I hear you. I bought my first SLR camera in 2002. Do you notice it’s missing the “D”? That was 15 years ago. Do you want an even more embarrassing secret? My images from then didn’t really look too different than my images from 4 years ago. I was a slow learner.
The biggest jumps in learning came from:
- taking a basic photography class, ie. learning the exposure triangle
- buying a prime
- watching a few basic editing tutorials via youtube
- shooting nearly every day
- reading two of my favorite photography books
Please note that those weren’t all in the same year. Or in the beginning. I didn’t start shooting every day until 2014.
Here are my photography tips for beginners
1. On the basics.
The first must in photography is mastering the exposure triangle. My favorite book for this is Understanding Exposure by Brian Paterson.
Then, when you’re wanting to look a little deeper into your intention, my favorite is Photographically Speaking by David Duchemen.
Want some lessons and assignments? Try the Visual Toolbox by David Duchemen.
Want the books cheaper? Buy used! I did! Amazon and ABE are my favorite places to buy used books.
2. On Shooting.
You need to practice. Practice, practice, practice.
I get it. I used to leave for work and come home in the dark. And my home wasn’t any better because I lived in a cave. Okay, it was a duplex. But it felt like a cave.
To get more shooting in, try:
- taking a photo walk
- visiting local tourist stops
- heading downtown
- going to the zoo or aquarium
- getting in your backyard
- practicing in window light
- asking your friends or neighbors to pose
- going to a park or botanical garden
- going on a hike
- and try shooting in the different rooms in your home, no matter how unfavorable you find the conditions
You’ll want to practice metering and more specifically practice in the different light. How does full sun effect your metering vs open shade? When you get a little more comfortable with your settings you’ll want to learn about the zone system.
3. On Editing.
I learned two ways. The school of hard knocks. And hours and hours of editing videos I would find.
I came across Michelle Kane’s actions, and though I liked them a lot, they weren’t entirely the look I was going for. I did learn a ton from her videos though.
David Duchemen created a series which I couldn’t find, but I learned a lot from his free sample video that is on the page.
4. On Workshops.
I’m sure you hear about workshops left and right. And I’m going to whisper this because it isn’t exactly popular. Workshops are great when you need to be pushed. When you need hand holding. When you want forced deadlines or someone else to do some leg work in organizing for you.
Workshops are also expensive. And I have taken some where I have been sorely disappointed. And they can be disappointing for a variety of reasons, either they can be run poorly and have poor instructor involvement, they can be superficial and lack general content or they can be a rip-off of a book you could have bought for 10$ used online.
I’m super super picky about where I spend my photography dollars now. And it’s also something I have kept in mind when I have created any products or teaching materials.
That said, I have taken workshops I have loved and that have been helpful. One of my favorites will be turned into a self-study course this year which means a huge savings for everyone. I’ll be sure to share when it is released.
5. On discouragement.
It’s easy to feel like you’ll never get “there”. But first off, “there” is a moving target. Even when you get somewhere you will still move past it and think, oh gosh, I thought I was there, then. You will get there. You will get there faster if you are willing to work harder and push through it. The more information you take in. The more you critique your work. You will progress, I promise.
It’s easy to compare your work with others. Please please please stop. I always wanted to be like my friends in high school, super skinny and not 8 feet tall. You are what you are. Even with all the tools and training, you will never be someone else. You are you. Your innate personality is behind the decisions that will determine your voice. Your voice will be unique to you anything else is not authentic.
Everyone was a beginner at sometime. Sure, some people put in more hours and some people just had more natural wherewithal to get somewhere faster. Typically we don’t like those people, I know many of them, lol. But, most people take a little while.
Find some positive photography friends who understand. Everyone goes through slumps.
6. On encouragement.
You can do this.
You will get there.
If you’re not enjoying this, you’re doing something wrong. Enjoy the process.
Start a 365 project, a 52 project, or some other variation. Get involved. Put your photos together, watch your improvement. In this post, I share images from 2010-2016, any further back requires manually uploading backup CDs due to a hard drive crash. Can you see the changes? The editing changes? How long it took me to get rid of that God forsaken excess camera tilt? The difference in composition and light? It takes time. It doesn’t have to take as much time as it took me, but it’s not a progression that occurs overnight.