I was inspired to write this post after Wednesday’s “Blind Photo Critiques” on The Grid (Rick Sammon was my in-studio guest, and he was awesome, as always). When it comes to The Grid, we often get hundreds of submissions for these monthly Blind Critiques, but we only get to show a handful on the air. One reason is many of the images are the same because many photographers are stuck in a particular stage of their development, so their photos (even if they are different types of subjects) look essentially the same. That’s why today I wanted to break these stages down so folks might see which stage they’re at, and I included my advice on how to level up to the next stage.
I’m kinda “telling it like it is” here, speaking frankly and honestly — not to hurt feelings, but sugar coating this message doesn’t help move anybody move further down their path. In fact, it almost reinforces why they should stay right where they are. So…here goes:
STAGE ONE: Camera Owner
You’ve been getting lots of good comments from friends on your Instagram posts taken with your cell phone’s camera — so much so you decided to buy a “real camera.” You were pretty sure buying a nice camera was going to take your photography over the top, and your friends can’t wait to see you blow it up on Instagram now, but…not only do your photos not look better — they look worse. This real camera thing is way more complicated than you thought, and just using it as a heavy-cell phone replacement isn’t giving you the amazing shots you thought you’d be getting. Here’s why: buying a DSLR or Mirrorless “real” camera doesn’t make you a photographer any more than buying a saxophone makes you a sax player. At this stage, you are simply “A camera owner,” and you’re just taking pictures (and you still call them “pictures”). Since you’re not getting the results you thought you should, you’re focused on trying to figure out which setting, buried deep in the menus on the back of your camera, turns on the secret feature the pros use for making great photos. You know it’s there somewhere — but where?
How to Level Up: If that sounds like the agonizing stage you’re currently at, here’s how to level up: Stop looking at the menus. Ignore all the other stuff. Just focus on learning what the Aperture (f/stop), Shutter Speed, and ISO mean, and how they work together. Forget everything else for now, because once you understand those and get used to adjusting them on your camera, you can stop worrying about the settings and start working on making great pictures (and yes, you still have to call them “pictures” for a little while longer. It’s the law).