As a photographer, I’m often asked by clients how I capture the photographs that I do…especially after they’ve bought their own expensive cameras and can’t duplicate the look that I achieve. My first, most patient and polite response is, of course, “I’ve been doing this a long time” and/or “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.”
The truth is that I’ve been an artist since the age of three but got addicted to photography about fifteen years ago. I took a photography class to shoot my own subject matter for my painting and drawing classes and before I knew it, I was addicted. That addiction earned a degree in Fine Art Photography for me. But my photography “vision” was always consistent with my “vision” as a fine artist. It was just now consistent across all mediums that I utilized.
For those of you who have discovered your love of photography (please don’t say through your iPhone Instagram Account), I do have a few simple tips to share with the newbie photographers out there. Though I’d rather you start with a manual film SLR camera I know some of you have already invested in that brand new DSLR, so here’s how you can begin your education in photography:
1. Learn to See – when I say this, I mean that you need to develop your vision. You were attracted to photography probably because of a photograph you love or a particular photographer’s work. Take a few hours out of each week to go online, to the library or a bookstore and look at more photography by different artists. What about their work intrigues you? Expose yourself to as much of it as possible so that you can develop your own aesthetic.
2. Learn the History of Photography. This will not only expose you to the most glorious photographers in history, but also photography’s fascinating history. Its evolution is a long and winding road that never ends and leads you to new adventure. You must know your past to know your future.
3. Read the manual that came with your camera. Yes, I know it’s painful, but it’s necessary. You must become one with your camera…that means you need to know how to operate it.
4. Buy “Digital Photography Essentials” by Tom Ang and do each of the lessons in each chapter. Read this book over and over until you’ve mastered each lesson. It’s one of the best books I’ve encountered for beginning photographers and he covers everything from composition to lighting and working in various formats. Brilliant book.
5. Carry your camera with you everywhere you go. Take photos of everything and anything but without the flash. I’m very anti-flash in the beginning. You will learn more about your camera through your aperature, exposure and shutter settings than giving into your flash…and your photographs will be far more interesting. You learn by doing, and as they say, “Practice makes perfect” or at the very least, you’ll capture a portfolio worthy photograph. You will also be amazed at what you now notice and find beautiful. Life takes on a new light through the lens of a camera.
And if your addiction grows, I highly suggest you take a class. There’s nothing like receiving constructive criticism from an expert and classmates. You benefit creatively and you will make lifelong friends.