Photography tips

Fine Art – mindset & expectations (Part3)

Wife assists

My wife helping a model in the middle of a set.

In this last installment I’m going to discuss each person involved in the process of creating fine art nudes.  As you would expect, this includes the model and photographer.  But I’m going to include the ones equally important to the success of a great set of pictures.  The model’s husband, boyfriend, parents, friends, and even the photographer’s wife or girlfriend.

Of course, there is no way I can solve the contrasting elements of jealousy, religious upbringing, or other emotions that are unique to each participant in a shoot.  I’m not a psychologist by any means.  Just an observer sharing what I’ve seen.  If some morsel of this article opens the door to better understanding at some level then it was worth it.

Before I get started I’ll explain my situation.  It’s important to know where I’m coming from because it will reflect in what I’m imparting.

I’ve been shooting for almost five years, and for the first two my wife of 30 years, Linda, wasn’t thrilled with the possibilities of me shooting nudes or even implied.  No specific reasons, but I’m going to guess on some here.  (note:she has read this and confirmed her side)

Possibly some misunderstanding that some women don’t mind being in front of a camera naked.  She felt she’d never want to so why would another woman?  Or she was afraid of what her family would think of her for letting me do that form of photography?  Three things I’m sure of.  She trusted me 100% and knows I love her with every fiber of my being.  And there was zero chance of me running off with someone.  A stable and loving relationship full of trust is a great place to start.

One day, before I was allowed to shoot implied, I was asked to do a shoot with a young woman I’d shot many times before.  This was a shoot specifically for her new husband and she only wanted to wear her veil.  I asked Linda what she wanted me to do and we eventually agreed she would actually help me with the shoot.  You see, she’s a very good photographer herself.  So, she helped and found out that the model was very comfortable, the pictures turned out great, and it wasn’t any different from any other shoot.  The model even used 6 of Linda’s pictures for her book!  From then on my wife has been my biggest fan and more supportive than I could have ever imagined.

The model

As a model, you are the one who feels the pressure from friends and family.  They either support you or they don’t.  And there isn’t much you can do about that either way.  Often they don’t understand what the art is all about.  Remember, a good number of people don’t see the art in the lighting and lines of a good artistically done nude.  They think Playboy right away.  Some will always see a dandelion as a weed and others see it as a wish.  Art isn’t for everyone.

Here’s where you find out who feels you need to live up to their standards.  And think that you should not always do what makes you happy or fits your life goals and dreams if it is counter to their beliefs and wishes.  There won’t be anything you can do to change their minds very often.  Avoid arguments of course…those never solve anything.  Sometimes the support comes later.  Once you are actually portrayed in some great art and show them that it’s beautiful and not porn they may change their tune.  People tend to expect the worst and will build it up to be far worse in their own mind than it is.

Some families are very close and if artistic nudes will cause problems it may be better to hold off and slowly get people to warm up to it.  Frankly, I feel that if anyone should support your goals and interests it should be the family.

It’s very important to never do anything to prove something to someone else.  Even more so to rebel against anyone.  Dig deep into your goal for modeling, artistic nudes or otherwise, and make sure it is totally for you and no one else.  The art won’t flow well if there is anger or grudges or an agenda other than satisfaction for yourself.

The photographer

Wife assisting

Here’s Linda once again helping two models get into position for the shot.

I will admit, I felt a little strange the first few times I was shooting nudes.  Nothing sexual by ANY means, but just the difference in capturing skin instead of clothing was new to me.  Of course, lighting it to get the fine lines, get shadows to appear in strategic places, and just having a model naked took some getting used to.  By the 3rd or 4th shoot it was just as typical and comfortable as any other shoot.  So I went through that little transition.

My wife, Linda, is very supportive and, of course, has seen the creations from those shoots and now totally understands what my goals are.  I do consider myself very lucky to have such an understanding wife who allows me to explore my artistic side.

Others are not as fortunate and their significant other isn’t as understanding.  They just can’t get past the idea of their husband or boyfriend seeing all sorts of naked women.  That, and the fear of what others might think of HER when they find out she let you take pictures of nude women.

