Take Bad Photos and other Camera stuff

At this point, I am a member of no less than 20 photography groups, and I see the same questions over and over again:  How do I switch from Auto to Manual, How Do I Take Better Shots, and I have [Beginner Camera] but I want to buy [Expensive Pro Camera] to Solve [Issue].  Below are some of the answers I’ve given or typically give to people in the photography groups:

How Do I Switch from Auto to Manual/How Do I take Better Shots?

My own question is “how many hours do you practice?”  Not a lot of posts have samples of the problem images, so it’s left to the description given or the reader’s imagination of the issue.

Get a prop (doll, toy, something that won’t complain about sitting around for practice) and follow youtube videos or blogs. Try things out on your own.

Chess Set
Do things by the rule of thirds, then ignore the rule of thirds and do things that you think look good.

Figure out how the exposure triangle works by taking bad photos. Take more bad photos until you understand it a bit better. Take bad photos until they’re less bad. Then until they’re good.

Then add a light. Learn how to move the light around so it complements the subject. Again, take bad photos until they’re not bad. Then add your second light.

039/365 Don’t shoot a wedding for $100. Or $300. Or $500.

Shoot your friends. Learn to pose them. Learn to stand up against what they think looks good, because you know what looks good. Yes, they’re you’re “clients” as you practice, but you’re the one holding a tool that makes your art. Event: Goodbye to Greenpoint

But you need to practice. You can study law all day, and fold when going to court the first time because you’re too nervous because you’ve never practiced. If you don’t practice photography and something new pops up that you don’t expect, you can also fall.

I’m not a fantastic or even great photographer, like many that are in these groups.  I work hard, fail, succeed, and work some more. I did a 3 day event back in May. I had 2 strobes and 4 speed lights.

10 minutes into day 1, I completely fried one of the monolights. Minor electrical fire. Switched the position of the lights around. 30 minutes later, boom. The second one goes. I’m 800 miles from home.

So I set up my small speedlights and manage the three days with a completely different lighting style than I had expected.

Did it suck? Yes it did.
Did I panic? Yes I did (full freakout on my first break a few hours later).
Did I learn? Yes I did.
Was I prepared for this? I prepare for the worst by practicing for the best and the worst.

(Fun fact, accidentally setting fire to the monolight you borrowed from a friend makes for an awkward phone conversation. I have my own now.)

I have [Beginner Camera] but I want to buy [Expensive Pro Camera] to Solve [Issue].

If you’re not a Nikon user or you’re new to photography, me slinging names around will not help you, so here’s a picture on the cameras in question:

Beginner Camera: Nikon D3300 ($419 with lens)
Expensive Pro Camera: Nikon D750 ($1,469 body only)

camera comparison

See what I did there? I highlighted “body only” for the D750, to show that the Expensive Pro Camera is in the thousands, and it doesn’t even come with a lens like the Beginner Camera.

And this means what, exactly? Well, once someone is in the pro level, things don’t often come packaged.  This is because by the time you are using this camera, the company can’t assume what type of photography you are going to do.

Think of the camera as a bike.  The Beginner Camera is your Tricycle. There are plenty of training wheels for you (sports mode, pet mode, winter mode) that make taking decent photos simpler.  The pre-packaged lens (normally a 18-55mm), and can be equivalent to your tires that just come with the tricycle. You’re not doing anything impressive with the wheels or this lens for the most part.

The Expensive Pro Camera is that bike frame that you see is worth between $600 and $5,000, and doesn’t come with wheels for the same reason the camera doesn’t come with the lens. What are you going to do with it?  Are you taking your camera/bike outdoors and going off-roading to enjoy the sights nature can give you?  Are you staying in the city and in smaller spaces, because that’s an entirely different set of gear.  You can’t use your city bike wheels on a rugged bike trail (I tried this and got hurt pretty bad), just like you can’t use your $131 nify fifty at the back of a church for a wedding.  You know what you need through experience, and you can’t pay for experience.

So what am I saying?

Practice. Practice a lot and find out what you like to shoot, what you are good at shooting, and the best ways to go about it.  Don’t be afraid to take horrible photos, so long as you are willing to learn and improve from them.

With practice comes knowledge. Knowledge of what you want to shoot, how to shoot it, and if you don’t know how to shoot it – how to ask the right questions to get more of the knowledge/experience to help you out.

How do I practice/get help?

There are plenty of groups on Facebook, Flickr, and you can also read a lot.

As for Chronotography,

Coming up this week on Photographing the Imaginary, I just returned from Chicago to do another shoot, and will be popping over to D.C. this weekend.  The livestream will be on Twitch.tv/IAmBabs 7pm-9pm EST.


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