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I am feeling annoyed with myself at the moment - in theory I should be getting better at photography. I have a fantastic new camera (ok, I should allow for a bit of a learning curve) and I am taking more photos than ever ... but I seem to be making more silly mistakes than ever ! I can always see the mistakes AFTERWARDS but not at the time.
Do you think it's feasible to be any good as a self-taught photographer, or if I really want to be any good should I study it to some extent ? I am really thinking that I should go back to basics and learn the technical stuff properly.
Any advice ? Or just sympathy would be fine
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Do you keep making the same mistakes? Or are you learning from them?
Just slow down for a while!
Rather than taking more photos set yourself a challenge of shooting a subject with less photos say just 5 frames and take your time
Alexandra, when you say new camera, is it a big leap forward in technical terms?
What kind of mistakes, exposure, focussing, composition?
The reason for the questions is the best way to eliminate some of the issues will depend on the type of problem. Say for instance it is exposure, well have you suddenly gone from Auto everything to trying to do everything manually? If yes, then use an intermediate option and learn the relationship between apertures and shutter speeds (bearing in mind that they change with light conditions - I am only suggesting gaining a greater understanding of their relationship to each other). So try aperture priority for example, you change the aperture and the camera matches with a suitable shutter speed.
So whilst I am sympathetic, we all hit lows in photography as well as everything else, the best thing is to find a plan to work through it. By the way apart from doing a C&G course many years ago after I had been interested in photography for a few years I have had no real instruction, some people would say it shows )
You need to work out if someone showing you would make learning quicker or whether as you say you know the problem when you look at the images it is just a matter of taking more time before pressing the shutter.
Learning Tehory says that there are four basic stages:
Unconscious Incompetence (you are rubbish but don't know it - you can't learn anything at this stage)
Conscious Incompetence (still rubbish but now you know - time to start learning how to become competent)
Conscious Competence (you are no longer rubbish and know it - but have to work hard to keep your competence and use your new skills)
Unconscious Competence (you've forgotten you were ever incompetent and don't know you are now competent, you just do it - you've stopped learning until you go back to stage one - but at a higher level)
Sounds to me you have just entered stage two - so you are improving!
So long as you see the mistakes you can look for ways of learning from them and then try to incorporate them into your photography.
Fun ain't it!
update - good stuff from Cheryl who can type faster than me as well as being the better photographer
Thank you so much for your quick replies ... you all have very valid points !!!
Emma, I think I AM learning from my mistakes, but just not fast enough
Characterboats and Klewis - very good points !!!!
Cheryl - I have gone from a Fuji S5000 to a 350D, so it's not a huge change, although I am more inclined now to use manual settings as I have more options to experiment with.
The main thing you are all saying I think, which is so true and I must do, is just to slow down and think more before I take the picture. I think my main problems are with people shots - I tend to rush it a bit as I don't want to keep people waiting, but perhaps better to wait a bit and get a better shot.
THANKS to all of you for the replies, it really helps to put things in perspective !
PS: Thanks Brian, just saw your message - love the stages, so true !!!
OK, people pics and I'm definitely not an expert in this area.
Are they in a controllable environment, that is, can you use a friend to pose and make sure you have a workable setting for the shots or are they candids, so one shot is all you get type thing. If they are either type then I'd still suggest using either aperture or shutter priority (sorry don't know what they are called on the 350D, I think one is Tv mode, but I could be talking rubbish here). Full manual is really for when you want to override the meter in the camera because you know it will be fooled by something like a white or black background.
So think about how much you want in focus for example and try setting f/8 and let the camera set the shutter speed. Then if too much is in focus try experimenting with f/5.6, again let the camera adjust the shutter speed. The only thing you need to worry about now is that the shutter speed doesn't get so slow that you'll get camera shake say 1/60th with a 50-75mm lens. The general rule of thumb is 1/focal length, so a 300mm needs at least 1/300th sec as shutter speed but preferably faster. And now you can concentre on the focusing and composition.
The only bad mistake is one you don't learn from.
Quote: although I am more inclined now to use manual settings as I have more options to experiment with.
and there's a lot in that one line - be patient.
Quote: I tend to rush it a bit as I don't want to keep people waiting, but perhaps better to wait a bit and get a better shot.
In my work I generally find you have a few options, here are two:
1. Let them get on with it, don't interfere and you'll get them behaving naturally.
This can work but because they are aware of you and the camera they tend to be a bit self-conscious and so don't behave naturally
2. Boss them about and give them lots of instructions.
In this case they are so busy doing what you tell them to do they forget to put on their 'camera faces' and you get a good natural shot.
TBH it all comes down to experience and you'll soon get a feel for the timing of the shot and how to make your subject comfortable.
Let them wait - you're the boss.
Thanks guys - encouraging comments from experts like yourselves really mean a lot !
I mostly use aperture priority when taking portraits, some of which are in my home "studio" with hot work lights (very basic !) and more recently with summer coming, outdoors. The annoying mistakes I am making which are easily correctable are little things like wrong ISO, not checking for harsh shadows, skew collars ... all things which would be helped by just slowing it all down !
Then there's the problems I am having learning to use the flash (especially fill flash) with the Canon ... but that's a whole new saga
Boyd, I am getting the hang of the whole "bossing people around" thing - although I photographed Helen Clark (the PM) on Saturday and I couldn't quite do the whole paparazzi thing and order her around, so I just sort of crept around after her
Another passing thought Alexandra, try going through the process of setting up the shot but don't press the shutter - then step back, look at the scene before you once more look through the viewfinder.
Your "eyeball" of the complete scene may just pick up some of the things you miss looking through the viewfinder.
Its something I've started doing as I used to be intent on "Getting the shot" the moment my eye went to the viewfinder - now I watch things a lot more, shoot less frames and (just maybe) think I'm getting more "keepers" as a result
On the flash front - have you seen / read this article. There's a lot in it but I keep it on my Favourites list to refer back to now and then
OK, here's another suggestion then so you can practice without being under any pressure and I know someone that did this for real. You need one of those polystyrene heads, like a dummy head if you know what I mean by my poor description. Practice lighting on that, you can then try out things like reflectors without any pressure on time. Sure you may look a bit silly in front of some famous NZ landmark, but think of the long-term goal ) You might want to paint it flesh coloured.
I think we are all saying keep at it, relax, take your time, remember to check the viewfinder fully for shadows, things growing out of the subjects head, like lampposts. I'm saying keep the variables to a manageable number, that way full use of manual will come with time, which I think Keith is saying to keep trying with as you'll learn more in the long-run.
...and don't forget to remember that taking portraits is fun.
It shows through your pictures when you're enjoying yourself.
You say that you can see the mistake afterwards, so that's the first step. The next step is to understand why - and it sounds as though you've achieved that. Then it's what to do about it ...
When it comes to organising people for photographs, I don't think you have to be "bossy" - you need to know what you want and let the subjects feel that you know what you are about. That way they are more likely to relax and let you get the images you want.
There's lots of sensible advice from others, so I won't repeat it. Just remember that "in theory there's no difference between theory and practice - but in practice there is". Keep practicing and you'll soon get there !
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