You can’t tell someone they need to support you.  They have to want to on their own.  Some ways to help them feel better about the idea might be:

  • do some implied work the same way you would do an artistic nude.  Darker with plenty of shadows covering the three private areas.  Do them well.  Then use them as an example of what you’d like to create.
  • have your wife or significant other assist you on a nude shoot.  She can be the one who helps the model with hair and move elbows and getting the tilt of the head just right.  When she sees you doing exactly the same things you do for any shoot she may see that it’s not a big deal.
  • make sure that, after every shoot, artistic nude or otherwise, that you spend a good amount of time with your wife or s.o. so they don’t feel neglected.  This is a great idea no matter what you shoot.
  • spend a lot of time talking with her about exactly what you want to accomplish.  Get some art books with examples and see if she sees the beauty.  Without the support of your significant other you can’t be creative.  And doing it behind her back is wrong on every level.  Don’t ever, EVER do that or you will lose her trust and respect…probably forever.

Of course, if you have a history of shooting ‘not so classy’ work its harder to explain why you want to suddenly shoot classic artistic nude work.  If you are getting into this genre to see naked girls…well, please stop right here.  You aren’t who this is written for.  Wrong reasons!!

The significant other

Your husband or boyfriend wants to shoot nude models.  If there was ever a situation that seemed threatening, this would be up near the top of the list.  You need to have a talk with him about anything you have on your mind.  Communication is the key to all good relationships and more so on this topic.  Ask questions.  Be honest with your feelings.  Being supportive has to come from your heart, not your head.  Be open-minded and ask to see examples of what he plans to create.  Ultimately, you don’t have to agree with or support your partner.

You might agree on a slow process to allow him to move in that direction in steps.  Maybe help out with a few shoots and see just how professional the shoot is.  Set rules that you both agree on.  For example, the model wears a robe when not actually posing.  And the photographer looking away while the model gets into position.  Whatever makes you more comfortable with the shoots should always be acceptable to your partner.  Just communicate.

One last thing

I’ve noticed something interesting about jealousy.  When I meet a couple where one is overly jealous, it usually indicates that person actually is at more risk of leaving a relationship than the partner who isn’t jealous.  Jealously usually stems from, but not limited to, two things.  Not feeling secure in a relationship.  And not having that emotional bond and trust in the partner that is very much required in a stable relationship.

Always, always communicate!!

Back to part 1

Back to part 2

Fine art – my perspective (Part1)

The human form

I’ll start by clearing up the basics.  Fine art nudes is an art form.  It has nothing to do with sex, exhibitionism, or voyeurism.  It does not degrade, sensationalize, or prey upon any gender.  The confusion comes from those that use the term ‘fine art’ as a gateway to shoot what is very obviously not art at all.  I’ve met people who can ramble on for a while about the fine lines and subtle tones of an art piece and I’ve met people who look at the same piece, tilt their head and say ‘cute’.  Everyone sees art differently and in my experience it’s not something you learn.  You either like it, love it, or don’t see it.  I have never seen a ‘face palm’ with a shocked expression and exclamation of “NOW I SEE IT!”



Model: Marcela Zuniga

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the graceful clean lines formed by the human body.  Whether it is that of a soft beautiful female or a muscle filled shot of a male.  All shapes, sizes, and ages.  More recently very fit females have come to have the best of both soft lines as well as shadow from evident muscles.  All beautiful, especially in the right light.

I’m sure there was a time in my life that I was taught to consider any form of nakedness as inappropriate.  That is not a natural reaction, we are taught that nakedness is a sin somehow.  Later in life, as we start to rebel, question, and venture out with our minds, and especially when we discover art, we then discover the beauty of the human body.  And that it is not inappropriate to view them as the forms of art that they are.

I’m fortunate to have a very understanding and loving wife who understands my need to create.  She trusts that models will be treated with respect and that the only goal is the finished project.  That trust, from a partner, is important yet rare.  I will discuss that in another installment of this series.

The introduction


Model: Marcela Zuniga

When a model contacts me about creating some art I, of course, browse through  his or her images.  My mind immediately starts considering the options of what poses and lighting would work best for their body shape and attributes.  I begin to imagine what the end result may be based on past experience as well as my ever present checklist of images I’d like to create.

