The importance of learning on your own
A couple of days ago I headed out in the evening to have another try at night photography. It’s almost addictive trying new things, finding out what does and doesn’t work and generally just having fun in the process.
With every new try there are successes and of course failures. Failure is a bad word to describe the photos that never make it for public consumption because every time I try something new and it doesn’t turn out to my satisfaction I have learned something new. Your failures can be as important in your photographic journey as your triumphs.
No matter how accomplished you become in whatever you do you can’t expect to hit the bulls eye every time. That’s not realistic. When shooting landscapes you are at the mercy of mother nature. You have some control over what you do and when you go outdoors but no control over the weather. You work WITH what is presented to you.
Contrast that with a studio photograph, a still life. Here you are god. Don’t like the way the light falls? Move it. Foreground too cluttered? Change it.
Even in the studio there are no for sures. I used to shoot Polaroids as tests to get a more accurate preview of how things would look. Today Polaroids are like dinosaurs. Replaced by digital previews on your camera back or on your laptop.
Learning photography is not difficult. At least I don’t think that it is difficult. There are some who will never come close to being mastering it but that’s just how it is. Many will become proficient photographers. That is a giant leap away from mastering something. Proficient means you understand the rules of composition, color, etc. and know the basics of exposure and the like.
None of the really good artists or photographers that I have ever met were schooled. Oh they might have gone to school but they were “experimenting” and learning by themselves long before any formal education.
There is a whole cottage industry these days built on “teaching” photography. A great source of income for wannabe photographers. I use the term photographer loosely because I believe that if you are a photographer you’re taking pictures. I manage a group on Flickr that has almost ten thousand members. Every day when I am moderating photos I always see phrases like “conducting workshops”, “teaching photography classes”. It almost seems that there are more teachers than students sometimes.
If you read this blog at all you know how I feel about these money making scams and that’s really what most of them are. Designed to take your money under the guise of teaching you a Masterclass in photography. Really? I don’t see masters teaching these things so how can they teach you to become a master?
I had totally forgotten about the photo above until I had a request for a large print of it on my website. It’s an example of learning by yourself. I had only been back into shooting landscapes for less than a year. I had shot infrared film when I was in photo school thirty years earlier but never pursued it any further. I hadn’t realized that digital cameras could be modified to photograph the infrared. My curiosity piqued I ordered a modified camera. I never took any classes but instead searched the internet for any information that I could find. Understanding the basics I went out on a warm early spring afternoon and came upon this old and abandoned farm building.
This is the result. Not everything turned out the way that I wanted but with infrared surprises are the order of the day. Should I have paid a thousand dollars for three days of instruction to find out what could easily be learned by myself? I don’t think so and so it goes for traditional photography. If you need to be taught how to take a picture you’re never going to be happy because your instructor won’t be behind your shoulder for the rest of your life.
Enjoy learning. Enjoy exploring your creativity. These are two things which bring me great joy and don’t cost a penny. That brings me joy too!