Learn Photography Faster PT1

How to learn photography faster - try things out and see what happens. But most of us don't like trying things out to see what happens.

These are examples of questions that Melissa and I get every day and they got me thinking, we’ll come to that in a moment...

  • What is the best aperture to use? If I change my aperture from F5.6 to f11 or f16 will it make much difference to depth of field? Or will it be unnoticeable?
  • Can I use my filters on my camcorder?
  • How much difference will swapping from a sunny white balance preset to cloudy one make?
  • Which lens will give me the best results when I go out to shoot pictures?
  • Can I shoot a portrait with a 50mm lens?

My answer to all of these is try it and see. In Part 2 (coming in 2 weeks) let's address these questions by trying them in real life and seeing what happens.

Now, before we go further I want you to know I understand photography is a big confusing subject when you’re starting out. I’ve been there myself. But, questions like those above suggest a reluctance to experiment, to try something out and see what happens.

Think back to being a kid. Were you ever told not to touch something because it was hot? Not to stand on the ice because it’s thin? But you wanted to eat that cake fresh and steamy from the oven. You wanted to slide on that ice - so you did it anyway. And by doing it, you learnt that new baked cake burns your mouth and standing on thin ice makes you cold and wet! You remembered those lessons way better because you had an experience.

It’s one thing to be told something - and quite another to experience it. Do you learn things better by being told about them, reading about them, watching them or doing them for real? Ok you need some pointers to get you started and I’ve given you hundreds of free videos and a bunch of course you can buy with everything you need to get Rocking and rolling. But you have to take action and try things for yourself. You have to experiment.

Ah come on Browne just tell me the settings I need. I’m going on safari in Kenya next week!

Would I be able to tell you all the potential settings for every scenario you might encounter when photographing African wildlife?

Think about it. Light changes moment by moment so exposure will too. Composition possibilities are endless. Depth of field changes all the time according to distance to subject, focal length and personal choice.

Even if I could tell you all the settings and their variables, would you remember them?

You’re standing in the back of the Land Rover, chatting to people on the trip when the sun breaks through the clouds and kisses the top of the mountains in the most wonderful sunset. The bush is stunningly backlit in reds and oranges, and then - as if by magic - the Elephant steps from the Acacia trees, majestically holds his head high and stares at you.

If I could have told you all the possibly endless setting you could use in this scenario, would you have remembered them all so you didn’t have to think about it? Would you effortlessly turn a couple of dials as you bring the camera to your eye and shoot the image?

Or is it more likely you’d Faff about trying to figure what to do? “What was it he said about exposure for back lighting? Don’t remember - bung it on Auto, take loads and hope for the best. Shit where’s the Elephant gone?

You have to learn to think like a photographer, to think things through for yourself by trying stuff out. And that means giving up laziness and procrastination.

I used to teach photography to mature students at a college. Not kids, mature students who were paying for the course. Yet each week some of them would tell me they hadn’t had time to do the homework or prepare for this lesson. Do you think just a two hours a week listening to me in a classroom will get you winning competitions and gaining accreditation's?

We all want results without the work. Without the pain of trying hard - and maybe getting it ‘wrong’! That’s normal and is the same for you, me, everyone. But it doesn’t work that way round because the pain of getting it wrong - is where we learn how to get it right.

Photography IS an Elephant. And if you’re going to eat an elephant you got to do it one bite at a time or you’ll never get the bugger down! We know that, but we procrastinate and find excuses not to practise camera techniques because it’s raining, we don’t have the time, we need a bit more information before we can take a bite. Laziness is procrastination in disguise, And if we’re really honest about it, the root of procrastination is fear of getting it wrong - then feeling crap about it afterwards.

Photography is a massive subject and there’s always more to learn. Therefore there’s always plenty of space to get it ‘wrong’ and there always will be. I’m sorry, but if you’re not prepared to try stuff and get it wrong there’s nothing more I can do to help you. So you’d just as well stop the video now and go have a nice life.

I hope you don’t and you’re still with me here. Because I want to help...

