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Just how good are you?

monkeygrip Plus
9 574 6 England
18 Mar 2012 5:20AM
"I am planning to buy a pro camera and wanted to make sure I get the most from it"

Just one of the many statements I hear when people call to book a photography course with me. I have had over 400 people attend my beginners and intermediate clases in the pat 12 months and the vast majority think that buying a better camera is the key to the perfect image. I know I laughed too.

The definition of professional photographer is that the majority of your income is earned from photographic work which can no way be classed as a standard. EPZ has members that fall into all categories and produce work of the highest quality, is this the need to be a brilliant beginner or that it just isn't important to you?

So are levels important? what do you think are the targets/thresholds or standards of photographic skill that are needed to move from beginner to enthusiast to intermediate and beyond?

The reason I ask is a large amount of my course attendees who assured me they are already intermediate photographers and dont need the beginners course ended up asking basic questions about aperture and shutter speeds.

At what point does a beginner become intermediate?
I teach beginners about creating exposures using manual control of Aperture, shutter speed and ISO explain DOF and composition, is that too much or not far enough?

I hope I am setting the bar at an achievable level although I have had a so called fellow professional attend the intermediate course who had absolutely no understanding of white balance and had an entire portfolio of orange people.

I understand not all photographers want to improve and enjoy it in their own way thats great, I have created the thread to gain a better understanding of peoples expectations so I can become a better teacher it is not an attack, rant or argument.


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devlin Plus
7 653 39 India
18 Mar 2012 6:42AM
Difficult question to answer Stu Smile, i remember when i started i had no clue as to what i was doing...the terms aperture etc sounded like my physics lessons in school Tongue, even when i had a half decent understanding of the technical s i struggled to put them to use and still do even today on occasion, maybe an idea would be to teach practical applications of the theory at least that's what i look for today if i was to attend a class. Beginner / intermediary etc to my mind are subjective terms and open to different interpretations by different people, depending on how you define the scale, is it theoretical knowledge ? is it practical application ? Or is it the ability to create good photo's ? Someone could be perfectly technically sound while taking photo;s but still not create one which tells a story...on the other hand there are people who just have an eye for good photo;s, and put their technical knowledge to use creating "art" . When u get a bunch of people with diverse backgrounds and experience levels in a classroom its always a good idea to gauge where they stand and adjust your content real time i doubt you'll ever be in a position of one glove fit all in a classroom and i speak from experience of having trained people in a previous life for MS Certifications.

Not sure if iam making sense ....but hope this helps Smile
Sindbad Plus
7 232 Wales
18 Mar 2012 8:45AM
My main problem is the system, what is where, and how do you get there. This will I hope to improve.
User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
18 Mar 2012 9:01AM
Like Devlin, I think you have posed questions that are impossible to answer, Stu. Or, at least, to which there could be dozens of equally valid, alternative answers.

Some folk may be beginners in a purely temporal sense - newcomers to their hobby. Others may be accomplished artists but newcomers to the technology. Others may be quite the reverse of that.

If you take my case. Having set up my own darkroom in 1958 and had thousands of photographs published in many glossy magazines over the past 50 years (although always as a part-time freelance amateur, not as a professional), I reckon I know as much, if not more, about general photographic concepts and processes than anyone else on this Forum. (says he, modestly)

But I am certainly not an expert in digital processing.

And my wife has a far better "eye" for a photograph than I have.

So, despite not being a beginner in photography, I still have a lot to learn and room for huge improvements in my photographic output.

...and I still go on as many photography courses as I can find time and money for. The latest was an excellent wildlife course at the Loch Visions Experience last week. I probably could have taught the professional "expert" a lot about photography but he taught me a lot about handling a number of nature scenarios. Money well spent.
ianrobinson Plus
8 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2012 9:25AM
I struggled with the basics too when i first started photography, i thought i was pretty good at it too but you have to be honest with yourself and decide how far you want to take your photography, and be honest to your self.
I decided after seeing such amazing photos and PS work on here that I needed more help than EPZ could give me alone so I went and paid for courses to understand the basics of photography and how to use my particular camera body to it's best.
There is one major learning curve to be taught or teach your self when learning photography and that is how to use your camera and how to set it up properly, at the same time you are learning the 3 rules of photography, shutter speed, aperture value, and ISO.

I was taught shutter speed was the foremost important setting to achieve after that aperature, and last of all was ISO these settings were a triangle and that is how you need to think about the settings to get the sharp shot, as sharp shots are better than soft of course.

I also know any camera body can take a picture, but if you know what camera body will be best for your style of photography and why then that's the body for you.

Example, I use a canon 7d for speed of focus and frames per second and for the cropped sensor coupled with a sigma 120-300mm f2.8 apo os dg hsm lens with a 1.4 or 2x converter for extra focal length on bright days, and i use this set up on manual, with a shutter speed set to 1/1000 or when really bright 1/1250 and i like an aperture of f9 if the light is good, i don't get hung up on ISO too much as long as it's below 2500 iso i can handle it in photo shop easily and still get the quality of image i desire, in my case tac sharp with tons of detail, i use this set up for Wildlife and action.

