Don't be a Recipe Follower!

amolitor

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Just about the most frustrating thing for me to see photographers doing is using, copying, repeating, and sharing recipes for things: what f-stop should I use for this? Where should I put the flash? Is there a photoshop action for that? How do I do the Brenizer thing? What camera should I use for sports?

It happens at all levels and in all aspects of photography, from basic issues of getting the exposure right, through composition, and post processing.

There's nothing wrong with a good recipe! But a recipe you don't fully understand is worse than useless. Maybe the recipe is right for a full-frame camera, but wrong for a crop sensor. Maybe it's right for a prime lens but not a zoom, or for color but not b&w. Every recipe has a TON of built-in assumptions. If you follow a recipe blindly, you'll never know what the unspoken assumptions are. Some recipes will work for you, others will mysteriously fail.

When you get a recipe from somewhere, please, I beg you, take it apart and try to understand it at a deeper level. Explain it to yourself in whatever terms you understand. There's no bottom to the unpacking process, there's always another layer of deeper understanding, so don't try to get to the bottom. Just dig down one or two levels. But dig, and think, and force yourself past the easy "step 1, step 2, step 3" of the recipe.

Do this most every time, and I swear to you, I promise, technical problems will start to simply melt away and you will wonder why you thought this stuff was so hard.
 
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amolitor

amolitor

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protip: proofread your title before submitting new thread.
 

tirediron

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I agree with you Andrew; to a point. I think there's some value in following the basic recipes to start and actually seeing a quality product as a result. Once you've done that, built up some confidence and understanding, THEN it's okay to dig into the whys and wherefores. I think if you do it without the basic knowledge, it would be like a child taking apart his father's watch... parts all over the table and no understanding, because he lacks the skills to put it back together and see how each component affects the whole mechanism.
 

leighthal

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Disagee with you Amolitor. HUGE disagree. You have equated photography skills as unteachable through mimicry. You would have been better to offer "it annoys me when you ask... therefore don't do it". Skills are learned through mimicry all the time. It's how you learned, as a wee tot, to tie your shoe laces. Unless you're one of those brilliant children who read how to do it in a book and then applied the skill.
The whole point of a forum like this is to share recipes and skills. It may seem annoying to share these skills you've already learned and find easy, but others are still in the tot phase. They need a jumping off point. Mimicry fulfills this. Then it's up to them to learn why it works.
After all, if we are not here to learn something we'd all be at Chapters with our nose deep into Kirby. Coming back to the forum with topics like "Already figured this out" and "Thanks for nothing". Or worse; being in a small podunk town with no reading material and posting "My duck at 500 yards taken with a macro lens".
 
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EDL

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Me personally, I'm a kinesthetic learner. I learn better when I can ask "how do I set my camera to do this", get an answer, then try it. From THAT point I am able to learn why and how better than trying to mentally ascertain exposure settings and fumble around with them. I have no issue with book learning concepts and I like to think I catch on quick, but actually doing something is a lot different than the mental game. I'm not always patient, so spending a lot of time fumbling around randomly with little to no results frustrates me. When I get frustrated, I tend set it down and walk away and that can lead to lost interest.

I have willfully throttled myself though when it comes to photography. I go through phases. There are times, days, weeks, even a month or more where I just don't want to get my camera out. I see lots of things I would like to shoot, but just don't feel like going and doing it. Then, I get the urge and I'll take it out and go shoot stuff and I get into it for a few days, or it might last a week or more. This has worked well for me since getting my gear.

Not to sound rude, but when it comes to forums and people asking the same old questions that have been asked a million times, well, I look at it like this; no one is forcing anyone to read each post, much less answer it. I certainly understand not wanting to answer the same questions over and over, so simply, don't. Pass over that post. Don't read it, don't get involved if you aren't inclined to do so, but I don't think anyone should be putting those posters off by telling them to use search or to google it either. I'm a noob in photography, but I have learned a lot so far and if I can get involved in even the basic posts, it helps me to vocalize what I know (or think I know) and that helps me too. It reinforces the information and sometimes it leads to others adding insight or knowledge I didn't have. In other words, answering simple questions can lead to me learning new things, or sharpening my understanding, and that's never bad.

Anyway, it's all good in the hood for me.
 

manaheim

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There is, and always has been, a tendency for less experienced people to look to shortcuts to either learn, or sometimes to get the job done without bothering to learn. I assume the latter is what Amolitor is railing against.

There is, however, and always has been a tendency for the more experienced to decry shortcuts in the learning process, because how YOU learned frequently feels like the right way.

I understand and somewhat agree with both of these viewpoints.

However, I can't help but see I'm a 100% digital photographer, using an incredibly technologically advanced camera that automatically sets my focus, aperture, shutter, white balance, can take 800 36MP images on a single "roll" of film and can upload my pictures to my 100% digital studio that isn't a dark room in my basement.

It's a little hard to make the argument.
 

rexbobcat

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Disagee with you Amolitor. HUGE disagree. You have equated photography skills as unteachable through mimicry. You would have been better to offer "it annoys me when you ask... therefore don't do it". Skills are learned through mimicry all the time. It's how you learned, as a wee tot, to tie your shoe laces. Unless you're one of those brilliant children who read how to do it in a book and then applied the skill.
The whole point of a forum like this is to share recipes and skills. It may seem annoying to share these skills you've already learned and find easy, but others are still in the tot phase. They need a jumping off point. Mimicry fulfills this. Then it's up to them to learn why it works.
After all, if we are not here to learn something we'd all be at Chapters with our nose deep into Kirby. Coming back to the forum with topics like "Already figured this out" and "Thanks for nothing". Or worse; being in a small podunk town with no reading material and posting "My duck at 500 yards taken with a macro lens".

