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Thread: How did you Learn ?

  1. #1
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    How did you Learn ?

    Hey,

    I'm new to Photography & I'm finding out that there is quite a steep learning curve.
    I've bought some used kit Nikon D70 + 18-105mm VR) with a view to learn and to see if I "have the eye" for photography.

    At the moment I'm reading a lot & taking lots of photo's but not many "Images"

    Without trying to re-invent the wheel, I was wondering how you learnt when you were starting out.

    Any advice & pointers would be appreciated.

    WTP

    p.s. I'm enjoying the journey thus far

  2. #2
    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Hey - I am far from expert, so only take this as a suggestion!! I've treated photography almost like a 'sport'. I've done the same as you have, read a lot, and practiced a lot to get the technical aspect of it down. But in the end, what I've found most beneficial is to surround myself around people who have the knowledge of the craft, and the skill, and the experience. Just like a sport - if you always just read books, you won't get any better - if you always play with people that are at your experience level, you won't get better. Throw yourself in there, and learn.

    There's my 2 cents!

  3. #3
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    IMO, there are basically three types of beginning photographers...

    The "NATURAL" who is a person that has, over his or her lifetime (however long or short that may have been) has gained a photographic education sub-conscientiously via the millions upon millions of images viewed throughout his or her life...

    The "LOOKER" who has looked at millions of images but has never "seen" them. No matter what training this person receives, he or she will never shoot a good image, except by total accident...

    The "REST OF US" who start with a smattering of photo skill and through training and experience better ourselves as photographers. This includes persons with a wide range of talent, dedication and opportunity. It also takes a personality that can gain from constructive criticism...

    Present day photographers are fortunate in that given a camera and lens plus a memory card and a computer... Shooting is virtually free after the initial purchase. We benefit from instant feedback and from being able to view EXIF data, instead of trying to write down exposures in notebooks and we also benefit from all the free training opportunities available on the Internet...

    This site, in particular, provides wonderful information and encouragement to photographers of all levels. We have members with photo talent and experience ranging from pretty darn awesome to barely adequate all sharing information in an informal and constructive manner...

    In addition to CiC... I would recommend any fledgling photographer do a Google search with "basic digital photography techniques" as the search parameters...

    Additionally, you might peruse the "In conversation with" portions of "meet the members" on this site...

    However the way to hone your photo skills is to shoot, shoot and shoot some more. Then request and accept criticism. A camera left in a closet or a drawer will not help anyone improve their photo skills but, just posting an image with the hope that your shot will be raved about and then being unhappy if there is some constructive criticism will not help either...

  4. #4
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    I'm SO still learning.

    You said, "At the moment I'm reading a lot & taking lots of photo's..."

    That sounds like a good start!

    Kelby Training is a good learning tool. Very reasonable monthly fee for the photography and photoshop info that is available there. However, as already said, reading and watching (and analysing other's photos) will only take you so far, you still need to just get out there and shoot shoot shoot. Pracitce makes perfect as they say. There really is no shortcut.

    Apart from this site, you could join flickr and join in the discussions there too. There are millions of photos to veiw and analyse.

    Go out and shoot a lot and try to find what you really like to shoot (what genre). Then have a look at other images in that genre (really look at them and analyse them) and see if you can shoot similar images and compositions. Ultimately you will develop your own style, but trying to emulate other's styles is a good starting point for learning the game.

    When you feel confident, put up some photos here for comments and critique. Don't take it too personally and try to learn from what others say. They may not always be right, they are after all just opinions, but you can always learn something from other's points of view.

    Good luck and have fun with it (i.e. don't get too caught up in the whole technical side of things all at once. Give it time, little by little).
    Last edited by Hans; 7th August 2011 at 07:54 AM.

  5. #5
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    I'm still very much learning every time I pick up my camera. I haven't had my dslr for 12 months yet and feel like I've learned so much in that time. I started by reading tutorials (like the CiC ones), reading and re-reading my camera manual and practicing working through the menus, getting out and experimenting by taking lots of photos and then more recently starting to learn more about post-processing too (I second the info about Kelby above... I've only used his books on Lightroom and Photoshop, but absolutely invaluable).

    Then find yourself a forum like this one and take the time to critically analyse others' photos - read the exif where available and reflect on how they got those results and think about what does or doesn't work with the composition. Then get your own work out there and be objective and welcoming of all feedback. I used the group system in dArt to get feedback and that has helped me to continually strive to improve as I'm continually getting rejections, but most of the reviewers will provide feedback on their rationale if asked. Then be open-minded to that feedback. I made sure to show my photos beyond my friends, as they tend to love it no matter what it looks like LOL, which is good for the soul, but doesn't help the learning process. Though having said that, I also had a friend who was learning at the same time and we promised to help each other and that was good. It was great to bounce ideas off each other and share resources.

