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Can Someone Teach You Photography?

Cameras make it easy to take photographs these days. Just point and shoot. But there's so much more to be learned.

Beneath the apparent simplicity of photography lies an endless number of possible choices and restrictions within which those choices must be made. While your camera can handle most of the details for you, it can't possibly know what you want. It can assume you don't want a blurry photo. It can assume you don't want an image so far overexposed that nothing of the subject remains to be seen. You probably don't want an image with an overt color cast either. For those times when your camera needs a little help, you'll have to take matters into your own hands if you want to get the shot. Clearly, all those buttons, knobs and dials covering your camera body aren't just there for decoration.

It would make sense then that the more you understand about what choices are possible and what restrictions exist, the better you will be when you do want or need to take a degree of control away from your camera make some decisions yourself.

For as easy as it is to take a picture, there sure have been a lot of books and articles written on how to do so. Yet aspiring photographers continue to seek more.

Photography is both an art and a science. It's an art in that some images look better than others, even when they are depicting the same subject. It's a science in that you are bound by certain real-world constraints when taking photographs. Understanding the practical laws of physics and optics that are involved can make you better able to work with those constraints rather than against them.

There are indeed things others can teach you. But there are also question about photography you will have to seek answers to on your own, and within yourself. No one can tell you what you like and how you feel about a given image. For that matter, no one can tell you what to take pictures of in the first place. It's your camera, and it's your photography.

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream? I know what I like, but you may not agree. No worries. That's why they make so many kinds, after all. What kind of music do you enjoy listening to? Do you prefer classical, or rap? West African Timbuktu guitar blues, Brazilian samba and bossa nova, or progressive rock from the seventies? Surely not disco from the eighties, but if that be the case, so be it. It's your taste in music, and there's no need for me to agree. Suppose you are yourself a musician. If you tried to play music that I would like, you may succeed, at least superficially. If instead you play whatever it is you enjoy — whatever music it is that comes out of you when you get out of the way and let it play itself — you will probably enjoy yourself a lot more, and the result will almost certainly be more true to the feelings and energy you put into it.

It is indeed possible for someone to teach you how to better use your camera. What the result of a change in aperture will be, or what effect a different shutter speed will have are within the realm of what someone can teach you. How the two interact with each other may take some time on your own to fully come to grips with, but the underlying principals can be taught. Lots of things can be taught, which is why the instruction manuals for new cameras can be so thick.

The list of what someone can teach you is indeed lengthy but not without limit. You can definitely learn from others how to take competent photos, but learning to take good photos is another matter. Being a photographer goes beyond simply operating a camera. Some things can be taught. Some can't.

So how do you take a good photo? I can point you in the right direction, but the truth is, I can't really tell you in any detail. This is one of those things each person has to figure out for themselves. It's not that I don't want to tell you. It's simply that it isn't possible. You yourself are the only judge of what looks good — to you. No one else can tell you that.

Some things can come from others. Some things you have to dig down deep within yourself to figure out. With everything to contend with for your camera and that thick manual, it's easy to forget or discount the part that has to come from you. The more you understand that there is a difference, the closer you will come to finding answers to what no one can teach you. And the closer to those answers you can reach, the closer you will be to becoming a photographer rather than just a camera operator.


Date posted: August 14, 2016

 

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Technical Skills versus Composition
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