8 minute read:
Photography Lesson 2: Practice…
Sounds obvious I know, but people don’t practice photography, generally speaking, even people who have a casual interest in photography.
Plenty of people do take plenty of photographs, or should I say, billions of people take tens of billions of photographs everyday, but they’re not really practicing photography. Typically, they are just pressing the button without giving much else any thought.
We finished up ‘Photography Lesson 1: Why Take Pictures?…’ with the message, ‘if you enjoy photography, get out and practice it.’ I was also bleating on about the importance of practicing photography in another blog post, ‘The Great Debate: Canon or Nikon?…’.
Whether it’s smartphone snapping for facebook etc, using a point & shoot camera, or even using a DSLR in auto mode, most people most of the time just point & shoot. Now O.K. I know that’s a wee bit harsh but you get the point….and we can all be guilty of doing it to a greater or lesser degree… shooting off without thinking that is! Even pointing and shooting is of course photography, but it is not quite what I would describe as practicing the art of photography.
Now don’t get me wrong, taking snaps with smartphones, point & shoots and any other camera in ‘auto’ is perfectly fine and again, it suits most people most of the time…but if you’re reading this, you are not most people, you have an interest in photography.
When I refer to practicing photography, I mean controlling what the camera does, by dictating the relevant settings according to the prevailing conditions and your desired outcome, which you will have already visualized.
In other words, you can either take a snap, or you can create an image, developing your skill and interest in photography is all about the latter.
Read Your Camera’s Instruction Manual…Maybe
So, you’re interested in photography, you’ve bought a fancy new camera?…what next?…read through the camera’s instruction manual?… Well, you could do depending upon your level of knowledge on cameras and photography in general, and even more so on whether you are the kind of person pre-disposed to reading instruction manuals. You will either benefit much from reading the camera instruction manual, benefit a little from reading it, or be blinded and switched off because you read it. You’re not alone if you have been demoralized by a camera instruction manual!
Keep this in mind: Camera instruction manuals are not designed to teach you anything about photography, they are designed to explain the functional capabilities of your camera…and if you think that’s more or less the same thing, you’re in trouble. This is one reason why buying yourself a better camera, does not automatically make you a better photographer.
I believe absolutely, that every day is a learning experience. Some days you learn more than others. I mentioned this in my ‘History…’ blog post and on my ‘photography tuition’ info page, and it is absolutely true that, …reading theory is a great way to learn about new techniques, but the only way to master them is to get out and practice. If you do want to develop your photographic ability, consider spending an occasional hour or two out in the field with us.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t read up on theory – you absolutely should, but reading up alone will not make you a master photographer, practice alone could do if you’re talented, but both practice combined with study, is the way to go. The emphasis should be on spending most of your allocated time practicing though, supported by complimentary study as you go, at your own pace.
Once you have put into practice, the theoretical techniques you have studied, then done it again, and again, and again….you will soon master them and the learning becomes embedded permanently.
I love reading about photography, I read magazines, journals and authoritative online writings constantly. I love writing about photography, bla bla bla, blog blog blog! I love reviewing other people’s photography and imagery, it’s always a great source of inspiration… but most of all, I love participating in photography…How much do you love it?
In terms of your participation and practice, I would suggest that firstly you:-
DON’T TAKE YOUR CAMERA OUT WITH YOU TO TAKE PICTURES…
…Are you mad?…how can I practice if I don’t take the camera out with me to take pictures? (I imagine you may ask, possibly!). If you are serious about learning, instead of taking the camera with you when you go out, you should start to set aside and allocate time to go out to do nothing other than photography, therefore you:-
GO OUT TO TAKE PICTURES WITH YOUR CAMERA…
Do you understand the difference?
Just tell yourself, right, today I’m heading off to wherever to do some, landscape photography or street photography, or wildlife photography etc between 7:00AM and 10:00AM…and just do it. Then put another date in the calendar, and do it again….and again…and again.
OK, once again I’m making a point, you can still take your camera out with you whenever you go out, in fact consider having it with you every time you go out.
The point is, dedicate time to the art, rather than just squeezing in the odd snap of convenience here and there. Your technique will not dramatically improve through unless you put the effort in….and it’s no effort at all if you enjoy it.
I have a principle that usually works with most things, and photography is no exception: Keep it simple… In this case, my simple approach in the earlier stages of learning is; one-camera-one-lens….and if you have one, make it a prime lens.
Indeed, even now, unless I am on assignment whereby I know which, and how many lenses to bring along, I usually pick the one appropriate lens, bolt it to the camera, and head out.