    To be honest, I very much doubt I would have persevered with photography if it wasn't for the instant digital feedback of that wonderful LCD screen... feedback on getting exposure where you want it and actually seeing what results you get with a long exposure or at wide open aperture for instance. I remember my first 15 second shot at dusk on the beach and seeing what appeared on that LCD screen... I nearly danced a jig. And same reaction with my first close-up wide-open and finding all that wonderful bokeh on the screen If I'd had to wait to develop these photos most likely I would have not remembered, which filters, what settings, what did I do to create this LOL.

    Oh, and the other thing I did... was get out with the good light. Make the extra effort to get out of bed early or organise to be able to stay out late and learn how much a difference light will make to photos. Amazing.

    Good luck and hope you have fun with it!

  6. #6
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhotoByTrace View Post
    I'm still very much learning every time I pick up my camera.
    That, I think, is the most important thing to remember.

    With that as the starting point it is, I suggest, a case of:

    • Practice, practice, practice, then ......
    • Practice, practice, practice,
    • Read - Look - Discuss - Study
    • Practice, practice, practice,
    • Analyse, Assess, Question
    • Practice, practice, practice,
    • Dissect, Criticise

  7. #7
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Hi WTP,

    I too am just starting out in photography, so don't ever feel alone out there!

    I've had my D90 for a whopping 4 days, and didn't even take a pic with it the first day, but instead buried myself into the D90 bible (directions..lol). That taught me enough to feel comfortable turning the camera on and taking some shots in the AUTO mode. They looked like typical point-n-shoot pics (if that good), but it got me started.

    Next day I took about 50 pics in Aperture Priority and Manual modes, as I want to learn photography, not just point-n-shoot. Most all of those came out quite poorly, but, good or bad, each one we take teaches us something we can use later.

    Today I went for a lengthy drive into the local mountains, and took about 150 shots, all told. The vast majority of those were in full Manual or Aperture mode. Basically, I am trying to teach myself how to make the camera give me the image I want (or visualize), and that means learning to set it up right for each given situation. Wasn't looking to make very artistic shots, and just shot a few flowers and a lot of landscapes using various settings.

    After I got home and downloaded the images, again it was clear that about 75% were over/under exposed, so they got tossed (including all 11 images taken looking West up a long lake just after sunset..none were keepers....). Of the remaining 20 or so pics, about 5 are what I would consider as "good" (in-focus, etc), and considering I know next to nothing, that is acceptable for now.

    Most importantly, I went out and had a grand time shooting images.

    Did some more researching tonight, and found out what the Exposure Compensation button was for, and also how to use the timer. I also studied up more about the various metering methods the camera employs, and did a few practice shots with Matrix and Spot metering. Then, I read up on taking Moon pics (used the sites search feature), as I tried about 10 of those tonight and they were awful. Tomorrow night I'll be much more prepared.

    The learning curve doesn't need to be so steep, however, as it can be like climbing a slow grade, instead. By taking it one step, one control, one new feature at a time; soon enough it will all begin to come together. The tutorials here on CiC are awesome, and are there to read over and over until we get a good grasp of the material.

    Suggestions I've picked up here on the site: Shoot LOTS of pics, learn from the bad and good ones, and don't get frustrated when you see the awesome images the members here post up, as most of them have been doing this a lot longer than us beginners. We'll catch on soon enough..

    Mike

  8. #8
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    This site is the best, the very best, and nothing but the best.

    Other sites can give completely wrong advice. Apart from this site I try to learn from experience; for instance I'm used to stationary subjects and try to frame my image so that it doesn't need to be cropped. But recently when I took some photo's of moving things they was out of focus; so if I know where the object was moving to I now change the registration point to be nearer the third the object is on and set servo focus, taking more than one shot at it. If I didn't know where the object would be I now had to zoom out a little using the centre registration point and servo focus.The crop reduces the quality and so is not ideal but is unavoidable.

    I have had a camera from age 11 but still don't know how to use the auto stuff apart from auto focus and then only because I can't see anymore; but I suppose using manual is useful preparation since you have to think ahead about the photo; if you are taking pics of birds you can't operate all those dials quick enough and everything has to be worked out beforehand.

    The way you get to know what is needed beforehand is to practice, then read, then practice.That's it really, apart from looking at paintings.

    A recent painting I've been looking at is LS Lowry's 'Level Crossing', and how my eye is drawn to the confused scene of people, not on a third or golden ratio, and chimneys all contributing to the image, as is the bad perspective on the left with buildings leaning back.

