The Importance of Learning the Basics

Where I live, and I have a feeling that it is widespread in many communities, there are a great many people who own nice cameras but fear them to a certain degree. They fear them because the results they get are sometimes unpredictable.

Every person who has ever picked up a camera has gone through this. It’s not the fault of the camera nor is it something to be embarrassed about.

Photography is a never-ending learning curve. And anybody who says they know it all is clearly mistaken. To the average person with a camera, the technical aspects and terminology can seem overwhelming.

I cannot emphasize enough that this is why it is so important to attend a class or get help from private instruction with someone who not only knows the material but who is a good teacher. I always tell my students that the essence of photography is not about f-stops and focusing modes, but rather about seeing, and isolating a moment that has meaning. And to do that, you have to know the technical stuff well enough that you can forget about it and concentrate on the image with impact, and the vision you have as a creative artist. How would you like it if you hired a photographer to take your photo and they spent ninety percent of their time fiddling with the dials and knobs on the camera instead of paying attention to finding moments with meaning? It would be an awkward photo session and one you would likely not wish to repeat.

Having a good overview and understanding of basic photographic principles and camera technique is something that does not have to be complicated. A good teacher should bring all the pieces of the puzzle together so that things begin to make sense. You cannot get to point B until you’ve been to point A. A good base understanding is paramount.

These are questions I get on a regular basis from people who own nice cameras but who don’t understand the concepts of photography:

1.) Why are all my pictures yellow?
2.) Why are so many of my photos blurry?
3.) How do you get that background to look so nice and creamy?
4.) Why not just use ISO 6400 for everything?
5.) I would like to use my flash, but it makes all my pictures way too bright. Why?
6.) What is an f-stop?
7.) Why does my camera have trouble focusing in fog?
8.) Why does the snow look gray?
9.) My landscapes just aren’t sharp even if I focus on the mountains in the background. Why?
10.) What’s the difference between a kit lens and one that’s more expensive?
11.) Do I really need a tripod?
12.) Why would anyone buy a speedlight when they’re camera already has a pop-up flash?
13.) Why does the sky in all my landscapes look blown out? Why does the foreground look dark?
14.) Most of my wildlife shots are blurry, even at ISO 100. Why?

And on and on…

Spending a few hours with a good teacher will be the best investment you’ve ever made in photography. And it just may help to justify spending all that money on an expensive camera that seems to give you the same kind of pictures that you’re last camera did.

Happy Shooting,



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