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5 Keys to Learning Photography

When making the decision to learn photography or improve your existing skills, there is just so much material bombarding us making it difficult to know where to start.

My journey started many years ago, before the digital revolution when life was more structured, great material was available and the choices were limited. Now you can do a search on the internet and come up with a hundred sources. The unfortunate thing is that most of the material doesn’t offer you a preview and you can’t browse through it like a printed book or course. So where does one start? It’s essential when starting out on a photographic journey to get the basics right. Learning the fundamentals properly will prepare you for a bright and very fulfilling future in photography. Let’s take a look at a few important steps.

1. Find a practical ebook or course

Photography is a practical hobby and although theory is a part of it, one enjoys it by going out and doing. The operative word is doing. Any course must get you doing something from the very first chapter or if possible from the first paragraph. In teaching and training I have found it most effective to offer on the job mentoring while we are taking photos. With the instant feedback digital gives, it is the perfect way of teaching someone. That, of course, is great when dealing one on one with live people. Through a book or ecourse it may be a little more difficult but the author must get you shooting images immediately. The method I use in my books is to start people out shooting images and then afterwards giving them the criteria with which to evaluate their own images and improve them. Shoot, improve, shoot improve is the perfect way to learn because it’s practical. I cannot emphasise this point enough. A quick tip for looking at ebooks and courses, make sure that the author offers a money back guarantee. If the ebook or course doesn’t offer real practical advice you can get your money back. If they are not transferring their skills to you then the ebook isn’t worth it.

2. Start doing assignments or projects

The course or ebook you have decided upon should have practical assignments and projects or you have made a bad choice. I love acquiring knowledge through reading and research but after all these years it has done nothing to improve my photography without its practical application. So, start working through the assignments or projects carefully and try to apply the skills or techniques you are learning. Don’t proceed to the next chapter until you have mastered the lesson or skill. If you’ve bought a book that doesn’t have assignments then you need to create you own based on the material you are learning. Write it down so that you are clear as to what you should be doing then go out and shoot. You must have an end in mind and achieve a practical goal when your assignment is complete.

3. Use a journal

This is a photo journal and not a writing journal. You want track your progress and watch your learning journey develop. It can be a regular journal where you paste in your photos and make notes of location, date, time, the settings you used to take the image and how you felt. Or, you can maintain it on your computer. The key here is to watch your progress and see where you are improving and where you need to give more attention. Besides this, it’s a fun activity and a showcase of your photography. The key here is that it should help you keep focused and maintain your photographic journey. You are able to leave photography for a few weeks then pick it up again, revise and begin where you left off. It gives you structure to your learning and allows you to remember where you were last at and can continue on a logical course.

4. Teach someone else

This is where my photo journey took off like a rocket. As soon as I started teaching others I cemented the principles in my own mind and my own photography improved a hundredfold. I got together a group of friends for the purpose of enjoying my photo outings on the weekends. Because I was the most experienced they asked questions and I gave the answers. The ones I didn’t know I refreshed from my books and courses and the rest is history. Once you explain something to someone else you have to think about it more logically which often results in a better understanding on your own part.

5. Practise, practise, practise

The famous South African golfer and winner of many major international tournaments said, “the harder I practise the luckier I get.” You don’t think the master National Geographic photographers shot those fantastic magazine photos by chance do you? They come as a result of years of practise, trial and error. Go out and find your favourite subjects and practise shooting them from different angles, perspectives and viewpoints. It’s logical that if you shoot a subject in three different ways you won’t get the same results as if you did it in a hundred different ways.

Photography is a journey of discovery and learning. And, as you discover new things about your environment, subject or location and include them in your images you will start to improve at a rapid rate. These are just some of the principles that if applied correctly will help you learn photography like never before.

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