Remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”
Throughout our lives, forces can push us toward or away from reaching our creative potential: a teacher’s compliment, a parent’s tolerance for tinkering, or an environment that welcomes new ideas. What matters most in the end, though, is this: your belief in your capacity to creative positive change and the courage to take action. Creativity, far from requiring rare gifts and skills, depends on what you believe what you can do with the talents and skills you already have. And you can develop and build on those skills, talents, and beliefs. After all, Hungarian essayist György Konrád once said, “Courage is only accumulation of small steps.”
I started my photography journey in 1987 with a college course that included developing prints in a dark room (anyone remembers those?). I switched to digital in 1999, shooting on a Sony DSC-S70 point-and-shoot. I bought my first DSLR in 2006.
I have been working at this craft for over thirty years and though I can see that my skills have improved, I am just not happy with the results.
I often feel inadequate when I compare myself to other photographers such as David Cleland, Patrick LaRoque and Olaf himself. I know it’s a destructive and discouraging habit. Somewhere in the back of my mind, there is a voice saying “You’ve been at this for a long time. Why are you stil producing this crap?”.
Olaf’s blog post left me with much to ponder. I shall be doing some intense introspection this week to find ways to slay this “monster”.
Most mainstream photography courses focus on what matters to professional photographers and ignore the 99.9% of us who are hobbyists. Their advice is misguided at best, and scammy at worst.
C.J. writes with a tone that makes it seem like he hates professional photographers. Who writes about photography and gives advice but has no online portfolio? I think he lacks credibility. One more to remove from my RSS feeds. Forget the online course he recommended. Go take an in-person course like one from Princeton Photo Workshop with a live in-person instructor. There has to be one somewhere in your town. You'll get hands-on instruction and learn in the field. If you have an Apple Store near you, you can take an iPhone photography course for free or go on a photowalk.
Whatever you do, don't sit in front of a computer screen to learn photography. Grab a camera and got out and take some pictures.
The examples used are examples actual hobbyists might encounter, which is rare in a photography course. But most of all, I’ll recommend this to beginners because it comes from a trusted source: Shawn Blanc.
Because they are part of a small clique of friends who recommend each other's shit. Closed loop. Not objective.
I am still learning and this is after over forty years of taking pictures. The learning process hopefully never ends.
How do you learn? Before you plan a photo trip to Iceland or Patagonia or any other exotic place you need to become familiar with how light falls upon your subject, how to recognize interesting weather, to compose and to process your images.
I think one of the smartest things that I did shortly after buying my first DSLR kit1 was to take classes with local photographer Frank Veronsky. Frank patiently taught me the basics of composition. He did not instruct me on the settings of the camera suggesting that I learn to compose first then "fiddle" later. Over the last twenty years, I have attended various workshops and field trips with Princeton Photo Workshop all with the intent to improve my ability to "see" the light and create emotion in my photography.
But workshops and field trips are useless unless one practices every day. Several times over the last twenty years I have done photo-a-day projects, photo-a-week projects and last year, photo-a-month. Practices make perfect and although I still have a lot to learn, I know my photography has improved with time. It was only after I felt that my basic skills had improved that I started attending day-long workshops.
I think it is money well spent and I am still learning to compose and play with light. This year I intend to attend fields trips in and around Philadelphia and New York City.
A Nikon D40 with the AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. ↩