One of my goals for this year was to take a few photography classes. I wanted to take an opportunity to really be able to fine tune my skills and knowledge of photography, and also to just help motivate myself to keep going out there taking photographs and gain as much experience as possible. Welp, this is the big update:
I’ve just finished the first class, which was a photography composition class. I’m also currently in the middle of my second class, which is called Using Natural Light, but its name is deceiving, as I’ve found it to cover an incredibly wide range of topics for just a three week course.
The most important thing that I’ve learned so far is that everything can have a lesson for you.
I wasn’t sure of what to expect going into these classes. I wasn’t sure if continuing education classes would be filled more with hobbyists or people looking to take their work more seriously. I wasn’t sure if I would have the most experience out of all my classmates, or the least. I wasn’t sure if I might be wasting my time. But, I figured, it couldn’t hurt to try; and it especially doesn’t hurt that one of the best benefits of my job gives me free tuition to any classes through the university. So I dove in. And I’m so glad I did.
First of all, one can never be too conscious of the basics in any field of one’s interest. While I have previously learned the essentials of ISO, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, focus, camera shake, and the rule of thirds, I never, ever feel that reviewing this information is a waste of time. There are always little details that you forget, or maybe even never thought about before, until someone new came along and introduced them to you.
Moreover, I have come to the conclusion that part of why you are able to learn so much while taking multiple classes in high school or college of any degree, is because you are approaching similar topics from different angles, with different instructors, and sometimes, these topics and angles will overlap. That overlap is what really solidifies a concept—at least for me. So, going over the rule of thirds in the composition class reintroduced that consciousness in me; touching on the same topic in the natural light class really drove home to me how important a conscious composition is to a great photograph. I am so glad that I decided to go for it and sign up for two classes at once!
That is what I’ve enjoyed learning the most. Learning to recognize what differentiates between an inexperienced snapshot and a thoughtful, purposefully composed image. So many times, people look at the images in a professional photographer’s portfolio and wonder, how do they do that? How do they make such a simple thing just “pop”? How do they get that effect? How can I do that?
There are so many considerations that a professional photographer must keep in mind when composing his or her photos. Would this image be more engaging with an out of focus background? Should this water be caught in still motion, or in a blur? Where is the optimal place in the frame for this subject? How can I get rid of that ugly distraction in the background? How can post-production editing render this image into something that really “pops” and screams professional art?
Now that I have the advice and insight from two different commercial photographers as my instructors, I feel that much more knowledgeable about how to approach my own photographic work with the care of a professional. I’ve relearned how to consciously use the shutter speed and aperture to my advantage. I’ve relearned the rule of thirds. I’ve studied photographs and learned how to decide what would make them better, whether in their composition or in their post-production. I’ve seen that most often, what would make them better, is getting rid of excess information in the image–like that truck hanging out over there at the edge of the frame, or that pile of whatever it is chilling just behind the photograph’s true subject.
The photos in this post were all taken with my Natural Light photography class. None of them are perfect, by any means. But I am so proud of them, because I know how much extra care I took when creating them. I experimented. I learned. And I know that with my newfound awareness, I will be approaching all of my future work with extra care. My next assignment will be taking portraits, and the next class I am taking will be a class devoted to photographing people, so you can bet I’m excited to keep up with my learning. Hope you care to keep up with me on my learning–it’s good motivation!
What have you learned when reviewing the basics in whatever you do? If you haven’t done so in awhile–go do it! And report back :)