No one likes to fail at something - so we’re all afraid of failure. At some level we’re afraid people will point at us and say “They failed”. This is becoming a sickness in our society. How many Top Ten Fails videos are there online? Don’t watch them. If you’re taking pleasure from someone else's failure - what’s that going to do for your own self esteem? Your own fear someone will point and laugh and call you a failure?

So how do we overcome laziness, get into action and speed things up?

What about more willpower? It’s a start. Willpower gets us up off our arses in the first instance, but it won’t carry the day. The problem with willpower alone is it comes across as a drag. Something we ‘should’ do - but don’t want to do. It feels like we’re forcing ourselves to do something - and what’s that going to do to your enthusiasm, passion and creativity?

We need something more. Something that will pull us forward towards it - not push us. Because when we’re pushed we tend to push back. And that won’t work

Here are my 5 top tips to help you get you into action and learn photography faster.

  1. Ask yourself what it is you’re avoiding by being lazy? And be honest with the answer? Don’t just say “doing Stuff” because that’s not an honest answer that’ll move things forward. It’s much too ambiguous. What stuff? Consider the possibility that it’s the fear you’ll get it wrong and will have wasted your time? Which of course you won’t have done because getting it wrong - is where we learn how to get it right.
  2. Ask yourself what you want to achieve - and set a goal. Don’t be ‘wishy washy’ by saying I want to take better photos. What photos? Better in whose eyes? Be specific. Once willpower has pushed you out your armchair you need something that excites, motivates and draws you towards it. Win the Landscape competition at camera club, your images illustrating a magazine article, gaining an RPS qualification, selling your work for real money. What is it for you?
  3. Ask yourself what’s YOUR next step towards that? Remember this is an Elephant you’re eating, so think about where you need to take the next bite from. It might be to master manual exposure, shoot the same subject in different light to see how it alters the image, practise shutter dragging and EV settings with 2nd sync flash to create movement.
  4. Write it all down and set a time frame for each task. And re-read it every day and stay connected to your inspired moment so you want to take action on the answers.
  5. Cross off each task as you complete it so you can see at a glance what you’ve done. What you’ve achieved. This can only increase your self esteem and make you hungry for the next task.

Do these things and be honest with yourself and you’ll progress faster than you ever imagined possible.

So - over to you...!

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3 Landscape Tips

vietnam-txt-streamLandscape photography is one of those areas where patience, thinking it through and taking your time pays dividends.  We have all seen a scene we want to capture but sadly we’re in a hurry, so we leap out the car and just grab a shot without giving it too much thought.

This may or may not result in a great shot. But have you thought to ask yourself if there’s more to be had from a location than the obvious? You have to build upon an initial idea. Explore possibilities.

I was in Vietnam driving through the mountains when we came upon this amazing view of rice terraces. We stopped so the film crew could shoot some aerial shots with their drone so Simon and I took the opportunity to look around and shoot this video.

As we drove up the hill I’d noticed one of the little paths that wind their way through the paddies so we went for a walk to see what it would yield.

Almost straight away we came upon some greenery we could use as foreground, which can frame a scene and give it more depth. In some cases just finding a bit of foreground can make or break an image.

But don’t forget to look around you. It’s all to easy to miss a beautiful detail of the landscape that’s right next to you because you’re absorbed by what’s in front.

You have to concentrate and really look at a scene. In the first shot of the last scenario there’s a stick poking up on the left. I didn’t really notice it to begin with. It wasn’t until I checked the shot in the LCD it became apparent.

So how do we remove it? Well obviously there’s Photoshop but I’m lazy. A few steps to the side will change the geometry of the image. It makes things align differently so you can lose unwanted clutter from the composition.

So besides making sure the light is appropriate for the scene, here are 3 landscape photography tips to consider.

  1. Take time – think of other possibilities for the location
  2. Find some foreground. It could make a world of difference
  3. Look to the side as well as in front. You might have missed something

These things are not functions of your camera. They are functions of you thinking like a photographer.


3 Landscape Tips

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