Ten Things I’ve Learned About Photography


10 things I’ve learned in the three years since I began taking pictures:

1) There’s more to photography than snapshots. There is a reason that I never liked taking snapshots and didn’t like any simple point & shoot camera I’ve had since the time I acquired my first Kodak Instamatic. I haven’t figure out exactly why it is, but capturing moments or attractions is not something that appeals to me. That’s what postcards are for. If I ever go back to Disney, I’ll likely take a picture of the sign stating that it’s a good place for a photo-op, rather than standing in the directed location to take the picture. (Do they even still have those signs at Epcot?)

2) Posing people is difficult. Posing people ranging in size from infant to 6’6″ is never easy. After that, getting them to smile naturally seems like a cake walk. Getting them all to have their eyes open at the same time is pure chance. Continuous shoot comes in handy because you’re never going to show them all of the bad shots.

3)  Some advice to novices is not useful and may be counter-productive.  I used to think that photographers saying that they could “see light” was pretentious.   It’s taken me awhile to truly understand that statement and to apply it to my photos.   Maybe that means I’ve joined the ranks of the pretentious, but I hope someone slaps me up the side of my head if I say it aloud to a new photography enthusiast.  Instead, help them to understand how to adjust for different types of light sources and differing amounts of light.  The best example of aperture and shutter speed I ever heard was from a photographer who compared it to filling a vessel with water.  You can have different size containers and your water source could be a trickle or a gusher.  In the end, 1 cup will always equal 1 cup, but the way you get there can make all the difference.

4) “My what a big camera you have. You must be a good photographer!” People say uninformed things about your equipment, assuming that expensive or expensive-looking equipment means you’re a great photographer. That isn’t an unreasonable assumption: who would spend lots of money on camera equipment if they didn’t enjoy photography? Who would continue to take pictures with that equipment if they hadn’t had some degree of success or improvement or enjoyment with photography? If you look at every shot and think “That sucks” every time, you either need to find a new hobby or a psychologist. Maybe both. Likewise if you think that the person making the comment is stupid or the big bad wolf.  Get over it; they aren’t trying to insult you.

5)  A smile and a nod is always a good response.  I still haven’t found the best, most polite way to respond to comments about how I must be a good photographer, especially if someone hasn’t seen my work. Sometimes what our mothers taught us is best: “If you can’t say anything nice, best not to respond”, and “‘Thank you’ is the only appropriate response to a compliment”.

6) Everything looks sharper when you use a tripod.  No matter how steady your hand is, it isn’t as steady as a tripod.

7) Sometimes tripods are not very practical. I want one that will hold any weight lens, has great stability and yet folds up to fit into my pocket or fits in a something I can carry on my back without causing pain or discomfort. I can dream can’t I?

8)  Expect to move.  Expect awkwardness.  When you are of a certain age, you may find that to get the perfect shot, you have to be a bit more athletic than you anticipated. Be prepared to move ungracefully when you get out of that position .  Relax! You’re the one with the camera, not the passersby who may see you struggling to get to your feet! Besides, why care if they laugh!

9) There’s always going to be a better camera or lens — and you will want it.  There will always be equipment that I will want to add to my camera bag.  There likely will always be a new camera bag that I want too!  There will always be better photographers. Yet, I can always work to become a better photographer. Nobody will see the same shot as I do in just the same way. But I can learn from the work of others.  Looking at works of photography inspires me.

10) There is always something to photograph.  Every sunset is different.  Every flower is different.  Every day the light on the trees in the woods is different.  Every smile is different.   Carry your camera with you whenever you can.

11.  Different media and broadening my artistic sense.  (Because what’s a list if you can’t add to it?)  Photoshop can’t make a bad photograph into a good one, but sometimes you can use editing tools to take a mistake and make it into an entirely different thing, such as this image:

The slight blur caused by the wind didn’t help the original photograph and it was destined for the digital dustbin, but the blur added to the feeling of motion.  Transforming it with an artistic colored pencil filter took advantage of that blur and made the image look like a drawing.  I would no longer call it a photograph, but it isn’t a drawing either. Any ideas on what to call this? Lacking anything better, I’ll call it an image or a digital image, though I think that is a bit too generic.  As I’m learning the various things that one can do with photo-editing software, I’m enjoying turning some photos into images that look like watercolors, or color pencil drawings, or oil paintings — something I would not have expected when I picked up a camera a few years ago.

Which, I suppose, leads me to yet another point:

12. Don’t hold your expectations too closely. Be prepared to be surprised. Break the rules when necessary. That applies to life too.
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This is my entry in this week’s Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge. This week’s challenge was to try something different for a change. Although writing is not unusual for me, doing so in this space has become an infrequent occurrence. I usually display photographs here, so I thought something different would be to write about photography instead. It was fun to do so. I didn’t realize how much I had learned about photography that wasn’t technical. That could be another post. Or three or four posts.

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14 responses to “Ten Things I’ve Learned About Photography

  1. Excellent suggestions. And if you find that perfect tripod, please let me know 🙂

  2. Great list Anne! I’m still learning that craft and so much to learn too. 🙂

  3. Interesting post – like your comments about broadening your artistic sense. It keeps my creative spark going to try new techniques. Thanks!

  4. This is actually quite funny. I’ve heard many on your list from hubby. He’s a novice but he tries really really hard. Reads online how-to’s all the time. I think sometimes he over thinks. I know he hates taking my photos…I’m a difficult subject (#2). He’d buy every gadget out there if he could. I need to let him read this! 😉

    • From the photos on your blog, I would say that he is a good photog for being a “novice”. And it appears that you both have fun during your shoots — even if you are “difficult”, he makes it look easy!

  5. Great post Anne, those of us that are learning can use all the help that is given. Thank you.

  6. I enjoyed this post – a few things there for me to think about.

    • Thanks Ravi. I didn’t know when I started my 10 things list that I could come up with 10 lessons, but, I could have doubled the length. Writing about something often helps me understand what I know about it more thoroughly.

  7. Your digital art has a very painterly quality……..

    Does that sound right? 🙂