When people say that they are “self taught” in photography, it usually means that they have never taken a class or earned a degree in the field of photography. However, what they DON’T mean is that they just fiddled with their camera a lot and “POOF!” out came gorgeous photos. If you want to “teach yourself” to take better photos, you have to learn somewhere. Libraries, book stores, and the internet are all filled with many, many resources. So where do you begin?
In order to help you start (or continue on) your journey to better photos, I have compiled a list of some of my favorite photography resources. Most of them I have used/read. A few of them just come with amazing recommendations. For all of them, you are sure to be inspired and to learn a lot along the way.
BOOKS: One place you can try to learn about photography is books. Books are great for people who want to have something there in print, right in front of them, and be able to easily go back to parts for reference. Here are some great books to add to your reading list:
1. Your camera manual — This may seem odd, but really, it is the most important book you can read. With hundreds of different cameras on the market, all with different settings and quirks, it is important to know how YOUR camera works. If another book or website says, “Change your ISO to 1600” you need to know how to do that!
2. Undestanding Exposure — This book is the first one recommended for many people. Bryan Patterson works hard to explain how shutterspeed, aperture, and ISO all work together and how to get a creatively correct exposure. I may be in the minority, but I don’t think that this books is fantastic for beginners. I read it a few years ago and it made no sense to me whatsoever. He kept talking about “meter for this” and “meter for that.” At that point, I didn’t even know where my meter was and how to use it. I think this is an excellent book, but it really is a better resource once you have a basic understanding of manual controls and exposures.
3. The Digital Photography Book — Scott Kelby does an amazing job of making really complex stuff simple. He doesn’t try to explain the whys of photography, but rather, the hows. The book is in short and concise chapters and gives easy “this is how you do it” tips. Here is his explanation, “If you and I were out on a shoot, and you asked me, ‘Hey, how do I get this flower to be in focus, but I want the background out of focus?’ I wouldn’t stand there and give you a lecture about aperture, exposure, and depth of field. In real life, I’d just say, ‘Get out your telephoto lens, set your f/stop to f/2.8, focus on the flower, and fire away.’ You d say, ‘OK,’ and you’d get the shot. That’s what this book is all about. A book of you and I shooting, and I answer the questions, give you advice, and share the secrets I’ve learned just like I would with a friend, without all the technical explanations and without all the techno-photo-speak.” There is also a volume 2.
WEBSITES: Most of my learning about photography has come through reading on the internet. I love that so much information is available to me at any time of the day…and it’s free. It was HARD to narrow down, but here are some of my favorite photography sites:
I Love Photography: This site, by far, has taught me the most about photography. It is a message board geared towards professional children’s photographers and those who want to become that. I can’t tell you the wealth of information I have gleaned (and even more that I have bookmarked for “when I get to that point.”) In reading for almost a year now, I have learned so much about what makes a photo good technically and creatively. I have learned about editing, composition, and nailing exposure. It is a true feast of information. A word of caution though: this is a site for professionals and those who want to become professional. They aren’t into making people “feel good” or approving of people charging money for substandard photography. They are honest and careful in their critiques, but it isn’t for the faint hearted. They aren’t mean, they are just honest. They want to help those who want to be professionals to produce work like professionals.
ClickinMoms: Another great resource for learning more about photography in a little more gentle of a community. If you read our MWAC to Pro post, you will remember that Kellie Penn said this site has been most influential for her in her journey.
Digital Photography for Moms: This site is a new one in my regular reading, but already I have learned a lot. I like the blog set up of it and the information coming into my blog reader. They have great information, tutorials, and even some free actions. Add it to your reader!
Pioneer Woman: Pioneer Woman has a TON of information on her site — everything from cooking and living on a ranch to homeschooling and home & garden. She also has a great photography section with easy-to-understand information, great visual learning tools, and free actions.
Photojojo: A great source of eclectic photography information and products
Photographer Blogs: This is a very general thing…but I have learned so much by reading blogs of great photographers. This isn’t so much for the information, but more for the experience of looking a great photography. The more you look at GOOD photos — and by good I mean technically and creativily — the better you will be able to judge your own work. If you feast on excellent photography you will see where yours falls short and it will inspire you to learn more and try new things. Some of my favorite feasting places are: Tara Whitney, Jessica Claire, Becky Earl (oh make me drool…), Andrea Joki, and The Image is Found.
ONLINE CLASSES: There are a number of places that you can take online photography classes. This is something I haven’t done yet but really, really want to do. There are many different kinds of classes with all different price tags. Here are some I have contemplated:
OH SHOOT! with Candice Stringham at JessicaSprague: ($98 — specific class dates) Here is part of the description: “Oh Shoot, is a beginning 6-week instructor-led photography online course just for beginning SLR users. In this course Candice Stringham will guide you to a greater knowledge of your camera and how it works. In just 42 days you will be well on your way to better understanding of your camera and it’s features. This class is PACKED with information, inspiration, and the benefit of a personal tutor as you begin your photography journey.”
PHOTO EDITING — Good to Great Workflow at JessicaSprague (regular price: $49, on sale through March 23 for $45 — start anytime). This is a class for beginners and intermediates and focuses on global editing (things you can do to an entire photo). Includes video lessons, assignments, and access to a message board.
BETTERPHOTO has a ton of classes that you can take — everything from how to use your camera to taking great pictures of people. The classes are pricey ($200- $300) but they are supposed to be fantastic.
MLK Studios offers an eight week online course that I have heard many raving reviews of. For $250 it may just be the best bang for your buck. He covers tons topics including exposure, flash control, RAW processing, and printing/publishing.
Whether you have aspirations of going professional one day or if you just want to better capture the everyday moments in your life, there are many resources to help you in your journey. Whatever you do, don’t stop learning. Enjoy and learn from the experience and expertise of others. Strive to grow in the process and be proud of the photos you take.
P.S. Scrap ‘N Fonts is having a HUGE sale on all their CK fonts (which will no longer be sold there). Fonts are just $1 and bundles are SUPER CHEAP. I am not a font junkie, but I did find a few I love!