When I purchased my first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex), I genuinely didn't know what I was doing. Sometimes I'm not even sure why I bought that Canon Rebel in the first place. I mean, I was fairly happy with my point-and-shoot, like, for reals, I did my research. It was bomb. But apparently I was looking for something a little more nuclear (Get it? A bigger bomb?). Blurry backgrounds were all I wanted in life, and a big-girl camera was the ticket.
Something was really frustrating though. My big-girl camera didn't solve my blurry-background desires. Shooting in Auto mode wasn't giving me the magical pictures like I saw on Flickr. Those other modes were disastrous little letters of confusion, and much to my dismay, RTFM (google it) hardly applied in this case. I kind of liked some of my pictures, and I was really excited to do well, but overall I was clueless.
This was at a time when Facebook groups weren't really a thing, and photographers were still pretty closed-minded about sharing their secrets. Quickly learning that it takes more than good gear to take good pictures and that my avenues for growth were limited, I turned to a form of education that seems somewhat obsolete today:
Lolz with eye-rolls, right? One Barnes & Noble trip and 20 big-ones later, I had in my hands Scott Kelby's "The Digital Photography Book." It was easy to understand and covered a wide range of topics. I read them all. Well, I read them all except for sports. It was my go-to guide, and I immediately started putting the techniques he mentioned to practice. Something that was once mysterious began to take form, and I look back on those first moments with such a strong feeling of happiness. It was oddly rewarding.
While I've been the photographer in forums asking silly questions because I was so tragically wet behind the ears, the most I've grown is from self-education. As in, picking up a book, reading articles, etc.... It was grueling, because I didn't know when that book I was reading was going to finally give me my answer. However, I learned more pushing through a book written by an expert than I ever gained from shotgunning one question to 10,000 people.
To help you along in the process, wherever you are, I've put together a happy little list of resources. I hope you can find them as helpful/inspiring/motivational/butt-kicking as I have.
- The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby
- The Photographer's Handbook (Third Edition) by John Hedgecoe
- At Work by Annie Leibovitz
- The Luminous Portrait by Elizabeth Messina
- Film is Not Dead by Jonathan Canlas and Kristen Kalp
- The Art of Boudoir Photography by Christa Meola
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
God didn't design me to get things the easy way. It's what keeps me reading, watching, learning and growing. Hard work allows me to appreciate where I am and remember that improvement isn't just going to fall into my lap. On that note, I want to encourage you to grow your photography community, take a class, and put your knowledge to use. It's nothing innovative, it's just the way things work. I promise you'll see results.