Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Starting out

I have been reading a lot of photography blogs, as usual, and started thinking to myself today that this blog is not what I want it to be anymore.

I started the blog as a way to post the pictures from my 365 day challenge, and when the challenge started failing earlier this year, the blog ended up becoming a sideline and more of a place to post the photo shoots that I have been doing. While that is great and I am happy to continue using this blog to post the photos from my shoots, I also think that there should be more to it.

I don't just want to have a blog that I post to once a month or once in awhile. I want this to be a photography blog - not just in terms of posting my own photography, but in terms of helping other people along with their photography. Since it is something that I am passionate about, and writing is something that I am passionate about, I want to join the two together to form a blog that other photographers would enjoy, not just the people whose photos I shoot. And so, I have decided that I am going to start writing articles about photography, starting from today. To ease into the transition from photographer to photo blogger, I want to discuss a subject that can be easily understood by looking at this blog from it's conception to this point.

When you are starting out as a photographer, people are going to give you a lot of advice, and that advice will vary from photographer to photographer, from blog to blog. But there is one piece of advice that always stays the same regardless of who you talk to - you need to get to know your camera.

Let me explain a little what I mean here. You can read your camera's manual inside and out, you can read every blog in existence, but if you have not picked up your camera and played around with it, I don't think you can say that you know your camera. While you know about the technical details of how your camera works, while you know the theory, there is a vital aspect missing from your knowledge of your camera, and that is experience. I would say the same thing for people who pick up their camera from the get-go and shoot in automatic mode for months, not reading a blog, not picking up a book, not even looking at the settings that are being used when a photograph is taken. There needs to be a good medium of theory and practice. If you only have the theory, you are going to be lacking in experience. If you only have the practice, you are going to be lacking in knowledge.

So what should you do as a beginner photographer? First of all, I would highly recommend at least flipping through your manual. It will tell you some of the aspects about your camera that will be finicky to learn, even through experience. I speak from experience here. When I first got my Canon EOS 550D, I had very little idea about what the various buttons did. I had played around with a Canon before, but never this model and there were a number of new buttons that made no sense to me. I automatically turned to manual mode and tried to change the aperture. I couldn't. I turned the dial that I had turned on the previous Canons that I had used, I pushed buttons and nothing happened. This is where my manual came in handy. I would never have guessed that the little button that looked like a magnifying glass could be used to switch between settings, allowing me to change them one at a time. Different models have different buttons, different methods and different features. Looking over your manual will at least tell you what some of these features are and how to use them.

While you are reading through your manual, I would highly recommend picking up your camera and testing out the settings that you are reading about. Reading is one thing, practicing is another. Sometimes you need to try your hand at something to completely understand it. Once again, understanding the theory of how it works does not mean that it will come across in your photography. Test your camera out.

Next, I would highly recommend finding some blogs to subscribe to. There is a wealth of knowledge available online from experienced photographers, and a number of people going through the same thing that you are. You can learn from both the experienced and the experiencing. It can help having someone to chat to about the problems that you are experiencing, particularly when that someone has experienced the same problem in the past. At the bottom of this post you can find a list of the photography blogs that I have subscribed to. Make sure that you find one that speaks to you. I subscribed to a large number of photography blogs at the start that either never posted anything of use (or never posted at all), posted articles that were far too advanced for my level of photography, or posted blogs that made me want to fall asleep. Everyone has their own personalities, and you need to find a blog that suits yours. I would also highly recommend looking at other people's photography. By doing this, you accustom yourself to good photography and you will find pictures that will inspire you to greater heights in your own photography.

Finally, I recommend taking up a project. For me, it was a 365 project - a photo a day for a year. This meant that, even when I didn't particularly want to, I felt that I had to pick up my camera and take a photo. I learned a lot this way. For example, I learned how to take photos in a number of different lighting situations - how to juggle shutter speed, aperture and ISO, when to use my flash and when not to, how best to use the light sources that I had. I look back on some of the photos that I took in the beginning that I thought were great at the time, and cringe now and all the mistakes that were made. But I also know that my mistakes back then influenced the photography that I do now. Now, I am not saying that everyone should take up a 365 day project, but I do think that you should set yourself projects and goals, even if it is trying to take a photo a day for a week, or a photo a week for a month, or trying to take pictures related to a particular theme or a particular feature that your camera has. But essentially, I highly recommend that you pick up your camera as often as possible and practice as much as you can using the different functions that your camera has so that, after a few months, you will no longer need to think about the settings that you use - they will just come naturally.

As promised, some of the blogs that I follow. I use Google Reader to follow my blogs, as I find that it allows for a great reading platform and means that I am integrating my photography blogs in with my friends blogs, my news blogs and my humour blogs. Please note that the links below are to the RSS Feeds for the sites. This means that if you use Google Reader, adding them to your reader will automatically let you follow their posts.

Beyond Megapixels
is a photography blog that is run by Tiffany Joyce and Steve Russell and occasionally features guest writers on a variety of subjects. I find it useful as Tiffany and Steve cover a large range of topics and often have differing opinions on how things should be done, which makes for both interesting and educational reading.

Digital Photography School is a school run by Darren Rowse mainly, but featuring a large number of guest contributor posts on a range of subjects, camera and lens reviews by a number of experts in the field and challenges and competitions that can be both challenging and educational when you are starting out and just plain fun once you have got the hang of things.

Photofocus is entirely run by Scott Bourne, who has a wealth of knowledge that he is ready to dole out. He is an expert and well known in his field, and does occasional giveaways. While these are usually not open to South African readers, as the prizes need to be delivered to an address in the States, I personally would not mind paying for the shipping and customs tax to have a brand new Canon 7D sent from my Aunt in the States to here.

Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier is a blog written by an amateur photographer that I have recently started following. She has a number of insights into starting your own photography business and her blogs are both easy to read and fairly entertaining. While it is extremely handy learning from the experts in the field, sometimes you want to hear form someone a little more on your level, and Kimberly is great in that way. She takes great photos and can share the ups and downs that she has experienced in trying to get her feet off the ground as a photographer.

What the Duck is just a fun comic that I recently stumbled across and absolutely love. LOVE! Very cute, very witty, very funny and often very true.

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