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  • Writer's pictureStephen Rodger

Some thoughts for beginners.

Updated: May 11, 2020

How do I get started? What's my look? Some thoughts for beginners that are not about cameras and lenses.

There are no shortage of gear reviews and there are no shortage of opinions on what the best gear is, "Canon vs Nikon vs Sony" anyone?! The plan here is to take a step back and think about the framework within which your photography journey is taking place.

"If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff" Jim Richardson.

Hopefully the quote above sets the tone here. The intention is for these ideas to be quite practical rather than long paragraphs about "your art". So in that spirit I'm adopting a list approach.

A "to do" or "to think about" list

1. Keep taking pictures.

Yes, I know. But the point is never has it been cheaper to take a picture, in-fact it is arguably costless to take a picture. Clicking that button incurs no cost and you instantaneously get a processed picture that you can see. So don't be shy, press the button.

2. Keep looking at your pictures.

The serious point here is that the feedback loop from taking to seeing your pictures is virtually instantaneous. When I was shooting film not only was it expensive, I had to wait till the whole roll was shot and processed before I could see if what I was doing was any good. Use the fact that you get instantaneous feedback to experiment and improve.

3. Actively think about what your passion is.

Why are you taking pictures? For example are you an artist at heart? Or a conservationist? Do you want to tell a story? The point is when you really think about what your passion is, it WILL influence your photography, and make you better, because you will have FOCUS.

4. What's your genre?

This is desperately important and if you can think about this you will have a better informed position on the endless forum debates on whether to Photoshop out an ugly leaf / blade of grass or not from your picture. If you see yourself as a Photojournalist photographer keep the leaf, if you're Fine Art lose the leaf. In no particular order here are a small selection of genres, Portrait, Fine Art, Fashion, Architectural, Documentary, Sports and Photojournalism. Google these and look at the different styles of photography out there.

5. Look at "good" pictures.

If you've managed 1-4, then you'll be in a place where you'll be able to identify the generally recognised leading photographers in "your" field(s). Then go and look at their pictures for inspiration. What you're doing here is building your visual memory, but you're doing it by "fine dining" as opposed to eating "junk food". If you do this, you will start composing better pictures.

6. There's more.

There always is. But let's stop here. 1-5 is, in actual fact a lot of work, but it can be great fun and some of the things here are ideal for a rainy day. The over-arching principle is to suggest doing something that you already do, but do it a little differently. You choose the pace.

One of the current leading photographers in one of the genres that I am interested in has just (in 2020) taken some beautiful pictures with a mobile phone of wildlife that possess huge energy and vibrancy. It's not about the kit.

And finally...the gorilla picture above was shot by me using an 85mm portrait lens, not an expensive long telephoto. Why? Because it's an animal portrait. It was taken in the wild, in Zaire (now Congo), and as we now know Jim Richardson said, "If you want to be a better photographer, stand in-front of more interesting stuff". Quite frankly, today I could use a mobile phone with a small digital zoom to take that picture. Easier to carry too!

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