    I sort of also like strange light and bad white balance, as well as Picasso style distortion, and rough texture but don't do any of that stuff now, and have pulled myself up at the bootstraps to avoid confusion, bad perspective and try to use a grey card at all times.
    Last edited by arith; 7th August 2011 at 12:50 PM.

  9. #9

    Re: How did you Learn ?

    I am going to give a slightly different slant on this. I Knew what kind of images I wanted to create so I learned only what it took to get the vision in my head onto screen. As I developed the style of imagery I wanted to create I learned the techniques required. If I had tried to learn rverything from courses, online training and ramdom teaching I would never have continued. It focuses your mind wonderfully when you have a vision and you need to achieve that vision. Remember photography is simple there are very basic techniques that you need to master as building blocks - the exposure triangle being fundamental. Everything else is refinement and arguably not required to create striking images. I see many beginners on here and elsewhere trying to learn the technical refinements before they are even toilet trained They are trying to pee in the urinal before they have mastered the potty. You can imagine the mess - some hits the target but the majority of their creativity ends up on their Nikes.

    Photography can be highly technical. There are reams and reams written about the technicalities of lenses, cameras and lighting systems. If you get bogged down in this you will stiffle creativity. Learn what you need to do the job - part of that may be highly technical but at least you will have focus and creativity dominates as it should. I hear it said everywhere the advice to go out and shoot shoot shoot......forget it - shoot when you know what you want to capture and what it will look like as an end product. This will focus you to aquire the competence to get the shot you envisage. Each vision will require the aquistition of skills that will build slowly to a real competence in most situations. Photography is not about cameras or equipment it is about creating images. For me at least the technical side is the necessary evil in which I must indulge to get capture the image.

    As a consquence of this type of thinking I have never read a photography book or even contemplated an on line course. I only aquire the bit of knowledge I require at any point in time. I am always trying to avoid taking someone elses photographs so I pick up what is needed from diverse learning points. You will not create a gormet dinner by going to the supermarket and throwing everything on the shelves in your cart (americanism for Katy). You plan your creatiion and carefully select the ingredients.

  10. #10

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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    That, I think, is the most important thing to remember.

    With that as the starting point it is, I suggest, a case of:

    • Practice, practice, practice, then ......
    • Practice, practice, practice,
    • Read - Look - Discuss - Study
    • Practice, practice, practice,
    • Analyse, Assess, Question
    • Practice, practice, practice,
    • Dissect, Criticise
    All of the above, but in the analysis of your own work, try this formula I use with my students and consider it just a starting point, never the ending point which, in all reality is noted so well by Donald:

    Description: What do you see - relly - decribe it to yourself. In many instances, you won't get past this step because you'll realize early on...oops, too many distractive elements...

    Analysis: What elements and principles of design are readily reconizeable in my image - line, shape, value, pattern repitition, contrast, etc...

    Interpretation: How do these elements, combined with the original description make the work "work?" In other words, what's going on throughout the image; how is the light playing a role; how is the saturation of colors; what are the lines doing in leading my eye; am I effectively utilizing the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Mean, etc.?

    Evaluation: Do all of the above factors provide the viewer with a successful image that gives then cause for further study, reflective thought, or just make them smile the rest of the day? If the answer is yes, based solely on these criteria, viola', you're now on your way to becoming a photogapher - BTW, you're considered there when you do all the above steps in the camera - oh, and good luck with that.

  11. #11
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    What you also have to determine is what style of learner you are.
    Do you learn by reading or hearing ? Can you successfully take the written word or a spoken set of instructions and put it into practice.
    Do you learn by seeing? If you see someone perform a task can you take the essentials and do it with no further help
    Doing you learn by doing? Do you have to physically do something for the skill set to register.

    Most of us are some amalgam of the three. I have to physically do something to learn. I could read until the cows come home and it never registers until I have to do it. So I learn best with instruction in a hands on environment; ie either an online course with feedback on my efforts or with a group in the field.

    Decide how you learn best and follow that format. Then do as Donald said.

    I also learn best by making mistakes and trying to see why. Fortunately my life has been an endless series of learning experiences. I have even created new learning experiences nobody has ever thought of before. This extends to photography.

    My ambition in photography is to be happy with my results. I will never be an artist I just strive to minimize the more obvious clangers. Happiness is my main goal; declangerizing my technical skills largely gets me there. Maybe you aim a little higher; which is great

  12. #12

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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    To start with, what is your first name? Not essential but we tend to be on first name terms at this site.

