When I started taking photos properly, I didn’t really know much about cameras or photography. What was the relationship between aperture and shutter speed? How could I vary how much of the picture is in focus (later understood as “depth of field”)? How would I know when to use flash? What did the different lens numbers mean (I’ve now got a watch with these numbers on!)?


I found some of the answers in a book – Keep it Simple Guide to Photography. It’s a very basic book, but has some great examples, and it makes photography accessible for the beginner. I can really recommend it for anyone wanting to make more out of their existing camera, or anyone wanting to take the step from compact to SLR. In fact, I’ve recommended it to so many people over the years that I should probably get commission…aside from the fact that you can buy it for a penny at Amazon!

I say that I found some of the answers in there – but I don’t think you can fully learn photography from a book. It’s by taking loads of photos and making lots of mistakes that I’ve properly learned and that’s what I’d recommend.

But…photography is so much more than understanding your way around a camera. Some of the basic philosophies around photography that I stated in a blog post in 2008 still stand:

  • Practice the art of seeing – so often in this digital world where you can take hundreds of pictures without paying the earth, people just take photos. I know I shouldn’t be bothered by it, but it makes me sad to see people absently pointing their phone at something and clicking the button whilst not even looking.
  • Kill the phrase “I’ll fix it in Photoshop” – composition and lighting can all be changed after a shot, but you can save so much time by getting it right in the camera. I’m a real traditionalist in this respect, and don’t do any post-processing (aside from occasionally removing sensor dust from my photos)…but I find myself being more sloppy with digital photos than I am if I’ve got a film camera in my hand.
  • Style happens, don’t think about it – when I first started taking photos, I didn’t think about style, then I went through a stage where I was obsessed with “finding my own style”, and my pictures deteriorated in quality. I then forgot about style, and my own style emerged!
  • Examine your own photos– once you’ve taken a picture, look at it afterwards. I don’t just mean glance at it – critique it. Decide what you like about it, decide what you don’t, and then use what you’ve learned when taking more photos! Don’t just stop at your own photos – do the same with other people’s photos (but don’t be rude!)

Obviously you never stop learning and developing (pardon the pun) your photographic style, but I think the book and the basic philosophies got me started along the right track.

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