I’ve been taking photographs for about 30 years always as an amature (although I did do some professional video work which helped me understand lighting and framing).
I didn’t really take photography seriously until I took an evening class in black and white photography back in around 1990. This was more about developing and printing but also pushed us to try new things and to get critique on our work.
On the first day the teacher told us one thing which has always stuck with me as we were standing there with our wide ranging assortment of equipment “the best way to learn to take better pictures is to take more pictures; the more you take the better your pictures will become” I think this is the best advice someone can give to someone starting in photography; it’s not what equipment you should buy or what rules you should follow (though these can help) it is about learning to use whatever equipment you have and keep taking pictures.
This is so much easier these days when it costs nothing to take a picture with a digital camera (or phone). I remember on that first lesson we had been told to turn up with our cameras (I think I had a Zenit SLR) and a 36 exposure b&w film and our teacher said “right you have 30 minutes, go out and shoot the whole roll” We all looked at each other and couldn’t conceive of taking 36 pictures in such a short time and with no subject matter other than what we could find on the surrounding streets. As newbies to this we were used to a film lasting weeks or months; so different to today where I am sure many people take that many picture most days. I must say that it was quite a revelation that one could just go out and blow a whole film in one go like that; I almost felt liberated!. Film wasn’t a cheap medium even then.
Developing and printing our photos gave us an insight beyond looking through a viewfinder and pressing the shutter. We learned to look at what we had taken and make decisions about what they should look like when printed, were they over/under exposed at all. Would they benefit from more or less contrast. Are they framed well could we crop them better. It often makes me smile now when I hear people talk about digital photography and that editing the photos is cheating. Any professional photographer would have used filters, cropping, dodging and burning as tools in the darkroom to change contrast, re-frame and adjust over/under exposed areas. If you read about the darkroom work that people like Ansel Adams put in to turn negatives into amazing prints, you wouldn’t scoff at photo editing.
I think I learned a lot in those classes and although I’ve not done developing and printing myself since then it did give me a lot of knowledge which became experience over the years.
There was a time when I didn’t really take pictures other than holiday snaps but I never lost the interest and always loved the cameras themselves. Once good quality digital SLRs became affordable I quickly got back into photography learning the nuances of digital and exploring my own interests; I’m still learning though – you never stop.
The image isn’t really relevant I just don’t like to post without a picture of some sort 🙂