I also have a 5d mark ii for portrait and landscape/seascapes and love the full frame sensor coupled with the right lenses like the canon 85mm f1.2 lens for portraits and and the canon 17-24mm f4 l usm for landscape/seascapes, i also use a canon 24-105 f4 l is usm a huge amount as the focal length is great for an all rounder, i just wish they would make a 24-105mm f2.8 l is usm for low light, that would be the perfect lens in my opinion for weddings and portrait work.

I have to say I have a long way to go yet in fully understanding light and how to use it properly, I know a fair bit but not as much as I would like to know, example i can't seem to get to grips with flash guns yet and how to use them to there very best to create stunning images not just ok ones so there is another course for me to go to and learn that one.

I would say everyone has a different speed in learning and some need much more time to understand what shutter speed, aperture, and ISO all do, these are the 3 key elements to get to grips with first IMHO.
After that it is down to the eye of the beholder to understand what he is taking as an image.
Personally i try to create an image not just take one, when you teach your self that then you can create great images, i have very rarely got a great image by just wondering around with no idea of what i want to take an image of and do snap shots of anything, i generally think about the shot i want to achieve before i leave home and go on a shoot,
It can take me a week or so to get that great image i am after of a certain subject, lets say for example an owl shot shot in the right conditions, right set up and a bit of luck and patients.

This was taken at shutter speed 1/1250 aperture f9 and iso 250.
I reckon these are perfect settings for my lens and gave me this shot in Bright sunny conditions what do you think?

Having a Camera body is one thing, understanding what that camera body can do for your style is another, so although i understand what you say about camera bodies and there is an element of truth behind that i also believe choosing the right camera body for the right job coupled with the right lens and understanding that camera and it's settings is key also.
sausage Plus
13 471 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2012 9:31AM
Quote: The reason I ask is a large amount of my course attendees who assured me they are already intermediate photographers and dont need the beginners course ended up asking basic questions about aperture and shutter speeds.

Perhaps the reason people don't think they're beginners is because they think they know more about photography than they realise. A photographer friend of mine who used to teach Photoshop in a college to photography students was amazed that none of them knew about DOF. But, if they've not been taught it, you can't expect them to know about it, although in their minds they 'knew it all'!
Big Bri Plus
16 16.3k United Kingdom
18 Mar 2012 9:57AM
I just stick my camera on "P" for Professional, and it does the rest.

ianrobinson Plus
8 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2012 10:21AM

Quote:I just stick my camera on "P" for Professional, and it does the rest.

GrinGrinGrinGrin I like more control than pro mode lol..... I use M for mother of all set ups Tongue, or AV for aviator mode, but on some occasions I use TV but i must be doing something wrong because i don't get any channels on that, does anyone have any idea what i am doing wrong? I only want sky sport but it's so hard to get any channels at all on my lovely 3" screen.
thewilliam 9 6.1k
18 Mar 2012 10:38AM
If you want to participate in a classification system where photographers are sorted according to merit, you could join the Royal Photographic Society. The assessment for Licentiate, Associate or Fellow grades has stood the test of time.
keith selmes Plus
14 7.3k 1 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2012 11:00AM

Quote:I use TV but i must be doing something wrong because i don't get any channels on that,
You may have bought a model that is TV ready but doesn't actually have the card installed, a common beginner mistake, or it may be you just need the special antenna accessory, which is very expensive and hard to find, although they won't tell you that when you buy the camera.


Seriously, perhaps intermediate is when you realise how wrong or misguided your first camera purchase was and you've learned enough to start collecting kit that will work for you. A better camera or lens or accessory for you, which is not necessarily a better one for anyone else.
monkeygrip Plus
9 574 6 England
18 Mar 2012 12:09PM
Thanks for the great input guys and thanks to Bri my course will now be 3 minutes long advising how to turn the dial to P and kick em out to be a proWink

As I suspected the lines between levels are not only blurred but are open to interpretation so I think I will just help beginners understand how to create a good exposure and continue to help intermediate photographers understand that they are mosly still beginners.

I am still learning new skills all the time and don't think I could produce a shot of an owl as good as Ian's but you can practice technique. The thing I make clear is I can't teach them is creativity although I give a few pointers I think you are born with those skills.

Thanks again.
joolsb Plus
13 27.1k 38 Switzerland
18 Mar 2012 12:12PM

Quote:You may have bought a model that is TV ready

There's your problem - wrong sort of TV. Have you tried using the camera whilst wearing a frock?
janeez Plus
9 1.8k 8 United Kingdom
18 Mar 2012 1:30PM
Give someone a 35mm film camera, tell them to buy a roll of film and be prepared to pay for the development and then see how quickly they learn how to use the camera properly! Wink

I had no choice when I started over 30 years ago and the cost made me a very careful photographer!
Big Bri Plus
16 16.3k United Kingdom
18 Mar 2012 2:07PM
Why be careful? You can afford to be... experimental now Smile
User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
18 Mar 2012 2:12PM


I had no choice when I started over 30 years ago and the cost made me a very careful photographer!

....but how quickly did you become less careful when digital came along? I know I take far less care and time now than I used to with film. Good thing or bad thing? Not sure.

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