I read a fair amount of books, blogs, and listen to several podcasts on photography. A common thread these days seem to be a thirst by many readers and listeners for formulaic “how to” information. As if photography was a “one size fits all” activity. It’s not. Photography is creativity, and you can’t put a formula on creativity. Photography is art, and again, you can’t put a formula on art. But like, art, there is a technical side to photography. In order to paint you need to learn how to mix colors, and handle a paintbrush, and take advantage of the type of media you are painting on. Similarly photography has shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, and depth-of-field that photographers must master to excel in their craft.
The popularity of this “how to” information clearly shows that photographers are eager for information about the basics. However, many never really move beyond the basics because they become overly concerned with the technicalities of taking a picture. Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, depth-of-field; how do they all relate to one another? How do I know which variable to change to get the image I want to create? This is where the majority of hobbyists get stuck, in the details. So books and the Internet have tried to fill this gap with information and tutorials. Magic formulas for given situations. Many do a great job of teaching you how to take a shot under given set of conditions, but few venture on to explain why. Therein lays the problem. It is easy to explain “how”, but a lot more difficult to explain the “why”, because “how” is technical but “why” is purely creative. It is in understanding the “why” that lets a photographer move beyond the basics.
A famous artist can teach you how to create a brush stroke, he may not be able to impart to you the creativity needed to take full advantage of using that painting technique. It’s much easier for him to simply have you create a similar image along side of him so that you can experience the same circumstances and learn when he uses that particular brush stroke. Through having shared experiences he hopes that you will pick up on his creativity. In photography you can’t always share the experience with an expert. There are many who offer workshops, but often they have equipment that is different from yours. Also, is a one, two, three, or five day workshop enough to move you beyond the basics? It’s probably not, at least not enough to overcome old habits.
So what’s a struggling digital photographer to do? We’ll here’s the secret to moving beyond those basics, practice. That’s it. Forget about creativity for a while. Forget about trying to get images similar to those of a photographer whom you admire. Spend a few weeks, just practicing the basics. Start with one variable at a time. Lock in the rest, and go shoot. Spend a day changing only the shutter speed. See its effects. Do the same for aperture, then ISO, etc. In this way you are creating your own experiences, and learning each variable on its own. By seeing what each of these items do on their own, you will get a feel for how they each affect the final image. Soon you’ll find that your creative side will take over, and it will combine all of these variables and start creating images the way you intended them to be.
You see, too much is made of the interrelation of shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and depth-of-field. Many people have trouble with these concepts because they are trying to understand it from a technical point of view, when it’s not. The individual pieces (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, depth-of-field) are technical. So you need to understand what each does individually. However, how they relate to one another and how to use them together is purely creative.
Labels: creativity, Photography, Technique