I’ll chat a bit to make sure the model understands the art we will create will involve nudity.  I always feel a little creepy in that part of the conversation because of that early teaching that nudity is inappropriate and here I am talking to someone I’ve likely never met about shedding their clothes for my camera.

It is ultimately important that they are fully comfortable with what we will be doing.  Most often I’ve found the promise of what may be created is a strong motivation to many to push themselves beyond their normal boundaries.  And, to date, everyone has been very pleased with our results.

Parts 2 and 3
In the next installments I will cover the trust issues of significant others in your life if you want to shoot fine art and just how a professional shoot works with nudity.


Style is the key to success

In any profession that has a creative element, the only road to success is having a style of your own.  Without it, you are like the 98% that have no style and compete strictly on price and quantity. Although this is true with many professions we’ll talk about photography…naturally.

IMG_0520-EditFirst let me qualify the term success.  To some it’s a comfortable living (or lavish) from the income of selling your art or services.  To some it’s the feeling of being creative.  Where money isn’t the driving force.  Of course, both are admirable excuses to getting out of bed and making things happen today.

Those with no style will tell you things like, “I like to get it perfect in the camera.”, or “I never retouch my photos”.  What they are really saying is, “I don’t want a unique style, that takes work and a lot of learning.”   They are usually the same people who compete at the low end of the pricing scale because their work looks exactly like everyone else’s.  The only reason they sell their product is because it’s cheaper than the next guys.

So, what is this thing called STYLE and were can I buy some.

Yeah, sorry, that’s just not going to happen.  First, you really do need to get away from thinking your camera has the ability to make a perfect picture.  I do know a few unique wedding photographers who have some amazing glass and know exactly how to get a fairly perfect shot pretty often.  But, they take those same shots day after day.  And they still warm them up, crop them, or do some other things to make them ‘theirs’.

Figure it’s going to take a year or more for your style to develop.  That will include a lot of ‘out of box’ experiences.  You need to venture into the world of Lightroom and Photoshop and have a good computer system to let you work without a lot of updates and delays.  And a comfortable chair.  Some good music.  Turn off your Facebook and be ready to focus.  There are plenty of great videos on how to do pretty much everything with any program.  In Adobe’s case their site has plenty and you can subscribe to for very well made and detailed videos on everything.  Creative Live is also a wonderful source for learning.

With all this learning you’ll be doing you might be asking yourself, how does THIS give me a style of my own.  If I’m learning all the same things as everyone else how does that make me unique and give me…my style?  This is the interesting part.  It’s a bit like walking into a kitchen full of every kind of food.  If you go to make a meat loaf the chances are very good that your meat loaf will taste very different than the last 10 people who made one.  Same ingredients.  But different results.  Here is where the YOU comes into the mix and creates a style.

Once you learn dodge and burn, layers, masking, building your own actions, and probably hundreds of other little nuances of Photoshop and Lightroom, you will start mixing them and applying them the way YOU love the look.  You will learn just how much contrast or blend of color you like and after a while you will do the same thing to the next and the next and the next.  Without specifically working on building your style you are doing just that.  No two people will do exactly the same things to any given picture and the results may or may not look close in the end.  They will never look identical.  Ever.

Don’t think you are done.  Once you have a style and if it’s one that sells, you may even build that into an action so it’s one button to adjust that shot the way you love it.  And for many, that is the end.  They won’t go farther because, well, they have found their success in the popularity of THAT style that is uniquely theirs.  From a business stand point this is fine.  Some famous greeting card artists and photographers like Andy Silvers and Ansel Adams have very specific styles that I can point to and tell you who did it.  That made them a nice living.

Those of us who see the success as what we can create art wise will probably never stop tweaking with our style by learning more all the time.  Just like how every friend and experience changes our personality just a bit and how we see life, every new thing you learn on your camera, or a software package will change, ever so slightly, your style.

Style is good.  Style is something you can’t buy.  Style takes a long time to create.  Style will be who you are and no one can take that away from you.  If you want people to point at your work and that, ‘Hey, that’s a shot by (insert name here)!’ then you’ll be glad you took the time to develop your style.

Enjoy life…even that will reflect in your style!