    When I started with digital photography around 10 years ago there wasn't nearly so much information available so I mostly used the information which came with my camera plus the Help Files from the editing software.

    Now there are quite a lot of help sites available; although many only give very basic information or make a charge. There are a few excellent sites for more advanced users, but a lot of them assume that you have passed the 'beginner stage'.

    The CinC tutorials are very good although even these can progress from novice to expert rather quickly.

    Also, there are now a number of books written specifically for beginners; and they can often be found secondhand.

    With digital photography, taking the shot is often the easy bit and a reasonable working knowledge of editing can make all the difference between a rough snap and a decent photograph.

    When I started, I found this site helpful; although it has changed a bit since those days. http://www.imaging-resource.com/GETSTART.HTM
    Last edited by Geoff F; 7th August 2011 at 06:26 PM. Reason: link added

  13. #13

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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Hi rpcrowe
    I agree a person cant learn nothing if theydont shoot shoot and shoot more you can pay top dollar for a camera and good lens ect ect but if you keave it at home thats just a waste of money. The best way to learn i think is read talk to people on this site and others and what you read and the tips you hear put it all to use thats the way to learn a person if they can aford it can take classes and read all about
    photography but you have to do the foot work as well take your camera go out and shoot shoot and shoot some more.And have fun and always when you get a camera READ the manual belive me it helps.Peace Don B.

  14. #14
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    BTW: Making mistakes and finding out why they were mistakes is a great learning tool. I have made probably every mistake possible and luckily, have learned enough from most of them not to repeat most of the mistakes.

    Speaking about learning from mistakes, Canon cameras can either shoot when there is no memory card installed (which is the default) or can be programmed through the menu not to shoot without a CF card. Since I have shot what I thought were images without a CF card loaded; the first thing that I do with any camera is to disable to camera from tripping the shutter without a card installed.

    There are other quirky things that I have learned to do with my camera setups to (hopefully) make my camera work more efficient. One of these is, when I am driving the backroads of the Western United States, to keep my camera fitted with the longest lens I have with me and to keep the ISO at 320. This allows me to stop the car, reach to the back seat and grab my camera which is already fitted with the best lens I have with me for wildlife photography and is at an ISO that will allow decent exposure even in the shade. This system has facilitated some decent shots because I don't have to take my camera out of a bag, fit it with a longer lens and change the ISO to the lower value at which I usually shoot.

    Wild burros along the Colorado River between California and Arizona..
    How did you Learn ?

    If a vista requires a wider lens and a lower ISO, there will most often be time to switch lenses and change ISO however, in the case of wildlife, it is often a fleeting momentary capture.

    I have mentioned the above because it is often the accumulation of a lot of little things which will help get good imagery. Shooting a lot of test shots in which you try different exposure techniques and exposures at different shutter speeds and f/stops is another way to gain familiarity (which equals confidence) with your equipment.

    Once the photographer becomes familiar enough with his or her equipment that getting well focused and well exposed sharp imagery is second nature, then the photographer can begin to concentrate in composition and all the other factors which separate mundane images from good ones...

  15. #15
    Black Pearl's Avatar
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Can I just first say that until a few months from now I am still in my 30's.........

    I started taking pictures when I was probably about 6 with my fathers Nikkormat FT3, I then got my own camera shortly after - an Olympus range finder of some sorts, can't remember which but I do know it stopped working at some point and I took it to bits then got very, very wrong. My first 'real' camera was a Konica Auto Reflex A that had been my mums and for the first few years all I had was a 50mm lens. It went all over the place with me and got me into thinking about how to take pictures and what I wanted to take pictures of. In those days all I shot was Ilford B&W developing it at home in a Pattersons tank then printing it through a Meopta Condenser Enlarger. I took anything and everything I saw learning how the camera worked and what I could get from it. I got a Tamron 135mm f3.5 AD1 lens a few years later and that opened up a whole new type of photography letting me get closer and crop tighter. School brought my photography to a new level, we were the first year to have a bash at the GCSE examinations and Photography was an option - I had saved for ages and bought a used Nikon FG with a 50mm - but - I had access to my dad's 28mm (a first for me) and a better 135mm Tamron. I got an A, went to college and then on to Uni which ended in me using everything from a pinhole camera to a 10x8 Monorail. Personally I had moved to a pair of Nikon F301 cameras (monochrome film in one and colour slide in the other) with a Nikon 35-70mm f3.3-4.5 lens and a Tokina 70-200mm f4-5.6 plus a couple of primes, I also now owned a Mamiya C330F with the standard 80mm, a 105mm with twin apertures so I could check the DoF and a 150mm. By this time I was working for Jessops where I am to this day.

