Want to learn more about photography?

newest member of the arsenal

While I would love to help out everyone that contacts me for personal lessons and advice, I simply am unable to dedicate the time and resources currently with my other personal and business obligations. That said, I’ve culled through a few years worth of emails to others asking for help/advice with photography and have put together this page with some resources to help you get started on the right track.

One thing I will preface with …

If you are even remotely considering going into business as a photographer at some point in the future and haven’t been using a DSLR for long, take the learning part seriously before you go into business. Know what you’re doing as a photographer before you become a small business owner. I do have a private page based on past email responses that outlines the important steps of going into business — things I knew about when I started out and things I’ve learned the hard way over the last six years. Many think being a photographer is a glamorous or easy job. I can’t say its been either one of those at any point in the last six years, but it has been both rewarding when you see the difference having photographs made have on those who lose a loved one shortly after a session and exhausting when you’re a one-person operation doing it all. Once you know you want to turn photography from a hobby into a serious business, then contact me via my photography site for access to the above mentioned page.

How I got started in photography … a quick summary

Way back in my high school days prior to the digital age, I took a photography class using a Canon film SLR. In late 2005, after owning several film and digital point and shoot cameras in the meantime, I invested in a basic DSLR — the Canon Rebel XT (a cropped sensor body) — in order to take my photography to the next level. I used this camera while becoming reacquainted with a SLR and thru the first year of starting a photography business. Once I had the business to justify upgrading both the camera and the lenses I had at the time, I then upgraded to the Canon 30D and 40D (cropped sensor bodies) in 2008.  In 2009, I lucked into a good deal on a used Canon 5D (original; full frame camera) and made the two previous cameras backups. I’ve briefly strayed away from the full frame bodies in 2011 with the Canon 7D, came to my senses within a couple of months, sold it and bought another used original 5D, which I currently use. As I could afford to buy the L series lenses I currently have, I upgraded them from 3rd party brands/basic versions of the lens. Meanwhile, I increased my photography knowledge through forums, websites like Digital Photography School, Flickr groups, and various photography blogs.

In 2005, not too long after Flickr was launched (and well before Yahoo bought it), I set up an account to share my personal photos after hearing about the site from fellow blogging friends who also considered photography to be a hobby (many are now in business as well). Aside from my personal website/blog at the time, I didn’t share images anywhere else or set up a photography-focused website/blog until I began pursuing the idea of going into business in the spring of 2007.

Through it all, I practiced, I went out and shot stuff, whether it was plants, landscapes, pets, people, objects, or myself. There’s stuff I shot five or more years ago I love and there’s stuff I shot two months ago that I think, “What the heck was I thinking?” … basically, just keep practicing and know that you will have days where you rock it without any effort and days when you can’t catch a break for whatever reason no matter what you do or try (mojo’s off, gear’s acting up, subject is less than cooperative, environmental/external factors beyond your control).

Want to learn how to take better snapshots? Or do you want to take your photography to the next level?

Practice, Practice, Practice!
There is NO easy or fast way to get good at photography other than practicing. According to Malcolm Gladwell, you have to dedicate 10,000 hours to your craft to start to become proficient at it (see the post that Nick Onken wrote on this). Ansel Adams didn’t get to where he was overnight or in a short time span, nor has any other photographer I know of, including myself.

Read the manual for your camera. Learn how it works, what all those buttons, dials, and menus are/do.
You can have the most basic point and shoot or most high tech DSLR camera on the market, but you won’t get better if you don’t take it off auto/program mode and risk failure (i.e. screwing up some shots while learning). You’re letting the camera think for you … when you should be dictating what the camera is doing.

Buy/borrow a few how-to books to learn more than the manual delves into.
I’ve linked some below that I personally own/previously owned. Start with the ones with *’s beside them.

Books I recommend:
Craft & Vision (affordable e-books ($5!) on various topics released on a regular basis)*
Flatbooks (more affordable e-books on various photography and related topics)
Fundamentals of Photo Composition (book)*
Understanding Exposure (book)*
Understanding Shutter Speed (book)*
Digital Exposure Handbook (book)
Photographically Speaking (book)
Within the Frame (book)
Photography (textbook; also used for prep for the Certified Professional Photographer exam)

If you’re a hands on person, take a class.
I wish I had the time to offer classes/workshops to all those who’ve asked, but there’s not enough hours in the day … that said, here’s some online resources:

Online Classes/Websites:
Nichole V’s Digital Workshops — she just launched (in Spring 2013) these online options; I’ve done her both her Pro and Lighting Workshop in a Box options a few years ago and learned a LOT!
Nick Carver’s Intro to DSLR Photography — 6 weeks, online lessons at your own pace
Digital Photography School
Nick Onken’s Photography Posts — lots of great advice/tips here
At Ken Rockwell’s site — Your Camera Doesn’t Matter
CMP’s How-To Series — past blog posts I’ve done on photography basics and camera selection

The local junior colleges (TVCC and TJC) both offer photography classes as well. TJC offers both a certificate program and associates degree program in photography.

Want an online community to share photos, ask more questions, or commiserate with? 

Online Forums:
I’ve never been a member of these, but a lot of photographer friends started out as members and recommend them still …
Clickin Moms
Rock the Shot
The Bloom Forum

Online Photo Sites:
Flickr
500px

*Disclaimer: The sites land products inked above are ones I personally chose to add, not ones I’m requested or paid to add to this page. Please do not email and ask me to add your site here; I’ll be glad to visit and see if I feel its a site I can recommend to others.