Wet studio option

Shooting in a pool is fun and often rewarding, especially if you shoot at night and have the lighting right.  Water spray behind the model with a Speed Light hitting her from behind through the sparkling water is wonderful.  But pools are not often available.  And I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have studio lighting safely around a pool and have total control.  Indoor pools are even less available.  Sooooo..


Unretouched shot. Concept just to see how white would reflect.

One day I was helping Linda with some grocery shopping, now thinking of ice cream cones and pork chops, and I spied a display of lawn fun for the kids.  Yeah, you can even buy motor oil in grocery stores these days.  My mind is never far from photographic opportunities so when I spotted a rather large blow up pool I just had to investigate.

Last summer I looked for a pool that was inflatable yet tall enough to immerse a model.  No luck.  Now I’m looking at one that is exactly what I was hoping to find.  If I’d had one built for the studio this would be exactly the size.  Perfection!


Fits perfectly in my studio giving me plenty of room for lights and positions to shoot.

I picked one up and set it up on the patio.  I didn’t want to fill the thing in the studio and find out it wasn’t going to hold the water.  Not good.  So, filled it up and sure enough, it started bending on one side a bit and eventually let some water out.  While draining it some I found the maximum fill line….about 6 inches below where I had filled it.  Manuals?  Who needs manuals?


So, next was to test out the sump pump.  You need one of these to drain it from the studio.  Mine needed work and after some poking at it I got it to work smoothly.  Dropped it into the pool and it sucked all the water out about as fast as it filled it.  About 25 minutes each way.


Another ‘as shot’ just to get the concept down.

Now, to actually use it.  I planned to shoot with a black sheet in it and then a white sheet so I could see how the water reflected and what options worked best.

On the black I used only Speed Lights around the pool for both safety and to keep the lighting more specular with smaller points to reflect off the water.  On the white I assumed this wasn’t really an option and I was right.  Almost no reflection when shooting at a low angle.  With white I found shooting straight down worked best AND I used studio lighting.  BUT, the lighting was attached to the beam above with zero chance to fall into the water.  If I’d wanted other studio lighting around the pool that ran from AC I would have run an extension cord from the ground fault outlet outside since that is designed to save lives with electricity around water.  SAFETY ALWAYS FIRST!

So, setting it up and taking it down hasn’t really been a problem.  I use a battery operated inflator so even that part was just a bit time consuming but painless.  Other than the models freezing their bottoms everything has worked as I expected.  (and models in discomfort often have better expressions anyhow, so hey, win-win)  Now to fine tune the angles and lighting to get as much effect from having water as possible.

Oh, and bringing in the hose with a sprayer to make it rain or mist around the model was also tried and should work well in future projects.

Thank you Alanna and Cassandra for humoring this old artist.  Your goose bumps needed a workout anyhow.

Slight course correction

The life of an artist is constantly changing.  Art is a reflection of feelings and desire.   Those are required to create art.  The art created under yesterday’s sun was wonderful.  But today the air seems fresher, the flowers more fragrant, and the sun just a little brighter.  Art will change with the new day.

I started doing photography as just something to do after I retired.  I fell in love with it, and I sucked at it.  Then I started playing, learning, enjoying what I could create, and everything started changing.  It’s not just something to do anymore.  It’s something I HAVE to do!  The joy of sitting back after a special shot comes to life and feeling it stir my heart is like a drug.  A runner’s high.

Some might say I still suck at it.  Don’t care.  I love it.

But, as I said, the life of an artist is always changing.  My love for the art is over powering any desire to do photography that others want.  I don’t feel I have to do weddings, family pictures, or any of the ‘typical’ photography.  I just want to create.  Make my art.  Learn.  Excel.  Grow.

So, don’t be shocked when I turn down the opportunity to shoot, even for money.  If it’s an artistic project you are bringing to me I’ll have a rate but at least I’ll be loving it because it’s art.  If it’s anything else I do know some of the best photographers in Arizona and can get you connected for what you want.

That leaves me to my final point.

If you want to model for me.

To be totally creative requires a model or models that are totally comfortable with everything.  Looks that are not flattering, or pretty.  Dark, bright, colorful, black and white, implied, nude, no makeup, outlandish makeup, whatever comes to mind or what idea is being created at the time.  So, if you are someone who enjoys my art and wants to be a part of it, keep in mind that I expect you to be comfortable with whatever we need to do for any given concept.  It’s always classy of course, but I need a canvas that has no limits.

