Learning photography: Back to the basics

Learning photography: Back to the basics

Getting back to basics is never a bad way to go about learning photography.

When I am presenting to camera clubs or helping an individual with their photography, I try to nudge them beyond what settings were used to create an image.

Yes, settings are key to learning photography

Of course, the settings matter. I’m not discounting that. In fact, below you’ll find a back-to-basics exercise to help you get them ingrained in your head. 

So many want to know gear settings. Instead of figuring it out or learning it themselves, they just ask. The exposure triangle matters and so does learning how to use your camera. 

The problem with this is that you’re not always going to have the same scenario as the photographer you’re asking the question of. This means you can use the setting they told you they used, but you’re not going to get the result they did. There are too many factors that go into creating images to just use settings someone tells you.

Instead, think about the questions asked when looking at images. For portfolio reviews or critiques, the artist who is trying to help you is usually more focused on the composition or the story an image tells.

We all learn differently, but …

Workshops are great. Being around like-minded people and learning from each other and an instructor is typically inspiring and helpful. 

But, you don’t learn by attending workshops where the instructor tells you where to stand and what settings to use. Are they even explaining why to use those settings? I sure hope that at a minimum they explain that.

Avoid this by researching the information being taught. Make sure the instructor leading the workshop is a good fit for your learning style.

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Go back to basics

Many of us learn by doing. Trial and error. When you change one setting how does it affect the image? Do this as an exercise until you know how what you change affects the other aspects of your settings.

A good way to brush up on the exposure triangle and learn your camera is to only photograph 12-36 images, like a roll of film. Write down all your settings, the light, the weather and anything else that affects the outcome of your image. 

Doing this will make you more aware of your camera and how it operates. You’ll learn it by being specific about what you’re going to photograph. Writing everything down allows you to slow down and look at what your settings are and/or should be.

When you upload your images, go back through your notes. Match up the notes with each image and pay attention to how each setting difference affected the photo. It’s only 12-36 images so it’s not so hard to go through them one by one.

challenge back to basics

How do you learn?

One thing I find to be true about most photographers is they learn from each other. What are some of the back to basics exercises you do to continue learning photography? Share them with us in the Photofocus Community. Let’s keep helping each other out.