Why Is Photography So Hard?

7-11-2006 033

I have no idea.

But thank God for people like Philip Greenspun, who Wikipedia calls an “American computer scientist, educator, and early internet entrepreneur.” Philip is all of that, but I bring him to your attention because he is also Editor in Chief at Photo.net, where you can learn an awful lot about photography for free.

Philip caters to the advanced crowd, but he has just added two new videos that cover the basics of digital photography very well. I will refer you to his blog post, which in turn points to both videos. Although I’ve had my Canon Digital Rebel for almost two years now, I learned more watching the XTi video than I have gleaned from any other single source.

That sounds a little embarrassing, but it’s true.

I am not sure why photography is so hard for me. I read end-to-end the little book that came with my camera. I asked friends. Still I struggled. When I first met Holly she had access to a very nice 35mm SLR. We would use all automatic settings and take fabulous pictures. Fast forward ten years and we purchased our current Cannon from Costco. I thought that with a high end camera, we could use all the auto settings and have great photos again.

I was wrong.

I suspected it had to do with the lens that came with the kit (Philip bears this out) and purchased a static Cannon 50mm F/1.8 at a friend’s suggestion. Holly hates this lens (What, no zoom?). But it has been key to leaving behind the washed-out, deer-in-the-headlights, flash photography we’ve been getting from this expensive digital SLR. This same friend also taught me about aperture and depth of field.

Equiped with the new lens, I learned how to take nice portraits of the kids with a shallow depth of field.

5-28-2006 084

Much better than full auto flash shots, but there is only so far you can go with aperture alone. How do I freeze action shots of Aaron at Little League?

Enter the photo.net videos: One video shows you how to use full manual settings on an SLR similar to mine. I could never figure out how to adjust aperture on full manual (the wheel defaults to adjusting shutter speed), but it is as simple as using a shift key. I also managed to decipher the light meter. The other video reviews the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and focus. I’ve been experimenting all night.

Good pictures are still hard to get, but I finally feel like I have my head around the basics. Even better I finally understand how to use most of the controls on my expensive camera.

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2 thoughts on “Why Is Photography So Hard?

  1. Your photographs add an interesting visual dimension to your posts that I like. I’m glad you figured out at least part of the answer to the question “Why is photography so hard?” so that you’ll continue to add new visual content along with your writing!

  2. Curtis says:

    You might also check if your library has a copy of “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson, I found that book invaluable to understand what the manual settings were used for on my camera, it also allows me to think in terms of how I *want* the picture to come out.
    Amazon link (so you can find the right one, there are two editions, I recommend the second): http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Exposure-Photographs-Digital-Updated/dp/0817463003/

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