Modern Photography No Shortcuts

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There is a lot more to being a photographer than just relying on the functions of your camera. Every subject requires a new set of skills and these skills take time to learn. Don’t expect it to happen over night and don’t be afraid to take some courses and learn every set of skills you will  need for you to be the best in your field. This is not as easy as it looks, learning to use the camera is just the first step and then forget everything you think you know because the camera is just a tool. It wont do it all for you no matter how much the advertising blurb tells you it can. One of the main reasons I went over to Fuji from Nikon was just that, the advertising was getting in the way of my own creativity and I was not using half the bells and whistles Nikon had programmed in the body.

It’s not all about the camera and for every one thinking I am going to say nice things about Fuji because I am an X Photographer you will be wrong. I use three film cameras, a Nikon Fm2 an Olympus Om10 and a Fujica ST705. It’s not all about the camera it’s about the camera skills. The reason I choose Fuji over every other brand is because when I have a Fuji X100T in my hands I feel like I did over 40 years ago, excited and inspired to go out and create new images. That is what excites me every day, shooting shooting shooting.

There will be the cries from the die hard DSLR guys that the little mirrorless cameras can’t shoot Motorsport or Wildlife and in a way they are right likewise a Ford Focus is not a Ford tipper truck. But wait a minute, people have shot these subjects in the days of film and got some amazing shots. Some of the best Motorsport shots from the past were not shot with bells and whistles AF  and multi point tracking systems. They were shot in film cameras with manual focus and the Photographers used their skills to create images. These days to shoot lets say Motorsport, you go out and buy a D4s and a 600mm lens and you think that is it, I am going to be the best at this, then some guy with an i phone gets a killer shot and it’s front page news !   Why be part of the long lens and expensive camera crowd in the same place taking the same shots ? Think out of the box and go to the event and shoot the crowds expressions or think of something new and make a name for yourself !  Don’t follow the crowd and don’t believe you need to have 30k in gear to be a great photographer, learn to use what you have. Even better go buy a Film camera for £30 and a lens for £50 and go out and be creative !

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With Fuji all the functions I need are on the outside of the camera so I don’t have to dig in the menu’s. This scares some people but this is how you learn your craft. Its not a five minute process it takes years. I have been at it for over 40 years and still learn new things every day and admit it to myself.

It’s not about the camera is about you and it’s a long hard process. No one these days wants to know it’s going to be hard work ! They just want to put pressure on the manufacturers to create camera systems and software that  does it all from behind the keyboard.

I am not a technical photographer and I don’t write much about all the camera functions and menu’s.  In truth I just don’t care about all that, for me its the end product that comes after my days work that counts, the final image or images.

What is the point in comparing Canon to Nikon or Fuji to Sony?  We do that every day with cars, bikes and washing machines. Once you get caught up in all the tech chasing you loose your creative edge.  You spend all your time researching cameras and not out shooting, make your choice then one week later Samsung bring out a 20 giga pixel must have camera ! People are still making better images and posting them on flickr with old film cameras in Russia than some of the people with 60k in gear !

It’s like learning to play a violin, it probably wont take you long to get it out of the box , string it, work out the basics and get a sound out of it but there are no short cuts in the learning process. Hard work and dedication will now follow and at some point you might have to admit defeat because you are tone deaf or you just can’t master it. You can still pick it up and enjoy it but you know you will never be a pro.

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I know not every one wants to be a Pro Photographer and some people are happy to just walk about taking snaps on their phone or very expensive camera. This post is not about those guys they are happy taking snaps and good luck to them, it’s a great hobby too.

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Like a new TV your camera works out of the Box ! You don’t need to educate yourself or be educated in how to use it, the technical side is in the manual that comes with the camera. If you now want to go out, create and become a photographer at any level above snapper, you have to learn. This is a long process for some and quite short for fast learners. Lucky people get it in 30 seconds flat. It takes years for most of us to perfect our craft and to rise to the top of your game. Some people jump from one subject to the other from Landscape to Studio hoping to be noticed but it does not work like that,

I appreciate some people are happy to learn, join clubs and associations but there are some that just want it all on a plate in this modern world and want it for free.  Well nothing is for free, hard work, education and dedication is the only way.

There is a faster way, take classes and workshops and learn from the professionals, just like apprentices in the past. My advice there is find your favorite photographer and sign up to their courses and workshops. Its no good learning how to shoot in a Studio when you want to be a landscape photographer, that’s a whole new set of skills.

I get hundreds of emails every year asking this question ” what are your camera presets and can you share them” or “I love your black and white images can you share your Lightroom presets”  I don’t use any in camera or Lightroom presets. I shoot in Raw and process every image as an individual image and this shocks people but I am not sure why. If we all used the same presets and programs we would all be the same ! How boring would that be.

_DSF9672-EditYou could learn the way I did. I was self taught, and it was all down to trial and error using film. I read lots of books and went out every day and practiced until I got it right. Shooting long exposures with film at 14 was a steep costly learning curve involving hours looking at my mistakes, but I soon learnt.

