As I will address in a later post, I firmly contend that our body is a mere vessel used by our consciousness to gather experiences and elevate itself towards morality. While we are here, it is therefore undeniable that the one true treasure that one may gather throughout life is the extent and magnitude of one’s memories. Trading is great. But it has an uncanny tendency to create an overwhelmingly left brain imbalance over time. Correcting it therefore requires that we make use of our right brain as often as possible so as to enjoy the full spectrum of all experiences available by using our emotions and creativity.
I found photography to be a fantastic tool in collecting and archiving a lifetime’s worth of experiences. I have explored that field over the last year and I will try to share how I managed, in a mere 9 months, to go from a complete novice to a sophisticated amateur able to produce its own art as well as to sell some of it.
Many people will insist that photography is an art, with which I would agree 100%. However, as with everything artsy, discussions very quickly turn to snobbism as it is quickly pointed out that photography is more of an art than a skill. This assertion is wrong however. Art is and always is the mastery of BOTH a technique and a creative skill. As such, it would be absolutely impossible for a very much right-brained individual to convey a singular artistic feel to its photography without being able to understand optics and manipulate the camera correctly in the first place. There is no way around holistic knowledge when it comes to complete mastery. Period. So with that debate now settled, I will explain how I started from scratch in my quest to master both the technical and composition skills that pertain to the art of photography.
As always, I tend to stray away from the so-called “out-of-the-beaten-path” route when it comes to learning a particular skill. I have witnessed all too well what the leftist New-Age way of teaching is bringing in today’s school system in terms of mediocrity. Teaching output before input is mindless and sterile. Call me a conservative, that’s fine. I will just choose what has been proven to work. So I looked for the online leader and I found that Tony Northrup‘s class was all that I needed. It turns out that Tony is a YouTube buff providing free quality content on a regular basis. He is also an editor of three awesome Amazon best-selling books, namely: Photography Buying Guide, Stunning Digital Photography and Lightroom 6/CC: Training for Photographers. While the first book focuses on both equipment and the technical intricacies on how to operate a camera, the second one will show you how to put your technical knowledge at work in terms of contextual artistic composition, while the third book focuses on everything that you need to know to get the most out of Adobe’s flagship post-production software: Lightroom.
My learning process started with optics. The last time I heard about this discipline was in high-school, so talk about a back-to-basics endeavor! Although a tough subject in itself, Tony’s book makes it easy to understand with actionable examples. This part of the leaning curve is crucial as you move up towards composition. This is simply because, as you will learn, lighting is the single most important factor to the quality of a photograph. Understanding how to balance ISO, shutter speed and aperture must not just be learned, it must be understood and practiced until it becomes a second nature. Composition requires to free your eyes and mind in such a fashion that your brain must not be distracted by any technical calculation. That is why you must have this technical part down to an instinctive skill in order to make room for art. Then Tony’s book moves on to composition and various techniques to capture a scene depending on which type of subject is involved. So you will be taught different methods depending on whether you choose to shoot sports, architecture, stars, portraits etc.
As I stand right now, I have decided to focus my photography on landscapes involving architecture and people’s lifestyles as I want to pair this new skill with my traveling which will ramp up a lot in the months to come. The great thing about photography is that it forces you not only to record your experiences, but also to develop a new look over your surroundings. You will catch yourself caring more about what the world offers you, listening to sounds that your perception used to filter out, and colors that no longer caught your attention. In a word, you will become more aware of the world. And that newly found attitude will feed your creativity as well as what use you will make of your camera to represent a particular scene in the most accurate and artsy way. You will find that a great picture may not only render what you saw at a particular time. It may also convey fantastic clues about the smell, the mood and the feelings that ran through your body when shooting it. On top of that, the post-processing that you can do with Lightroom allows for rendering shades and colors in such a way that they totally match the overall impression that you want to give. So I found that the creative work is not only present when taking the picture, but also, and sometimes more, when post-processing it.
As with everything, photography is not free, unfortunately. A great equipment comes at a great price. I am personally shooting with a Nikon D810 which, along with the different lenses that you need, will cost you in the thousands. And since lenses are more important to the quality of a picture than the camera itself, I let you imagine the end cost of the whole gear. So yes, you will have (yet again) to make choices and sacrifices. But to me, considering all that it brought as far as enhancements to my memories, the financial commitment to this hobby really is a detail at the end of the day.
Finally, in case you become good enough at it, you may want to sell your photography to stock agencies. I personally went with Dreamstime. The idea is that you submit your pictures to the agency which, based on your pictures’ quality, composition as well as the current trends, will choose to retain or reject it. Then, assuming that your picture gets accepted, you will typically be paid on a per download basis. Also, stock agencies offer exclusivity programs whereby the payout is greater for committing to submit your work to a single agency only. This is what I did. I heard that some of the best photographers out there make a living out of it. Frankly, I believe that you should go full-time to reach such level. However, it is undeniable that submitting your photography to an unbiased party such as an agency is a great way to assess the quality of your work. On average, I have read that the rejection rate is 60% to 70% so I guess that it did not turn out that bad for me!
Photography is a fantastic new hobby. One that really finds its own validation in my life considering that it touches to so many aspects of my experiences. I hope that it will also find its own validation in yours!