It’s okay, go into the light!

Before we were born we saw light.  It was pink and out of focus, but it was there.  We’ve had light all around us and for most people it’s all about being able to just see in the dark, or it comes from the sky, or we flip a switch and we can see.  It’s as natural as breathing and we take it for granted the same way.

Photography is all about the light.  All photography uses it…great photography manipulates it, paints with it, makes us see what the photographer, what the artist, wants us to see.

IMG_8176-1It could be as simple as a black photo with a hint of an eye showing.  It often uses light to draw lines with the shadows to bring out a shape, a form, or lack of one.  Light is the essence of the art of photography.

If it’s a bride we can wash her in warm pastels or put a baby in beautiful sunshine.  Endless options.

When I have the opportunity to share my knowledge of photography I always show how everything I do revolves around the light.  Studio lighting, location lighting for day and night, and playing with the light in all situations.  I often find myself stepping back and wondering just how I can use the light I have to make this into an interesting picture.  It’s not like a math problem to me.  There are no rules.  Actually, there are plenty of rules and I break them every chance I get because I ignore them.  Knowing your lights, modifiers, and gear to a degree where you just know what they can do is all you ever need.  I light a subject with my gut more than my brain.  What is going to make the shot just crawl off the page and grab you by the ears!  Okay, maybe not that strong, but keep your eye on the shot and wonder.

So many people take pictures that are, well, just pictures.  Selfies, but using a photographer.  Sorry, but yuck.

If people look at a picture and they are moved by it.  If they wonder what the person is thinking in the picture.  If they feel what the subject is feeling then I think it was worth the time, the thought, or gut, that went into it.

When someone sees a picture I’ve taken of a nude or implied subject and the response is ‘that’s hot’ then they aren’t seeing what I intended at all.

I’m thinking that great photography is broken down into two groups.  People who know how to use the light to paint an amazing picture with their camera, and those that know enough about art to appreciate it for the art that it is.

If you are a photographer – know every aspect of lighting.  Period.  And you will be amazing!

The perfect picture?

One day I was driving along and the phone rang.  I pushed the button on the steering wheel and said “Hello?”.  (that still sounds so scifi to me)

The person on the other end introduced himself as a fellow photographer and how he was calling to help me out.  I’d posted something somewhere about how I figured out a little quirk in Lightroom and passed it along.  He’d obviously read my answer wrong and was planning to help me out of a problem I wasn’t having.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to see and hear how others practice photography and I still appreciate that he took the time to track down my number and call.

So, he starts in with camera settings, light meter readings, how to arrange the lights, and goes on and on about how to set up a shot.  He kept inserting the line “I’m sure you do it this way” and then went on some more about arranging the lights and getting the sun at the right angle and the best times to shoot.  Then he got back into measuring the light to the nearest quarter fStop and speeds.

He went on for about 5 minutes without really stopping to ask me any questions.  He was telling me what he assumed I already knew and practiced I guess.

I waited and listened.  And drove.  Everything he said was completely right.

Then he finished and it was quiet.

I said, “Would you like to know how I do it?” and he replied, “Sure!”

“I wet my finger, stick it in the air, look to see where the shadow falls, and then do what feels right for the shot I want to get”

14 - 1-2

Neat chart. Great for learning how it works. Learn it well and it becomes like muscle memory and it all just works.


He seemed a bit shocked that I ‘shot from the hip’ and didn’t do all of the required steps to get the perfect picture.

My idea of a perfect picture isn’t one like the camera sees, or even one I see with my eyes.  It’s just ever so slightly surreal or different that it’s not just a picture anyone else could take going down a check list.  Nothing wrong withthat of course…great work is produced that way and I’m not knocking it.  I’ve tried it and it just didn’t work for me.

Of course I rely on my knowledge of the camera.  I know what ‘most’ of those buttons are for and how to get the camera to do exactly what I want it to.  And yes, there is a light meter IN the camera, and yes I USE it for example.  But everything else is gut feeling.  I know what the lights going to look like at various angles, with a certain lens, I know how the exposure will look with the balance of speed and fStop a certain way.  Not just text book ‘know’, but I can feel it.  The camera becomes an extension of my thoughts and the flow of light is all I think about.

