You’re a beginner who just got hooked on photography… now what?

photography lessons, photography workshops, Alberta, Dan Jurak, landscape, Alberta, rural, morning, dawn, prairie, road, foggy, summer,

I saw a post earlier today on Facebook that proved to be inspiration for this post.

They were new to photography and wanted to learn from someone how to use their camera and take pictures like the ones that they were seeing in the group.

Normally I would just read the post and forget it. This time was different because there was an immediate reply from someone saying that they teach photography and to pm them. Out of curiosity I clicked on their Facebook profile.

Aside from the photos of the fellow holding what looked like assault rifles in his profile were his landscapes and they were horrible both technically and aesthetically. The few photos of his that I saw were under exposed, poorly processed to the point that they were dark and looked for all purposes that they were snapped without actually looking at the subject matter. In short, they were terrible.

On a semi-related topic there was a post the day before asking what kind of camera equipment this person should buy. They were just starting out. One of the replies was a Nikon D850 body and a Sigma 14mm f1.8 lens. For someone starting out in photography this is extreme overkill and a waste of money. This is akin to someone learning how to drive and they receive the sage advice of buying a Ferrari Testarossa as the car to learn on. Does that make any sense to you?

I am reluctant to recommend to ANYONE to actually pay for photo instruction lessons for two reason. The first is Youtube. There are so many great and not so great instructional videos on the internet that will teach you the basics all the way to  some very advanced techniques both with your camera and also in using Photoshop which is JUST as important as your camera.

My second reason for NOT paying for instruction. I spent two years in a photography school after I left university and I will and still believe the only important thing about school was that it allowed me two years of taking pictures. All of the classes that I took on aesthetics and exposure and other such stuff were not important. What was important was the actual time spent using the camera gear and learning from my mistakes and successes.

I don’t do photo workshops or teach photography even though I have had the opportunity to do both because I believe that in doing so I am stealing that persons money and I can’t do that.

There is no mystery to taking good pictures. There are no secrets to be revealed that will make you a better shooter that you can’t easily and freely learn by looking at photos, studying your mistakes and successes and scouring youtube for instructional videos.

Keep your money in your pocket. The best camera gear and most expensive instruction in the world won’t do as much for you as taking your time, looking objectively at your results and shooting some more.

Happy shooting,


ps. To show you how unimportant camera gear is I went back into my archives for this one. It was taken with a 10 megapixel Canon Rebel, a starter camera with a kit lens. If I can do it YOU can do it.


~ by Dan Jurak on October 1, 2017.

4 Responses to “You’re a beginner who just got hooked on photography… now what?”

  1. I agree with you in part. I’m reminded of someone, it may have been Paul McCartney, talking about song writing, and how the first couple lines are the hardest, and after that the song pretty much writes itself. Ha, maybe if you’re a genius.

    I think a truly gifted visual person can study great images and recognize what makes them great and teach themselves to shoot, but the average person benefits a lot from lessons, how depth of field and lens focal length affect an image, for example. There are other points, like simplifying your subject. The elements of design can help. If someone shows a couple dozen photos to a neophyte and points out what makes this a strong image, what makes this one not so strong, that person can being to understand and translate that to “seeing” and capturing their own images.

    So, I think it is a rare individual who can excel in a vacuum. I agree that there are both good and bad tutorials on the internet, but someone starting out may not know “good information from bad.” The other advantage to a live teacher is the ability to ask questions. All this said, there are multiple ways to learn. And, as you said, getting out and shooting is a great teacher.

  2. Frank, you make many valid points.

    I have worked with truly creative people over the years. These people could create incredible stuff from nothing. Their minds would be able to pull concepts from the air that there was no way that I could compare.

    I consider myself to be a slow learner and of average artistic talent. For me it is the repetition of doing it over and over and over again that allows me to progress.

    We are all unique and different and it is our uniqueness that is our most valuable asset. Learning how to utilize it is a different journey for each of us.


  3. Hi Dan,

    First of all, I wanted to thank you for writing this blog. It is one of the few places I can go to read about actual photography, without having the nagging feeling that the author is primarily trying to sell me something. I very much enjoy your thoughtful writing and often feel that I have gained something after reading your articles.
    I think the technical basics of photography can be tought easily within a maximum of a couple of hours. The technical aspects of basic post processing may take a day or two. All of the required Information, as you wrote, can be easily obtained off the Internet, and, to touch on something Frank wrote, I don’t think there is a high risk to be taught somethig false in regard to these technical aspects. From there on out, practice, both ‘in the field’ and at the computer, got me furthest since I started out with my first ‘serious’ camera about five years ago.
    Being taught about composition and similar aspects is maybe a more controversial topic. For example, I take pictures very instinctively and don’t, at least consciously, think about why I am choosing a specific composition. I will usually try quite a few different angles, and then later decide which, if any, I am going to keep. My philosphy is that if I like it it’s a good (enough) photograph and I think learning compoisitional rules early on may have inhibited my creativity. But then again, maybe I just don’t realise that my Images are “horrible both technically and aesthetically” 😉 This is, however, merely what works for me, and others may find it extremely helpful to be given some guidelines on how to compose images. In order to really become good at anything, at least in my experience, one of the most important factors is knowing which learning-techniques work for you and which don’t, and, as Frank already wrote, there are so many different ways of learning things.

    Best wishes from Germany,


  4. Hi Chris,
    First of all, wow, thank you for a well thought and rational reply.

    There are too many “professional” photographers that are all about making a dollar from beginners. I cannot think of a single person that I would like to take a “workshop” with no matter how wonderful their body of work is. To pay someone to do what we can all do readily is silly.

    I completely agree with you that the technical stuff, exposure, focus, etc. can be learned very easily and I see no need for instruction for that at all.

    About taking pictures instinctively, that is when the best pictures are taken. There is a reason that those photos turn out the best, it is because a part of you recognizes that things are cohesive and working together.

    Your philosophy about taking photos is spot on. All photos taken both keepers and rejects contribute to your learning and growth artistically. The only critique or opinion on whether it is good enough is yours. If you are taking photos to please others like many do, it is the same as a dog chasing its tail. It is going fast but going nowhere.

    Again, thank you for your well thought reply, it was a great read,

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