Friday, May 25, 2012

Photography is a series of problem solving steps

As a beginning student in photography there are so many things to learn and it seems like you need to learn them all at once. On top of that you need to grasp an already difficult concept; light. So what is the beginner to do?

I teach all my students to take learning photography as a series of problem solving steps. Rather than getting hung up and bogged down by all the technical stuff I tell them to slow things down and analyze the problem first. The wonderful thing about digital photography is that you have the ability to preview the results right on your camera. A luxury I never had in the film days. That alone is a great learning tool.

The other great thing about this is you get to see the results right away and you begin to learn how a camera interprets certain scenarios. Here's how it works...

You're outside in your garden and you want to get a picture of that beautiful flower that bloomed that morning. You're not too comfortable shooting in manual so you have it in the 'P' for professional mode. You snap away and you realize it's rather washed out looking. Too much light is causing the image to be slightly over exposed. What to do...

Depending on your knowledge you may deduce that you need to tell the camera to under expose the image. You may realize you have to block some of the sun hitting the flower. Or you may tell yourself that you took the picture at the wrong time of day. These are all logical conclusions to a visible problem.

The picture came out blurry, the scene is too dark, the background is great but the person is in darkness; these are typical problems with (usually) simple solutions. It's just a matter of learning the solutions. If you are in a group ask someone to guide you. Next time you encounter a similar problem you will then know how to correct for it. If you are alone then refer to your instruction manual, a book or look on the internet. The solution is usually a short step away. We live in a great age of information.

The down side to this is that it is a slow process. If you find yourself in a shooting situation beyond your experience you may have to miss the shot. Don't let frustration get the better of you. Use what you know and make the attempt at getting it. The photo may be really bad but at least you'll have taken a reference shot for you to analyze and resolve at a later point.

The more you shoot and problem solve the better your technique will become. Before long you will have enough solutions stored away that you will start applying them before you even make the mistake. So don't be afraid of getting it wrong because in the end it really isn't wrong, it's just and example of what to avoid.

Next time you're out there getting frustrated, take a deep breath, take the shot and then ask yourself, "what is wrong in this shot?" Say it out loud and then see if the solution comes to you. You will be surprised at how much you already know.

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