If I wanted a shot that looked dead on life like I’d do all of that technical stuff. I’m more of a shoot from the hip kinda’ guy I guess.  It takes a while to really ‘feel’ your camera and lights, but it’s a real joy to me when I meet a new friend (camera) and get to know it deeply.

I’ve had some photographers tell me that it’s great to get the picture perfect right in the camera.  I agree.  But I haven’t found a camera that takes the picture the way I consider perfect so it’s a combination of gut feeling and then seasoning the shot in post production.

I do think knowing how it works technically is very important.  To many people THINK they can become great photographers without bothering with fStops and shutter speeds…whatever they are.  I think shooting from your heart makes for a beautiful picture.  You need to understand your equipment intimately, to get what you really want from it.

This, of course, is a blog, and my opinion.  Not what’s right or wrong.  Season to your own taste.  Always.

Creative juices…with pulp

Being moody doesn’t make you an artist. But almost certainly an artist will be moody. And by artist I mean anyone who creates. Writers have writers block, painters may sit in front of a canvas for hours just staring. Closer to home, a photographer may sit and stare at their last shoot and can’t see anything they want to edit.


On good days the juices are flowing, planets are in line, wine is just the right year, something. Something clicks and you wake up and can’t wait to get to it. Paint flies on the canvas, words flow like water, or Photoshop is so busy your computer fan is on high. The problem is, we can’t control what days will be creative. We can’t put a finger on the trigger for the same reason we can’t control or really predict the weather. A lot of things can stop the juices and other things give it a fist full of pulp to give you special days.

The thing that keeps me sane during the down times is knowing it happens. It’s not the end, it’s how it works. Of course you should worry because, as we all know, if you worry about something it never happens.

I have found that the best way to come back strong is to accept the down days and go off to do something that’s mindless or at least not creative in the same way as my photography.  This is often when I come up with new ideas.  Write them down for a juicer day.  The more I accept those days the stronger the creative days seem to be.

I also have plenty of my favorite images hanging on the wall or popping up on screens to remind me that yes…I’m a creative…maybe just not today.

‘Breaking Bad’ habits

The break

After taking a couple of weeks off from shooting over the holidays I discovered something interesting about just how I dived back in.  It was different.  In some ways drastic.


Model: Ashley Sand

I’ve always been one to stand back once in a while and look at how something is being done and try to think of a better way, faster way, or a way that might come up with better results.  It’s almost always a fruitful exercise that doesn’t take much work.  Although a few face/palm V8 moments happen when you consider how wrong you might have been doing something.  That just makes you consider what else to look at.

During the break I also sold a Canon 7D I wasn’t using much and, to be fair and diligent, I found a program to give me the shutter count on my cameras.  I found the 7D had far more shutter activations than I thought and I dropped the price I sold it at to be fair.  It’s when I checked the 6D and found 102,000 activations in just a little over a year that got me thinking.  It’s not that I’m now stingy with my shots BUT I do consider not wasting as many.

So, back in the studio and here’s what I found different and interesting.  Not all conscious efforts.

  • The actual time in studio dropped to about an hour for the shoots.  Typically they were 2-4 hours.  I’m sure this will vary, but after doing a couple in an hour and getting some wonderful shots in that time, and 4-5 sets, I’m thinking less time certainly doesn’t mean less good shots.  The thinking between sets accelerated with ideas of how to change up the lights and get the looks I wanted from the unique faces I was working with.
  • All black and white.  This is something I’d played with a bit on and off but never for entire shoots.  In the past I used it so I could see the lights and darks and how shadows fell easier.  Of course I shoot in RAW so it’s not really B&W, but what we see on the camera back and iPad review was all in B&W.  I now do that exclusively unless the shoot is about the color and then, naturally, I shoot in color.
  • I’m doing far more directing and paying closer attention to those little things that make a shot look odd.  Elbow placement, hands, the wayward strand of hair.  I stop, fix them, and then shoot.  Instead of 20-30 shots I do 5-10.  I can see the slight annoyance with the models who like to strike a bunch of poses, but they learn very fast to give me their best first.  I expect I’ll tell them that from now on and get them really thinking when I raise the camera up to shoot.