A Bag Full Of Lenses
One of the common ‘mistakes’ (note the inverted comma’s here!) fledgling photographers make, is to rush out and spend a ton of money on expensive kit. They must have a bag full of lenses to look the part etc. Now if you’ve already done that, fine – I did! (…but not to look the part). The real mistake however, is to go on photography outings with all your lenses, irrespective of whether you are trying to impress others or not, and be changing your lenses every other shot! Fledgling photographers love to do this…’look at me, I’m changing my lens again, don’t I look like I know what I’m doing!?’… Well erm, NO YOU DON’T.
Just don’t change your lens! One of the great versatilities of the DSLR is the lens interchangeability…but DON’T DO IT…at an early stage of learning photography, it is just an unnecessary distraction.
If you need to satisfy your lust for fiddling about changing your lenses, do it in in a darkened room, on your own, in the comfort of your own home.
For this exercise, it doesn’t matter if your chosen single lens is a short, wider angle lens or a longer, telephoto lens. However, it is better if it is a prime lens, so it has no zoom feature, which is another unnecessary distraction when you’re learning photography (almost as bad as changing lenses!). If you don’t have a prime lens, by all means use a zoom lens but decide from the outset, what focal length you want to select, either the long end or the short end is probably best, than leave it set at that length…no fiddling with it…tape it in place if necessary!
You will find that if you initially practice with the one-camera-one-lens philosophy, you will inherently focus your learning more on what you see. You will be free of these lens-changing zooming distractions to focus on framing and composition, and positioning yourself to achieve the best vantage point. Most of all, if you do completely free yourself from gadgetry contraptional distractions, your mind will be better able to think about what you want the image to be, before you take it. In summary, you will be focusing more on what matters, the photography, rather than tinkering about with the tech.
Now I cannot stress just how important, (1) learning to see, (2) framing, (3) composing, (4) achieving the optimum vantage point, and (5) pre-visualizing an image is when learning about photography…Much more so than becoming proficient in twiddling about changing your lenses, and probably getting a load of contamination on your sensor and/or shutter mechanism to boot.
Quite apart from the certainty that with wildlife, street life, or any type of dynamic photography, you will ‘miss the shot’ time and time again when things happen in front of you, if you’ve got your camera and lens in two separate hands!
Keep in mind those five aspects of photography I have mentioned, when you go out practicing your art. I will cover each aspect plus more topics, in more detail, in forthcoming blog posts.
More on the subject of ‘seeing’ an image, in my blog posts; Photography Lesson 1: Why Take Pictures? and Photography Lesson 4: Learning To See.
By using the one-camera-one-lens approach, you will gain confidence and capability in using your camera, and get to know the intimacies of your lens in terms of it’s performance capabilities i.e. it’s closest focusing distance, it’s ‘sweet spot’, it’s angle of view, it’s focusing speed, it’s image reproduction qualities and limitations etc. You will find that your ‘hit rate’ improves significantly…that is the ratio of the number of images you don’t delete, to those you do. Also, you may find that you become more considered, in the way you approach what you photograph, more selective even.
When you are satisfied, or bored, or when you think you have mastered your lens, (and this should not be after just one session!), stick with the one-camera-one-lens approach, and just select a new lens and start over again, repeating to work your way through all your lenses. I would suggest you consider sticking with any one lens for at least a couple of weeks (yes, 14 days minimum!), before succumbing to your temptation and switching it for another.
Try this one-camera-one-lens approach, it works….Monitor your own results, or by all means send us one of your favourite images, you will see improvement in your ability.
We haven’t even mentioned actual lens selection, release modes, focus modes, colour, subject, focus, lighting & ISO, exposure, dynamic range, image motion & shutter speeds, mounting, depth of field and aperture, menus & settings, and creativity yet!….
What stage are you at with your photography?
That’s it for ‘Photography Lesson 2: Practice…’ Have a look at ‘Photography Lesson 3: Invest In Lenses Not Cameras…’
Thanks for reading my blog…Let’s have your story, below….it’s good to share!
Please note: My ‘Photography Lessons’ blog posts, are designed to ease you through the journey of learning photography, focusing on the things that matter up front. This means I’m steering clear of delving too deeply or too soon into technical aspects of photography, which can often switch people off. If you want to learn more of the technical specifics of photography along with gaining practical experience, then consider having a bit of practical one-to-one photography tuition with us. I will introduce more techy stuff later as the lessons cover more advanced topics, but in the early lessons I am aiming to offer some different thinking and maintain focus on the pure visual aspects of photography…? Anyway, the internet is awash with all kinds of technical photography advice (of varying levels of quality)…so if that’s what you want, just search it out.
Please note: I welcome your comments and contributions to my blog, thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I always publish and respond to your contributions. Personal contact details are not made public. I moderate any contributions as appropriate, only to ensure they are not offensive or in poor taste, I do not alter the actual message itself.