Are you photographers self-taught?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Hello.there, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. Hello.there macrumors 6502a


    Oct 12, 2007
    I'm really interested to know if most of you photographers are self-taught or if most/some of you took courses/got help and advice from an 'expert' friend?

    If you are self-taught how exactly did you go about it? Books? Trial and error? Practise, practise, practise? Natural brilliance? :)

    I'm confident enough in my ability to take good photos, I'm really happy with the collection I've put together over the past few years, I think I have a good instinct for what will look great, but having just bought my first DSLR it's a whole new ballgame for me on the technical side!

    I really, really want to learn the 'mechanics' of photography (eg I need to move away from these Auto settings, I'm clueless about exposure, etc) but I hate courses! Maybe spending five years in college just put me off.

    Would you just recommend that I bury my face in a few books for a while, or do you think a course is the way to go?

    Would appreciate any advice, thanks.
  2. fett macrumors 6502


    Nov 5, 2007
    Calgary, AB
    100% self taught. Started in July 2007.

    Mostly I've learning from books, the internet and of course practice, practice and then when I think I'm improving more practice. The only other photographer I know is my dad and he hasn't taken photos since I was a little kid.

    I just want to add the book Understanding exposure really helped me.
  3. phiberglass macrumors 6502a


    Oct 3, 2007
    Self Taught. I took a photo class a few years ago, but that was when I wasn't really into photography. That taught me everything about developing film though so that was good. then I stepped into the digital world not to long again and have learned everything pretty much on my own and first hand experiences and some online tutorials/forums and just general reading on photography. I still have much to learn though.
  4. Jebaloo macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2006
    I was stuck on the auto settings too till I took a 1 week course at a local Art College during their summer program. It was incredible, and suddenly opened up so many possibilities to me. It was the best £300 I've ever spent on photography.

    The rest of it for me has been self taught,, chase jarvis, actually I won't bother listing because there are literally hundreds of websites i have learned bits and pieces from over the years.

    Study other photography, work out how it was lit, think about how much thought went into the photograph - How did this photograph come into being. Copying is good too - take a style and go out and emulate it for practice. Your own style will come with time. I'm still finding mine.

    Don't be afraid.
  5. fridgeymonster3 macrumors 6502


    Jan 28, 2008
    I have taken high school and college photography classes, so I am obviously not self-taught. However, I have learned a lot about additional technique, etc. from online tutorials, books, etc. I also learned a lot from trial and error like anyone else. I think most photographers are self-taught with some aspect of photography. As long as you are serious and put in the effort, you will succeed. Just do not ever get discouraged - you only get better after evaluating your bad work (at least I feel that way).
  6. JNB macrumors 604


    Oct 7, 2004
    In a Hell predominately of my own making
    Self-taught, listen & learn, mostly. Look at other work I like and see how it differs from mine and learn do recreate the look. Follow some photography forums, talk to the folks in good, old-style camera shops. But then, I'm just a shutterbug, purely for my own enjoyment, nothing more than that.
  7. LaJaca macrumors regular


    Nov 23, 2007
    Near Seattle
    Ditto the self-taught - amazing how quickly you can learn with digital pics displaying on the back of your camera.

    I recommend picking up a book or two that interests you, and READING as much as you can - on line, at Barnes and Nobles, wherever. Then go out and shoot. Shoot. Shoot. Thousands of pictures.

    And have fun while you do so....good luck.
  8. HomeingPigeon macrumors regular

    Aug 1, 2007
    I self-taught myself. I am only 14 and started taking pictures this summer. Then I got an SLR for christmas. Really wanted to learn all of the control and nuances a lot better. I am taking a course from I highly recommend this website. It is really flexible. My instructor at-least will allow late assignments and is amazingly knowledgeable. The name of the course is Fundamentals of Photography. I read a book by an author I can't think of right now. And other than that people say that i just have a really good eye and am pretty good a filling the whole frame considering I just started photography and am relatively young.
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    My dad had an SLR system from before I was born. Back then there were no automatic cameras In fact there was no place where to could put a battery in a camera. He explained the basics of exposure because it was imposable to take a picture without understanding it. I bought an SLR when I was in the 8th grade and it was pretty advanced because it had a built in light meter. No auto modes just "match needle".

    Yes I took photography in high school but I "sand bagged" and just printed from my negative catalog.

    Books are very important way to learn. I like the series by Ansel Adams. He wrote for the person who aspires to be a technical perfectionist like himself but he uses simple terms and examples and offers good advice along the way. He wrote eveything before the digital era but most of what he said is timeless. For example when he says that he likes to "burn the edges" of a print because it brings light to the subject because the eye sees relative tones, not absolute tones This still applies even when he says how he does this with a sheet of cardboard under the enlarger you can adapt the technique to Photoshop.

    the other books to look at are those oversized art books. Look at them until you find some photogrpahers you like then try and copy their work. Nothing wrong with a student copying the work of a master. Artists have been trained that way for centuries.
  10. SubaruNation555 macrumors 6502

    Dec 3, 2007
    Arlington, VA USA
    Some inspiration/words or wisdom from my father and one film photography course last year in college but other than that self-taught.

