other words, if you have a passion, an interest, learn how to use photography to record and communicate your interest. Don't get too bogged down in nailing all the little details in photography that can get in the way of what you are trying to communicate. Much of the best photography is technically less than "perfect" eg http://caraphillips.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/ernst-haas/

Its the emotion in your images that counts most, not the f stop or ISO setting.

In my own case my own interest in astronomy lead me to start doing terrestrial night photography, by accident really. I cobbled together my own technique completely ignorant of what I "should" have been doing, which was just as well, as in the early 1980s lots of photography textbooks were brainwashing everyone into thinking that night photography was inherently difficult. If I had read such advice I might have given up!

Read every photo book/website you can, talk to every photographer you can. Don't always assume everyone else is right, and you are wrong. Photography is ultimately about doing your own thing. Above all experiment! That is the real basis of learning photography. Try to create an image. Does you image satisfy you? If not why not, try again. Have the confidence that if you like an image, then it is good.

Above all, there are NO RULES IN PHOTOGRAPHY. Express yourself, it may take years to learn what it is you want to say but given time and passion you will get there.

And don't listen to us old farts on FM arguing about whether to use protective filters on our lenses!

Good luck.

Jul 24, 2012 at 02:22 PM

Search in Used Dept. 

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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · How did you Learn ?

My 2 cents.

- Study light, not gear. Remember shadows or tonal contrast is what makes a shot interesting.

- Learn and memorize the basics of the light triangle so you are never at a loss to understand why changing a setting had a specific result. Bryan's book is very good and has some exercises that are useful.

- As with all thing practice, practice, practice. Pixels are free. Make a lot of mistakes

- Take some classes. You will learn more from you fellow students than you can imagine.

Jul 24, 2012 at 03:01 PM
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · How did you Learn ?

agree with others that understanding exposure is the right type of place to start. read the book, put your camera on Manual and don't take it off until you understand how shutter speed/aperture/ISO all play off one another. this will also help you learn your camera... you'll start to intuitively know which dial to turn or button to press when you want to make a particular type of change.

two other really good books are michael freeman's "the photographer's eye" (not to be confused with the classic john szarkowski book of the same name, which you should probably also get). the freeman book is really good for giving you compositional lessons & ideas. don't get his book on exposure - it's really poorly written and confusing. david duchemin's "within the frame" is also an excellent book. neither of these are really technical. links:



and of course the szarkowski classics:



both of which you should probably have on your night stand

Jul 24, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Kathy White
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · How did you Learn ?

I took up photography after retiring from IT and being in technology my entire career. It was the only thing I found that filled that need to keep learning. I am no where near as knowledgable as the majority on here and keep learning all the time, which is why it has kept my interest so keenly. Between the technical part and the software part I don't think anyone could "know it all". The internet is an absolute wealth of information. There is information out there on about any subject. Personally, I know I struggled the most with depth of field and learning to shoot manually without getting nervous about it. Just google, and find what you want. Or, for specific questions, if you can't find out elsewhere, ask on here. At first, I printed off information and made books with the information I wanted to go over and refer to. For me, I had a book with tabs on photoshop and another on photography in general including lighting diagrams I printed off the internet for the different types of lighting. Then there is printing and color management, which I am still struggling with. My most recent book was for the 5DIII focus manual. There is youtube, or video tuitorials I would watch with a notepad and hit the pause while I made notes for each step. Titled the page, numbered the steps and put it in my book for when I needed it. There are many tuitorials you can just print off with step by step directions and pictures. I still google and read information almost every day to see how someone else does something, or what their thoughts are on a technique. Also, works when you want to do something in Photoshop that you haven't done before. Just google it and find a tuitorial.
Of course, after reading you have to shoot, and keep playing with what you find out and see what works for you and what didn't. The metadata was my best friend. Super sharp photo, look at the settings. Not the effect you wanted, look at your settings and try until you get what you want. Oh, and this is not only what I did but what to some extent, I am still doing.

I think we are really fortunate to have all the resources we do including this forum.

Jul 24, 2012 at 03:17 PM
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · How did you Learn ?

Well, I don't consider myself "seasoned", but like you, read as much as I could and studied the manual over and over. Then basically went out and experimented with all the different settings and took note of what worked and what didn't. Practice = experience I guess. I see improvement each time I go out. Just have fun with it. I've yet to bother with post processing software as well, choosing to try and learn the intracasies of the camera first. I found that AF points are very important. I used to take pics where my main subject was out of focus. Started moving the AF point around and resolved that problem.

Edited on Jul 24, 2012 at 04:17 PM · View previous versions

Jul 24, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Ralph Conway
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · How did you Learn ?

Shoot, shoot, shoot. Watch your pics and think about what you do not like. And why that could be. Watch as many pictures as you can get access to. Take those you like for a minute (or some) and ask yourself what it is what makes you liking it.

