One of my favorite photos is a long exposure of the Jefferson Memorial taken just before sunrise, in the minutes before the sun breaks the horizon. It was a quiet moment one Tuesday morning in March of 2013, when only half dozen photographers were shooting. As the sun came into view, I packed up to go home fighting my way through the hordes of photographers who showed up just as I was leaving.
Last fall, the photo was on display at a military spouse’s event when a woman walked up and commented, “Everyone has shot a version of that photograph”.
This is just one of the many discouraging things people will say to you on your photographic journey. Here are a few more:
1. No real photographer uses the automatic of P settings on their camera.
2. My friend takes better photos with her iphone.
3. Any idiot with a camera can (fill in the blank)
#1 –When the photographer says "I don’t shoot in automatic or on P; I only shoot manual and RAW". Shooting in manual and RAW identifies that the photographer has more than a casual working knowledge of their camera. However, I also hear people say this to diminish the less experienced photographer. Here is my advice, put your camera on Auto and get out there and take photos.
Find a good mentor or on-line group and actively learn to use every feature on your camera. I highly recommend the 365project.org. The 365project is a fabulous community and great safe environment in which to learn. Everyone on the site loves to take photographs and there is a large range of equipment from phones to professional cameras. Most are very willing to share their knowledge and technique. I’ve not been photo shamed once on this site.
Remember that Auto and P are on the camera for a reason. Don’t be embarrassed by using them.
#2– There are several variations of “my friend takes better photos with her Iphone”.
Mostly I hear the variation where someone with an extensive technical knowledge likes to point out that they can take better photos with a cell phone than you can with your very new, very expensive camera.
The reference point is, it is the photographer not the camera that makes the photo great.
There is a truth in that concept. It is the dancer not the shoes. It is the painter, not the brushes. It is the musician, not the instrument. But, given a choice, I would rather work with a great instrument.
So if you have an expensive camera and can only shoot on the auto setting, well, good for you. Shoot, shoot and then when you are done get out there and shoot some more.
Don’t sit the camera on a shelf like some beautiful piano that spends its life as a silent piece of furniture.
Now go back to step#1, because it just gets better the more you know!
#3 –Photographers who’ve been commercially successful throughout the film era can be bitter about the ability of the new digital cameras. Photos that were once only possible by applying an in-depth technical knowledge are now possible with many cheap point and shoot cameras.
Add insult to injury, when post editing can turn a passable photo into interesting art. The learning curve of software like Photoshop has newbies pushing the limits of experienced photogs. In response to this, the established photographers quickly coined a phrase that is useable with a variety of endings. It goes “Any idiot with a camera can”.
Recently the project of one such idiot with a camera (Brandon Stanton) has gone viral and the impact of his work is making a difference. If you are not familiar with his photoblog “Humans of NY” this is a good time to follow him on Facebook. Stanton’s response to being suddenly unemployed was to take his camera out for a walk on the streets of New York City to photograph and document the stories of people he met along the way.
Was his camera set on automatic? Do his friends take better photos? Did his lack of expertise stop him?
I love that any idiot with a camera can make a difference.
I want to be that kind of idiot.
What about you?