    I love the trial and error learning associated with digital photography.
  11. phiberglass macrumors 6502a


    Oct 3, 2007
  12. srf4real macrumors 68040


    Jul 25, 2006
    paradise beach FL
    I started with the dpReview vocabulary list...:eek:
  13. bocomo macrumors 6502

    Jun 29, 2007
    New York
    Good to see a lot of enthusiasm and curiosity out there!

    The good thing about the OP's quest for knowledge is that the big questions are technical. That's easy to learn-right and wrong answers, etc.

    A couple of good choices for photo books are:

    A Short Course in Digital Photography, 6th ed. by Barbara London and Jim Stone (great for learning about apertures, shutter speed and lighting, etc.)

    Complete Digital Photography, 4th ed. by Ben Long
    (good digital camera geek out)

    remember, the answer is always, "Shoot more."

    Hope that helps...

    Oh yes, forgot to answer the original question: I have an MFA in photography
  14. Crawn2003 macrumors 6502

    Jul 8, 2005
    Santa Rosa, California
    I went to school for it at Ohio Institute of Photography. I was pretty much self taught before that so I only learned a little at the school but I wanted the degree because of better job opportunities. That, and the great discount on equipment through MAC-on-campus! :D I got all my equipment (about $30,000 worth before graduating) for a little less than half price! :cool: That was the best part!

  15. Grimace macrumors 68040


    Feb 17, 2003
    with Hamburglar.
    Self-taught on digital.

    Practice, practice, practice

    But, I took multiple shots in different ways, wrote down the changes (ISO, shutter, f/stop, and then looked at the pics and EXIF data to see what did what.

    10 minutes with a book would have saved me a lot of time, but learning the hard way is sometimes effective.
  16. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    Formal training, trained under a couple of photographers, and then self-taught with anything I didn't pick up from the books/teachers. My guess is there are so many people who are self-taught out there who have way more sill than I do that it is nearly impossible to say that one prevails over the other.
  17. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    I started with point and shoot film, and moved to digital with a quite feeble Fuji D-10 .75 megapixel digital camera. At that point I had learned (from others) that some of the best pictures are taken under the following conditions

    - Shot at angles normally not achieved by a standing person
    - Shot in ways to capture perspective of the figure
    - Take them in a way to ensure proper lighting.

    I was amazed how quickly the feedback I learned from seeing the pictures instantly, sped my learning of picture taking. I have yet to take a class, or buy a photography book, however I have been following some great sites on the web, some of which have been listed above.

    So far I have been fortunate to have landed a few repeat magazine customers, a few websites, and many personal customers. I really enjoy photography :) .
  18. Everythingisnt macrumors 6502a


    Jan 16, 2008
    Pretty much sums up my photographical education.
  19. davinche macrumors regular


    May 3, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    So far I'm self-taught. I've read a few books and visited a few websites. I hope to take a few classes but with work and a 9 month old; time is not something I have extra of at this point.
  20. Fiasco macrumors regular


    Dec 1, 2007
    New York, NY, USA
    Self-taught. Trial and error and a few books. Also helpful hints from professional photographers I know.
  21. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Mar 10, 2005
    Both. I was self-taught while an undergrad in psychology. Then I graduated and submitted my photography portfolio to grad school and was accepted. Took my first photo class as a photo grad student. A year later I was teaching digital photography to a class of my own. I'm now a year away from an MFA in photography.
  22. BOOSTD macrumors member

    Nov 8, 2007
    Im also self-taught. Basically, I picked up an old minolta film camera that my Dad had given me and started shooting film. I read a lot of stuff on the internet on the theory and even bought a few books. However, I would suggest avoiding books unless you REALLY like it. I found that everything you'd want to know about photography can be found on the internet if you just look. Save the money and put it in your "new lens fund." After a few months, I decided to go digital. As everyone else says, the best thing you can do is just practice.

  23. BtwnTheBars macrumors newbie


    Feb 26, 2008
    a wasteland...
    It's been a combination for me...I've taken a few photo courses in school throughout the years, but I did a lot of work on my own supplementing what I learned in class with other resources and of course practice...that's honestly the only way to learn...even without the manuals or prior knowledge, if you fiddled around with a dSLR long enough, you'd catch on to a few a things...especially since you don't have to wait for the film and prints to develop :D
  24. Hello.there thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Oct 12, 2007
    Wow, really interesting replies and some great recommendations/tips/advice - thank you everyone. Looks like 99% of you are self-taught, although I'm impressed by people's experience of photography classes, maybe I shouldn't rule that out just yet.

    It's funny, I only have my D40 a few days but already the 'trial and error' approach is bearing (some) fruit, eg I take 55 photos of the same thing with every setting possible, and then have a mini-Eureka moment because I can actually see what the different settings produce! Maybe this is the way to go after all.

    But I will definitely follow up the book and website recommendations, brilliant stuff!

    Thanks again, at this rate I might even begin to understand exposure :)

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