*RANT* Learning Photography Isn't Easy

I've been severely neglecting this blog lately, between editorial assignments, baseball games, running a music publication and it just being summer, this segment has kind of taken a back seat. I'd really like to be able to get into blogging more, but coming up with topics has been a challenge. This particular topic, however, has fallen into my lap and needs to be discussed.

I'm a member of quite a few photography groups on Facebook - whether it be concert photography groups, press groups, portrait groups, lighting groups or community groups for products I use, and one thing I've seen over the last few days in one of those groups is new photographers looking to skip the learning process and jump right into owning $25,000 worth of gear they admit to having absolutely no fucking idea how to use.

Just since July 4th, I've gotten into debates with this one particular kid who admittedly is a new photographer with zero photography knowledge and hasn't even mastered basic terminology yet, let alone basic technique like composition and exposure on his entry level Nikon D3400, and he wants to know which Nikon camera is "the best" so he can run out and buy it like it's going to magically make him a better photographer.

Here's a news flash to anyone thinking about getting into photography: THIS ISN'T EASY TO LEARN! Sure, you can spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on professional gear and put it in auto mode and hope for the best, but you can also do that with a point & shoot that costs a fraction of even a basic DSLR kit. There are no shortcuts here, if you want to learn photography you have a couple options.

1) Pay for expensive classes that may or may not be taught by someone who actually knows what they're talking about and can explain current tech to you in a way that will enable you to effectively use your gear, or

2) Take the initiative to teach YOURSELF. Go on YouTube, watch tutorials to understand how your specific camera works, invest in video guides that will teach you how to take your camera out of auto and explain how each component of the exposure triangle determines your exposure. Learn to ignore your meter, learn to be smarter than your camera (because you are) and start with the BASICS! I personally learned to get out of auto by watching - and people are going to scream at me for this - the Fro Knows Photo Beginner's Guide to Getting Out of Auto - yeah, I used it, and it helped a lot. I'd recommend it for anyone who is serious about learning the basics of photography and having a starting point to reference back to when needed.

There isn't a professional photographer on earth who skipped the basics. There isn't a published photojournalist known the world over who skipped the basics. What makes you so special that investing in a $3,000 body that you have no idea how to operate correctly is going to suddenly make you the next Ansel fucking Adams?

I'm entirely self-taught. I learned everything I know about photography through watching tutorials, watching video guides and actually going out and shooting and learning through trial and error how to get shit right in the camera the first time. There's no way around it. Expensive gear won't make you a better photographer; if anything, it'll make you worse because you're crippled the equipment by not using it the way it was intended.

Now, just last night this same kid came into the same group and asked for people to give him their presets so he "learn to edit". HOW exactly is taking someone else's preset and applying it to your - probably underexposed - images "learning to edit"? Yeah, I have presets I use when I edit. Many of them are my own creation, while others are free presets I downloaded, combed through to find ones I like and tweaked them to fit my style of editing and renamed them, but I didn't use them as a crutch to "learn" to edit. I learned to edit the hard way - by actually editing - and my presets all assume one thing: my image was exposed correctly in the camera. They're useless if my image was not exposed correctly, at least until I fix the exposure in post.

On top of all of this, the kid went got an attitude when anyone tried to help him and tell him that he needs to learn the same way the rest of us did: by actually doing it on his own and learning from his own mistakes, the same mistakes the rest of us made early on. That's a sure-fire way to be ignored when you actually ask for help, so good on you for thinking you're such a good photographer 5 minutes into your "career", but it doesn't work that way.

I find it kind of insulting, actually, that this appears to be the norm with new photographers these days. Nobody wants to work towards being a good photographer capable of making money in the industry, and everyone just wants to be handed everything so they don't have to do the work. It doesn't work that way, and anyone who earns money as a photographer put in a lot of time and hard work to get to that point. Don't insult each and every one of us by trying to skip the hard part. There's no way around it and you either have the perseverance and drive to keep plugging and actually learn, or you don't and you should probably find another hobby.

The moral of this rant is: if you're picking up a DSLR, it's because you have an interest in photography, but you need to know before making the investment that it's a PROCESS that takes TIME and COMMITTMENT. There is no easy way to become a good photographer, there are no tricks, and there is no magic camera that will make you good. You're making an investment when you decide to get into photography, an investment of both money and time. You need to understand that you will very likely not be happy with your photos for quite some time until you've truly mastered basic technique and have begun learning advanced techniques like creative composition, the Dutch angle (blah) and on-camera flash. That's before you even get into off-camera flash, multiple speedlights and strobes and all kinds of other things. You're also committing to taking the time to learn to edit YOUR photos in Lightroom and/or Photoshop and develop YOUR style that sets you apart from everyone else.

Photography as a business/career isn't going to happen overnight. I've been lucky, I've only been at this a couple years and I'm making money in the industry, but that came well after I started and learned and got to where I am now. It'll come if you commit to bettering yourself as an artist and becoming a photographer. Simply owning a basic DSLR doesn't make you a photographer, it makes you a guy or girl with a camera and there are millions of those. Work for what you want, don't ask for handouts.

I'm gonna be back soon with a new series where I critique my OWN photos from when I first started in photography, and progressively show how I improved over time and explain the things I learned, what I did differently and ultimately how I got to where I am right now. That's all I've got for now. Deuces.