When I started in film times in the darkroom I developed thousends of pics (b&w) and learned much about composition. Great shool! Today it is more difficult. People went outside and take hundreds of pics (without additional costs) and if they got some nice shots, many are happy about their "excellent gear". Gear can help to make better pics (or maybe better said more good ones). But it is you, who does the pic and any great pic lives from what the photographer behind the gear saw, chosed, eliminated, created, composed, caught. If you ask yourself what you like in a pic and find an answer, you train yourself without thinking about it to produce what you like.

Reading is a good (first) step. Going out and trying to produce something comparable you have read about is the key to develop your own creativity.


Edited on Jul 24, 2012 at 03:47 PM · View previous versions

Jul 24, 2012 at 03:46 PM
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · How did you Learn ?

Great thread, I fit right in here because I'm on the journey myself. Lots of great advice from the more seasoned crowd. I'm glad to be here and recognize the true intent of the help and thankful for that. You picked a great book to read, one of my absolute favorites, in fact I have it out on loan to help somebody else. I found Light, Science and Magic by Hunter, Biver and Fugua to be helpful also. As Monito pointed out about the importance of light, an invaluable tool to use and/or harness, wise insight! I'm currently digging in to post processing as I have to double down with my photo skills and the post processing at the same time. I'm kinda late to the game, and trying to be efficient with the time I have. Great forum and good folks, you're in the right place!

Jul 24, 2012 at 03:46 PM
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · How did you Learn ?

I'm still learning photography, from my experience I would recommend the following:

1) Reading books on the theory of photography and on the technical aspects of using your gear are certainly important elements in learning, however they are no substitute for shooting lots and lots of pictures of different subjects in different light conditions. Take a look at the images you like and see if you can identify what is about them that you think is special.

2) Look at the work of other photographers who you admire and think about what is in their pictures that is better than yours.

3) Improve your post processing technique. Photography is about planning, capturing and presenting a final image in your medium of choice. Forums are great for seeing what can be done in this regard, there are lots of books too.

4) Think about who you are taking the photographs for, who is your intended audience? Once you know that you can get their feedback, that is key as ultimately you want to please your audience. Your audience may primarily be yourself, that is fine.

Most importantly, enjoy!


Jul 24, 2012 at 03:56 PM
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · How did you Learn ?

OP, I am actually very impressed you ask this question and it gives me hope that the future photographers still care about craft instead of being a rock star with very few actual skills. Gawd, when I see the crap that is out in the world today coming from "pro" photographers it absolutely boils my blood. Even big blogs are posting work that is so bad it boggles my mind as to how it made it there. Blown highlights, copycat attempts, just overall bad technique. Apparently all one has to do now days is watch a video put out by Jasmine Star and you're an amazing photographer. Nope. Anyway, kudos to the OP. I learn every day. I'm 10 times the photographer I was last year and can't wait to see what I come up with in 5 years. Trial and error are the best way to learn as well as assisting for other well seasoned photographers. Find out what kind of photography you like, make an inspirational book with magazine clippings. Work at re-creating those images. Once you master that, work to put your own voice in it. Study cinematographers, study photographers.

Jul 24, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Red 90
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · How did you Learn ?

As everyone has mentioned, practice, practice practice and do a lot of research.

One thing I would recommend is focus on one thing at a time. There are a lot of different types of photography from landscape, portrait, natural light, strobist, macro, sporting, birds etc. You can get easily overwhelmed and the needs of each type of photography changes the gear you will want to invest in.

I would first say, look at what type of photography inspires you first. Study it and try to replicate some photos you like. Study the techniques involved with it and experiment. Once you've acquired the technique to do that type, then move on to other forms of photography.

Let the limitations of your photography dictate the gear you buy. Once you find you can't achieve a certain type of photo with the gear you have, then look at upgrading. Too many people tend to go buy a lot of gear thinking that's what they need before they start to even shoot enough to determine the limitations of their existing gear.

Also, don't get discouraged. When you see all the awesomeness of the photos you see in this forum or on the net, don't expect to be able to do it on the first shot. It takes a lot of trial and error and experimenting to achieve those photos.

And of course... don't be afraid to ask questions. Most photographers here are more than willing to help and spread the knowledge they have learned. We have all been helped by others and are more than willing to pass that along.

Jul 24, 2012 at 04:12 PM
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · How did you Learn ?

Trial and error worked for me...hell, I'm still learnin' after 45+ years of shootin'
difference being, the last 4 years I'm finally showing a profit.
Exif is your friend and can really open your eyes to some of the mysteries.
Work to capture emotion, or tell a story. BTW, this can't be taught.
Most of all my advice would be to make it fun, shoot lots and figure
out when you get a "wow" shot...just what you did differently.
Rinse, repeat....and welcome to FM

Edited on Jul 24, 2012 at 04:27 PM · View previous versions

Jul 24, 2012 at 04:18 PM
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