Plan? Books?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by TiCoyote, Oct 20, 2009.

  1. TiCoyote

    TiCoyote TPF Noob!

    Apr 28, 2009
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    In high school (many moons ago) I took a few B&W film classes. I know my way around apertures and shutter speeds.

    In college (still more moons than I'd like) I minored in fine arts and took lots of oil painting classes, so I know something about colors and aesthetics and composition.

    As an honest-to-gosh grownup, I've picked up my fiancee's (very dusty) EOS 300D, and I've been shooting and teaching myself a little about PP with PhotoScape.

    I go out an shoot 1-3 times/week, and once in a while I get one shot that I really like. Maybe two a month. I look at a lot of other shots on here, and sometimes I feel like my best are almost as good as other people's worst.

    Now these "other people" have waaay more experience, and also much more technical and theoretical knowledge.

    So here's my 3 step plan:
    1. Find as much time and as many opportunities to shoot, to build experience.
    2. Start reading some books, to learn about the theory
    3. Next summer, look for gigs as a photographer's assistant, to learn a little about technique.

    So here are my questions:
    1. Does this plan sound reasonable?
    2. Can you suggest books?

    I'd like to lean portraiture. It would be great if I could make a little money to pay for my habit shooting senior portraits.

  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

    Jul 23, 2009
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    Your fine arts and painting background will stand you in good stead. The study of composition,as well as compositional styles is something most new, self-taught shooters have never studied,and it shows in frequent horizontal photographs where an innocent victim is shown as a head floating on a portion of the upper body, with huge swaths of empty space on the left and right hand side of said head...anybody who has actually studied painting and composition will understand why the vanilla "horizontal head shot" is weak,weak,weak.

    Books? Your local library is full of books. Many of the newer web sites with "tips" on portraits are filled with simply horrifically amateurish compositions; I saw one portraiture tip web site's article referred to here the other day,and it was populated with MWAC "portraits" that were obviously stock photos, with horrible compositions that would garner a D+ or an F in a fine arts class of any type. The title was How to Take Better Portraits--but the photos were God-awful. need to be leery of some sources,and newer digital photography books seem to be very recipe-like. Do this, do this, do this, and process with this software in these steps: 1,2,3,4,5,6. Then apply an action, or two, or three. Presto! If that is what you want to learn, the web is filled with new content ,much of it from new, untrained,self-taught microstock shooters with no art or design background. And some of this same type of untrained, unstudied, self-taught photographers have written web sites and even smaller books.

    If you want to really learn from true experts, I suggest books written at least 10 years ago. Seriously. The period from 2003 to 2009 has been filled with new, digital-specific books that are 95 percent about technology and about one to maybe three percent about aesthetics, design, and composition. Some of the classic books on photography like The Amateur Photographer's Handbook, or the Time-Life Library of Photography series of books, will give you a very broad understanding of photography as a whole; not just recipes on how to work the latest software and where to download actions, but how to actually understand the fundamentals of photography. Truly, and I mean truly, understanding some of the fundamentals like the inverse square law, perspective, apparent perspective distortion, depth of field, hyperfocal distance, zone focusing, pre-focusing, and the importance of planning out a photographic solution geared to a specific shooting situation is something that the "old", pre-digital books, written by true experts, will help you with.

    Photography is part art, part craft, and part science. But today's new approach, that of "digital photography" skips over most of the craft and most of the science, and delves into software and post-processing ad nauseum.

    I bet only one out of 100 new digital era-only shooters can explain the Inverse Square law, and how to apply it. Same with filter factors, or bellows extension, or flash Guide Numbers. Most all of the fundamentals and principles of photography were fairly well fixed by 1968, at the latest. Before digital became the norm, the emphasis in photography instruction was on learning how to use *Photographic Principles and Practices*, the title of a 288 page book written by Harry Asher. I just Googled it! I happened to have read it in 1977, but it was published in 1968--it would be a 400-level college textbook in today's world I think.

    The internet has made things so confused, and inaccurate information is repeated so often that it's now hard for a beginner to spot reasonable-sounding theories that are bogus. Look for some library books or used bookstore books produced in the pre-digital era, like the mid-1980's to the late 1990's; any newer and the books seem to become recipe books.
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2009

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