    Model: Ashley Sand

  • As a result of these slight changes, my shot count has come down 25-35% to usually less than 300.  Since I don’t shoot every day it’s still a drastic reduction from the 6D over the year. (BTW, 102,000 shots would be 280 shots a day for 365 days)

I think it’s always a good idea to morph your techniques once in a while.  It can change our perspective and even the outcome.  As an artist this is something that should be constant in your life.

Enjoy!  And please feel free to comment.

Learning photography…

That hard first step

Doing anything new is always exciting and a big pat of that is learning everything you can about it.  If you are passionate about anything it’s best to know all you can to enjoy it to the fullest.  Day one is the hardest.  You don’t even know what you need to know.  Kinda’ hard to ask questions at that point.  This is where curiosity and a lot of time comes in.  You have to understand the tools first.  What does every button on the camera so and how does it change the picture you are taking.  At first you don’t have to know everything perfectly, just that they are there and what they do.  Later you’ll have a need and you’ll at least know it’s possible and revisit exactly how.

Same with learning things like Photoshop and Lightroom.  Don’t learn exactly what buttons to push to get a certain thing to happen.  UNDERSTAND what that function is…and then generally remember how to get to it.

The reason I really push the generalization of knowledge over button by button exact process is that it’s very limiting and much easier to learn by feel.

The camera

To someone new to their camera there are SO MANY buttons and menu items.  Heck, even I don’t know all of the features of my camera and this is 4 years into it.  The manuals are NOT the place to learn about your camera.  They tend to tell you specific things and assume


you know why you’d need that.  Setting the shutter speed or fStop is, as you might guess, very important.  The manual will tell you how.  But not WHY you might set one at f8 and the other at 1/200 of a second.  If you know the WHY and how those functions work in your camera it’ll make more sense.  It’s more like learning by knowing how something works rather then memorizing buttons and thinking that’s all you’ll need to know.

It’s a bit like a painter with his pallet.  Knowing the colors is one thing.  Knowing how to mix them to get exactly the right shades for a flower is another that doesn’t come from exact measurements but from gut feeling from just doing and knowing what results have been in the past.

If you know your camera, and that comes from a hundred hours of pointing, playing, experimenting, and shooting everything that moves or doesn’t move, then you have a tool you can walk into a situation with and know exactly what to do to get the shot you want.

I guess the point is, a single class isn’t going to make you an expert.  But it CAN show you things you can do and give you those elusive questions you didn’t know you had.  Now you’ll know what you want to learn.

Post processing

There are a few folks out there that insist that, in order to be great, you need to be able to take perfect pictures and not have to do anything to them to make them better right out of the camera.   More power to them.  I see them as coming from two groups.  One works very hard to make a shot look like reality with great lighting, and the other who are just to lazy to learn post processing.  Frankly, I’m not much of a fan of reality.  I’m an artist.  And I can’t think of any camera that takes pictures the way I want them to be when I’m finished.  And even if you are a wedding, or senior photographer, you’d better clean up that shot.  People want to see themselves as they think they look, not with that pimple that emerged on their noggin that morning.
IMG_8176-1Back to the point.  Learning by doing and feeling and not by keystroke and menu by menu memorization is the best way, in my opinion, of learning software.  Learn what it CAN do and not how to do it.  Anyone can figure out how.  It’s knowing it can that is what you need to remember.

So, learning Lightroom or Photoshop, or any of the computer tools should be a matter of learning what it can do, not exactly HOW to do it.  Think about it, if you didn’t know what it can do the how isn’t important.

The other very important reason to learn all you can in all aspects of photography is that your personal style will develop from those skills.  When people can recognize your pictures from others you will then have a marketable product.

If you take one of my classes expect to walk away with, ‘Wow, I know what I want to go practice and develop!’  I won’t let you take a bunch of step by step notes because you’ll leave not knowing what you can really do.  Makes little sense.

Of course, I give classes.  I highly recomend the one-on-one classes.  Learn more in the ‘Learning Photography‘ part of this site.