Learning Photography

By the end of this course you should have a good overview of how a camera works, what the different accessories are for, how to use the important features of a DSLR, and know the basics of composing a photograph. While you should see an improvement in the quality of your photographs, I’m not going to pretend you will be an expert photographer after finishing this course. Mastering photography requires both a technical understanding of your instrument, the camera, and a creative ability to find and compose photographs. Both of these skills take time and most of all practice to develop. This course aims to give you a foundation in photography, upon which you can build more advanced skills over time.

The number one thing you can do to improve your photography is practice. You should get used to taking your camera everywhere and taking as many photographs as you can. After every lesson in this course take time to practice the material covered and to experiment with different techniques. Don’t be afraid to go beyond the course material if you want to know more – there are plenty of resources available online that explain concepts in more depth.

Fundamentally photography is a creative subject. Although it is important to know how a camera works, at the end of the day no one is going to care how well you understand concepts like exposure and focal length if you can’t produce photographs that people want to look at. For this reason I have included a section at the end of the course on composition. Composition is a complicated subject, and is also highly subjective. Nevertheless over time photography has developed ideas on what makes a good photograph, and some of these ideas have even achieved the status of “rules”. In a creative subject rules are made to be broken, but it still helps to know when you are breaking a rule!

File:Adams The Tetons and the Snake River.jpg

The Tetons and the Snake River – Ansel Adams, 1942

Beyond the course it is a good idea to look at other photographers work. Look at the work of recognised great photographers (e.g Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz or Henri Cartier-Bresson) and try to understand what makes their photographs good. Pay special attention to your first impression of a photograph. Where is your eye drawn to? What do you notice immediately and what feeling does this create in you? Think about how the photographer has created this effect, and don’t be afraid to experiment in your own photography to try and replicate such effects.

It is a good idea to attend photography exhibitions in your local area, to follow photography competitions and study the winners, and to look through the vast amount of portfolios available online. Find photographers and photographs that you particularly like (and the emphasis is on you here, creativity is highly individual), and use this to begin building up your own photographic style.

The final thing I recommend is to ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to start publishing your work online from the beginning. There are forums and boards online where you can submit photographs and ask for constructive criticism of your photographs. It helps to be an active participant in these places – don’t be afraid to look at others’ photos and think about what you could do to improve it, and don’t let your pride get in the way of asking for criticism of your own work. You’ll find that feedback will highlight weaknesses in your photography that you may not have recognised yourself, and that forcing yourself to criticise others and to answer other peoples’ questions will help to build up your own knowledge. It has been said before that you never truly understand something until you can explain it to someone else.

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