    So how did I start?

    With the very basics. I had one camera and one lens that went everywhere and I learned it inside out. My father was a keen amateur photographer with good camera club success who nurtured a son with a similar interest. There was no such thing as digital and no such thing as the internet so I was kind of on my own. Today things are different, we have a picture on the back of our cameras as soon as we take them to see if we have it right and we have excellent forums such as this where we can get advice and push our photograph forward - but - there is still no substitute to going out with your camera with a single lens and really and I mean really learning how it works. If you have a 50mm then stick the zooms in the cupboard at home and force yourself to shoot everything with just a fixed focal length for at least a month. I will guarantee your photography will improve beyond anything you can imagine as you will have to look for a picture and not just create one with technology.


    Would I go back? Would I heckers like! I love my DSLR as I love my bag of lenses and my iMac with its raft of software. Could I go back? Yes - I took a Fuji X100 to London for two days and shot everything with one lens and I personally think the results are some of the best I've taken in years. I'd buy one today if I had the cash and know it would be welded to my side for years to come.

    Keep it simple, keep your camera with you, learn your camera inside out and open your eyes every minute of every day.

  16. #16
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Im where Wirefox so eloquently put it... trying to master the Potty! At first I was bombarded with shoot, shoot, shoot, and I did. It was frustrating because my pics in the auto modes were usually much better than in the A, TV, M modes! I didnt really know what I was doing technical wise, even after reading through all the tutorials the first time. I just took my first real photo trip to Alaska and tried RAW... I need more work. Started re reading the tutorials again, the exposure triangle... ahhh, its starting to make more sense now! Back to getting out and shooting more shots, then I guess back to re reading tutorials again and continue improving. Im on three different photo forums and Im finding CIC the better one to learn from. The amazing pictures many post on here is giving me the motivation to get to the same level and post them here too! So this is a great place to learn from!

  17. #17

    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Alright! Did you get all that?

    Oh, and, btw, whatever happens - when that moment of self doubt or frustration comes and you feel like you'll never be able to figure it all out - don't fret. It's all part of the photographic journey and you just have to pass through to get to better stuff on the other side.
    Last edited by Katy Noelle; 9th August 2011 at 01:18 PM.

  18. #18
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Steve,

    How I started to make real progress, was to go to a really good basic course. In my case it was a basic B&W course. It involved film, developing and printing. Once I could reliably expose and focus and produce reasonable negatives and prints they started working on vision and working to an assignment.

    I went on to a more advanced course and then some specialist courses which really set me on the road. I went to the Australian Centre for Photography which is in Paddington in Sydney, it was in about 1978 - 79 and I was fortunate in having some of Australia's finest photographers as lecturers and teachers. There are courses offered at every level in OZ, from community colleges to university degrees we are really lucky. More recently after taking up photography seriously again I have done some more courses on lighting, architecture, portraiture and some workshops on landscape. It is not a cheap way to learn but face to face teaching and guided hands on practice has some real advantages.

    Firstly you cover the ground quickly, then you have someone to guide your learning, so that you don't bounce around all over the place getting more and more confused. Often simple problems can be corrected at a glance by someone who knows. (This is a major advantage of this site CIC.) This was a great advantage in the wet darkroom days when problems such as temperature control and dilution were important.

    The major advantage though is that you start to develop your personal vision because you have other students around you with really different approaches and interpretation of the same assignment, and a source of models.

    Frankly I think you can learn the technical stuff with digital and photoshop or aperture or Phocus really well with books and this site and on line tutorials. This site is a good way to get feedback from interested, kind and knowledgeable people.

    Do the reading, work with this site and find a good course. I hope this helps.

    Graham

  19. #19
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    Re: How did you Learn ?

    Hi Steve,

    I thought I could share my experience so far, so here it is. I'm new to photography as I only started taking it seriously when I joined this forum. I'm "stuck" with an old P&S where almost everything is automatic. The only adjustment to exposure I can make is exposure compensation. At first I was not happy with my gear. But as time goes on I realized that even if I had a good camera I would be overwhelmed and would spend too much time on trying to master it. This is because, as you say, there is a steep learning curve. And this applies not only to skills with the camera but also to skills about your ability to see and observe.

    For myself, having a bad camera was actually good because I am forced to focus on composition only. I see an improvement in my photos now from then and I am a small step closer to effectively capturing the vision in my head to my photos (well, not so effectively yet...).

    I suggest that you focus on your composition first and think some time about what you want to show with your images. Everything else will come naturally as you continue shooting.

    My education on photography comes from this site by the way. There will always be people here that will help. Many did so already.

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