You missed the point.

Why mimic when you can experiment?

Learning photography is not like learning how to read.
 
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amolitor

amolitor

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Mimicry is a fine starting point! My point, perhaps poorly expressed, is that it's a very very bad ending point.

Try the recipe out, see if it works for you. If it does, great. But don't stop there, dig into it and try to get why it works. You'll fill in a little technical stuff as you go, and you'll develop a little more ability to tinker with the recipe, and maybe even make up your own. If it doesn't work for you, DEFINITELY do not stop there. It's easy to just discard it and move on, but it's when the experiments fail that the scientists get excited, and ideally you should too. Why doesn't it work? What's it supposed to do, and why?

If you can figure out why the recipe does not work for you, then you've really learned something interesting. AND as a bonus, there's an excellent chance you'll be able to adapt the recipe so that it does work for you.

Photography as a practice is arguably plagued by equipment makers who, for every problem, make a gadget you can buy to solve that problem. This isn't quite the same thing as blindly following a recipe, but it's a closely allied issue. It feeds off the same desire to have a simple and straightforward plug-tab-A-into-slot-B solution to everything, and it extracts quite a bit of money from hobbyists.
 

manaheim

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Yeah, but amolitor... I know people who live on frozen dinners and macaroni and cheese in a box.
 

manaheim

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Mind you, I actually agree with you, but people are kinda lazy and many don't care.
 

cgipson1

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Workshops are very popular, especially with the less experienced. They are opportunities to learn, or to absorb some recipes. Unfortunately too many just do the last.... and not the first.

And what is really sad... is that people then use the shots in their "portfolios". Someone else setup the lighting, prepped the models, told the MUA what to do, and probably basically told the "people with cameras" (I won't call them photographers!) how to setup for the shots. But they still use the shots in their portfolios, even though most could not recreate what when into the shot. Basically false advertising....

Recipes are ok as a starting point for a given scene, but one has to know what to change, when to change... to make it work. Recipes are not a constant...
 

pgriz

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Kinda depends on what the person's purpose is in doing "photography". If someone takes maybe 20 snaps during the course of the year, and just wants to get a decent photo of a special event or person, then they don't have much motivation in getting into the whys behind the hows. Give them the settings that will give them what they want, and let them go on with the rest of their life. Most of my family is like that - They really don't care about blowing the highlights, or whether the depth of field is too little or too much, or whether there is excessive noise in the shadows. If the picture caught the gist of the event and the people are recognizable - success. My recipe for this group is Auto-ISO, Auto-WB, Program mode.

Then we get someone who actually cares about the end result as an image in itself. That's a completely different end-goal, and discussing the objective of the image and how to convey that most effectively becomes relevant.

For every 1 of the latter we probably have 500 of the former.

There is another group that wants to monetize their ability to hold a camera. Probably the same ratio of "willing to work at it" compared to "just gimme the short-cut". And in that, they reflect our society's values. So railing against those who just want to do the "easy way", is a fine way to show that you care, but does nothing about the underlying causes for the attitude. Life's short as it is, and filled with enough real issues and concerns, without trying to tilt at the windmills. Educate the educatable. And when possible, lead by example. When someone in my circle of family, friends and acquaintances wants to make a better image, I figure out how much "depth" they can handle, and go from there. Sometimes, it's as simple as showing them where to focus, or loaning them a flash so that they can use bounced light. It's really not up to me to decide for them how much they "should" know.
 

table1349

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Just about the most frustrating thing for me to see photographers doing is using, copying, repeating, and sharing recipes for things: what f-stop should I use for this? Where should I put the flash? Is there a photoshop action for that? How do I do the Brenizer thing? What camera should I use for sports?

It happens at all levels and in all aspects of photography, from basic issues of getting the exposure right, through composition, and post processing.

There's nothing wrong with a good recipe! But a recipe you don't fully understand is worse than useless. Maybe the recipe is right for a full-frame camera, but wrong for a crop sensor. Maybe it's right for a prime lens but not a zoom, or for color but not b&w. Every recipe has a TON of built-in assumptions. If you follow a recipe blindly, you'll never know what the unspoken assumptions are. Some recipes will work for you, others will mysteriously fail.

When you get a recipe from somewhere, please, I beg you, take it apart and try to understand it at a deeper level. Explain it to yourself in whatever terms you understand. There's no bottom to the unpacking process, there's always another layer of deeper understanding, so don't try to get to the bottom. Just dig down one or two levels. But dig, and think, and force yourself past the easy "step 1, step 2, step 3" of the recipe.

Do this most every time, and I swear to you, I promise, technical problems will start to simply melt away and you will wonder why you thought this stuff was so hard.

Yeah, you keep that in mind the next time you are buying a quart jar of corn liqueur and you begin to wonder if the ole boy that brewed it used high octane gasoline instead of good spring waterfor the ferment. If it's right, it's right for a reason. :lmao:
 

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