I love engaging with people about photography. Generally, these individuals have some mild interest in it or at the very least own a camera. I don’t normally start the conversation, usually, they have seen some image I had posted social media and make a polite comment about it which gets me talking.
I get asked quite often how I got into photography and most people assume I studied it at University or High School. The reaction I receive when I inform them that I’m actually self-taught is always one of surprise. It’s at this point on I can quickly assess whether they are genuinely interested in my journey based on the next question they ask. The conversation usually goes one of two ways – 1) They ask me what camera/lens I use or 2) ask for advice on something regarding taking images or how I achieve a particular look. Depending on the question, I answer either with a sharp intake of breath or with an engaged passionate look on my face.
These types of questions are quite telling. The former assumes (not always, but most times) that my photographic ability is down to the equipment I have and they can reproduce it if they had the same equipment as me. The latter is asking for my expertise on a photographic process.
It’s at this stage that I should explain neither of these directions bothers or upset me, however, I do find a lot of people fall into the first path. Herein lies one of the biggest battles in the photographic world. Educating people. We live in a world where photos are consumed on an exponential level. Cameraphones have made it easy for anyone to become a ‘photographer’. DSLR prices have plummeted to a point whereby owning a camera and buying a coffee requires an equal level of thought. The bastardisation of photography is so prolific that people honestly think a good photo is when you ‘take a selfie’ or make a ‘funny face’. Photos are taken, stored, in some cases, shared and then forgotten into a digital oblivion. This happens day in day out.
The education as to what makes a good photo has been lost because your phone or camera is making all the decisions for you. It’s deciding how bright the picture should be, how ‘quickly’ it needs to close/open the shutter, whether a flash is needed or not, what should be in focus. The ‘Auto’ setting in these devices takes all the skill required and quickly sets things up reasonably well enough for you to capture what you need. For those genuinely interested in photography I invite you to put your devices into manual mode and try to take an image. The experience will be a frustrating one, enough to make you switch back to auto but stick with it, play with the settings and learn what they are about after all even a monkey will figure out how to take a photo if all they have to do is press a button.
Aperture, Shutter speed, ISO and the correct lighting are the building blocks of good photography. This is where my journey began.
When I bought my first DSLR (it was a 2nd hand, eBay purchase) I was intrigued by all the settings and buttons on it. I asked myself, why does it have all these settings if “Auto” did the job? I set about learning, reading everything I could find. setting the camera to manual mode and taking pictures of anything and trying to understand why it was blurry or too dark. After a lot of poor images, I began to build up a skill for taking images manual mode and quickly learnt that “Auto” mode didn’t “do the job” it just did a “good enough” job. Auto mode doesn’t perform to the cameras best ability, it was a guesstimate of what it ‘thinks’ is the best settings for what I wanted to capture. My mind was blown.
Its said that when you try and learn a new skill, the first 10,000 attempts will be failures. Although I didn’t take it literally I could see the truth in this. My social media pages are literally a visual representation on this. When I got to grips with shooting in manual I started posting on social media. If you compare the stuff from then (you’ll have to go far back quite a bit) till now, it results are night and day. I hope I am somewhere near the end of that 10,000.
Part of this blog is to help those interested navigate their way though their 10,000. I’m at a pivot point in my photographic journey, I’ve attempted different styles and found what I’m good at. I now need to decide how I want to refine it, tweak it and harness it in a way that will take me to the next 10,000