Mentor. Manual. Mode.
Tips from a beginner photographer.
So you like photography and you want to learn how to fully understand, use and appreciate a DSLR you talked yourself into getting. It’s intimidating, lots of numbers, letters and opportunity written all over it.
Worried my new found love for photography would just be a hobby, I purchased used and old. My first DSLR was a Nikon D70. I took photos of everything; buildings, cars, animals, streets and even talked a few people into posing for me. I was excited and had no idea what I was doing. I worked predominantly in Aperture Priority Mode not even knowing about “aperture” was.
Engaging with the world through a lens quickly gave new meaning to my understandings of the texture of life itself.
Getting a mentor was one of the most helpful and critical pieces for me becoming a better photographer. It was hard finding a mentor. Many photographers charge a lot and rightfully so for their knowledge and as a beginner especially when you are just a hobbyist it’s tough forking over money for a few tips and tricks. Thankfully today – they are many wonderful resources online to help you until you find a person who is willing to help out with your budget. Some recourses I used were:
Digital Photography School: offering tutorials, contests, and homework assignments.
Creative Live: offering many online classes from world class photographers. As a Seattle local I was even able to attend a few classes which proved to be incredibly valuable.
Clickin Moms: Offering an unlimited amount of inspiration from some of the most talented photographers. They offer wonderful tutorials, classes, advice and so much more.
Manual. (And I don’t mean Mode)
The first and best advice I ever got from a seasoned photographer was “read your manual.” It was the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear. To me “read your manual” about as exciting as watching paint dry, to a creative visual learner, it was as close to a painful experience as I could imagine. It was, however like I said the best advice I have ever gotten. I downloaded the manual onto my iPhone and over the course of 3 months I read it.
After a year of shooting I went back to my mentor and asked what was next on the docket to get better – he said, “read your manual”. So, I read the manual again and things began to make even more sense, especially because I no longer had to spend most of my time looking up definitions of photography terms. He challenged me constantly to learn all I can about photography and then learn more. When I told him I wanted to be a natural light photographer – and he said, “you only say that because you don’t know anything about a speed light”. He was right.
Having upgraded my camera twice already, now to full frame, I even began to get clients. I felt like a fraud without a degree in art or photography to back up my skills, but my heart was full. What I learned is that degrees don’t make you a photographer. I grew into being a photographer through terrific guidance, unabashed audacity, and steadfast will.
Now, onto some learned technical advice about Manual Mode. It can be your ultimate ally for creating superior images.
Now, onto some learned technical advice about Manual Mode. It can be your ultimate ally for creating superior images. I do at times shoot in Aperture Priority Mode, for example at weddings when the pace of moving indoors and outdoors demands rapid flexibility, but otherwise I am constantly engaging manually with my camera settings. I am obsessed with manual mode because I am a control freak and once I learned its nuances, I couldn’t stop. I like controlling the image. I like controlling the light.
Start by taking notice of how shadows and light playfully maneuver and position themselves throughout the day. Once you befriend light in this way, you will always find it when you need it most. Embrace the skill of manual mode and be courageous in your exploration of the settings. Trust yourself. You can do amazing things. There are amazing articles that can take you step by step through the process of learning Manual Mode here is one by Adam Dachis to get you started.
So, remember. Seek mentors. Read your manual. And learn Manual Mode.