These days we have Google and YouTube but they are only education tools, they don’t have all the answers and photography is not all about copying other people its about you. It’s about your passion and creativity.  There is no substitute for going out every day and shooting, the more time you spend with your camera in your hand the better you will become at using it. Whether you can ever create a great image is another story. I’m still trying.

Photography has so much more to it than cameras along with all the great products you can buy from lighting to filters. I used to have to make my own lighting set ups but I learned so much about lighting doing it that way. I used to make quite a lot of my own photographic accessories for the darkroom and for my camera bag. These days its all on the shelf, but it probably makes it all too easy and stops you thinking.

I am focusing more and more on Street and events and these two choices throw me back twenty years. You don’t need an all singing all dancing DSLR to shoot street or events you need a simple camera with all the controls at you fingertips. All cameras struggle to focus in low light and also struggle to track people in the street. It’s far better to shoot using the skills you have learnt over the years than to try and force the camera to do the impossible. My project this year is Available Light Street and Street Long Exposure Blur. My first day out I was back to stage one, learning how to create the right amount of blur for people in a trial and error way. At least now I don’t have to waist 5o rolls of film to find out how to do it !

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There is so much to learn in photography and so many different types. I know some amazing studio photographers that would be out of their depth on a Landscape or wildlife day or even a sports shoot. They could wing it but would struggle. For every different type of photography there are new skills to master. People pick up 600mm lenses in Wildlife and can’t work out why they can’t focus and blame the lens when they need to learn long lens discipline.

Shooting in a studio takes years to master the craft of lighting.  I could go on but I just want every one to know there are no short cuts in photography and it’s not all about the camera. It’s all about the skills you learn over the years to create the final image. It’s those skills that will make you stand out from the crowd and give you something to build on so you can be the best at the subject or subjects you choose or help you to change your subject  to keep you ahead of the game.

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Have a great week and get out there and create…

But don’t go out and shoot a Landscape Long Exposure with a Pier unless you can make it something very special !  #justsaying

9 thoughts on “Modern Photography No Shortcuts

    jr cline said:
    March 5, 2015 at 2:08 am

    My first cameras were film cameras. I’ve continued to learn and there is still a lot more to figure out.

      matt6t6 responded:
      March 5, 2015 at 10:03 am

      I love shooting film, that feeling you get when you see the images for the first time, hit or miss is still magical !

        jr cline said:
        March 5, 2015 at 2:10 pm

        That is true. Until I moved in this bus I would shoot film occasionally.

    Mark Loader said:
    March 5, 2015 at 9:51 am

    Amen. Mostly shoot X now as its lighter, i prefer its iq to my Nikons & i love the dials. More camera than computer. Sad that pros who enthuse about X get accused of bribery. Jealous folk out there perhaps?

      matt6t6 responded:
      March 5, 2015 at 10:01 am

      Thanks Mark, I would never talk about or promote a product for money. My passion lies in my photography and I like to share my images and my passion with every one. If I find a great bag or camera system then I will share my passion with every one. One of my favourite camera bags was from Next and cost £20. I liked it so much I got a few. I guess some people who promote products get paid but Fuji don’t do that, another reason I feel comfortable using the X System. Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to reply. Good luck with your journey.

    Kevin said:
    March 5, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Great post and great sentiment. I have only been shooting for less than 10 years and the x100 was literally a burden off my shoulders. I would just take it with me for my lunch time walk and everything about it just fits – no weight issue, no big camera issue, no noise issue, no people being scared of a big tube sticking out. Often I would come back with nothing interesting, but every now and then some photos that I like. Funny thing is I would shoot aperture priority with the DSLR, but with the x100, I would fix the time value and find that the fingers would click on the aperture tab to suit the lighting. My older brother just gave me his Olympus OM 2 and I am slowly getting into film.

      matt6t6 responded:
      March 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks Kevin, hope you have some good times shooting Film. You will love your X100 even more after a year at 35mm

    Peter van der Plaat said:
    March 5, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks for the great blog post. I totally agree with you.

    dirtyrockuk said:
    March 16, 2015 at 7:41 am

    With regards camera gear and AF tracking,

    I recently had a last minute unplanned trip to a race track to meet up with a friend. Light was fading fast, the biggest end of a lens i have is 140mm and my camera body is not the best at tracking.

    I walked away with a lot of misses but still managed to get shots which to me are exceptable considering constraints. I adjusted from trying to use the AF tracking system to pre-focusing to a certain spot and hoping i could get a motorbike traveling at over 200mph in frame.

    I worked with what I had at the time and changed shooting style.

    It is now on my to do list to learn the venue regards best places to shoot and approach it with a manual focusing shooting instead of relying on AF tracking. It’s more fun when you have to think outside of the box and even if I get one ok picture then it’s an award.

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