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A Photography Lesson Which Every Amateur Must Know | A Lesson In Humility & Perseverance

By Max Bridge on September 8th 2016

Do you ever wonder why you’re not a better photographer? In this article I’m going to go over a couple simple photography lessons which will help you to answer that question. Every amateur struggles, and for good reason. Hopefully, by the end of this you’ll feel reinvigorated and ready to advance yourself as a photographer.

It Takes A Long Time To Learn Photography

The first part of your photography lesson today is about recognizing the task at hand. Photography is a colossal and complex subject with many nuances specific to each genre. As an amateur, you will have many hurdles to overcome; getting to grips with your camera, learning about light, mastering off-camera flash, learning Lightroom and Photoshop – the list goes on and on.

I remember once hearing that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in something (popularized by Malcolm Gladwell). I’m not sure I agree with that statement, we all learn at different paces after all, but there certainly is some truth in the phrase. I’ve been doing something related to image creation—moving or still—for the last 10 years. After all this time, I’m well aware that I have a LOT to learn. It just takes time to learn photography – to truly learn it.

Side Note – I believe the education offered by SLR Lounge to be second to none, especially for amateurs. Make sure you look over everything in the SLR Lounge Store and consider becoming an SLR Lounge Premium member

a couple stnad in the middle of the road with the sun rising over the city in the background

You Will Not Take Good Photos For A Long Time

This is a sad fact. If we widen our definition of “good photos” then perhaps you’ll achieve the dizzying heights of “good” a little quicker, but in reality, you’re going to suck for a while. The important thing at this stage, which will last longer for some than others, is to persevere. Going from my own experience, people seem to believe that photography is easier than it is, because it’s oh-so-easy to slap on a nifty 1.8 and get a creamy background. As a result, when you buy your first camera expectations can be high.

[REWIND: 3 PHOTOSHOP TIPS TO STOP YOU RUINING YOUR PHOTOS. DO YOU COMMIT THESE EDITING SINS?]

Keep in mind that every photographer you admire was once in the same boat. Nobody starts anything as an expert. The difference between those that become experts and those that remain amateurs is dedication. You need to put in those 10,000 hours (or thereabouts).

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Two Tips To Speed Up Your Journey

Right, now you know. You suck (varyingly), and will continue to do so for quite some time. It’s going to take no small amount of effort, and a large time commitment, to transform your photography from poor or plain to amazing. While it may be the case that you need to put in the hours, that doesn’t mean that you can’t speed up the process. At the very least, by frequenting sites like this, by watching and attending photography courses, you can avoid some of the pitfalls that may stall your progression.

[REWIND: IT SHOULD BE PHOTOGRAPHY 101 | HOW PHOTOGRAPHY EDUCATION CAN HINDER YOUR PROGRESSION]

My first photography lesson is focus. I’ve written articles in the past about committing to one genre so as not to spread yourself too thin, but this is different. Yes, if you can pick one genre and focus on that then I think it’s beneficial, but what I’m talking here is a focused approach to image creation. Amateurs take photos; professionals create them. If your aim is solely to take a good photos then ironically it will take you longer to get there. Creating photos requires forethought, planning and a level of competency to execute your vision. Focus on the creation of every one of your photos and your photography will improve.

The second lesson is to assert the necessity of education. Education is not the be all and end all but it can be very helpful to propel you forward. You learn a lot from trial and error but a certain amount of education can stop you making simple mistakes and turn you onto techniques and methods you may not have learned on your own. Some of my favorite places / people who create good quality education are; Creative Live, Phlearn, Photigy, Julia Kuzmenko, Vibrant Shot and SLR Lounge (of course). Depending on what you want to learn one of those will provide you with indispensable knowledge.

Summary Of This Vital Photography Lesson

Every photographer was rubbish when they started. It’s only through hard work and dedication that your photography will improve. It takes thousands of hours to become good, let alone an expert. If you’re not willing to devote those hours, then you will never achieve the level of photography you desire.

[REWIND: 5 REASONS I WISH PHOTOGRAPHY COURSES LIKE SLR LOUNGE PREMIUM WERE AROUND WHEN I STARTED]

To speed up your development, focus. Amateurs have a tendency to take photos; professionals create photos. Slow down, envision the outcome, sketch it out, practice, and devote a significant amount of time to each image. Always have that thought in mind, create photos don’t take photos.

About

Max began his career within the film industry. He’s worked on everything from a banned horror film to multi-million-pound commercials crewed by top industry professionals. After suffering a back injury, Max left the film industry and is now using his knowledge to pursue a career within photography.

Website: SquareMountain 
Instagram: Follow Author

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ralph Hightower

    I think that books still rule! I bought and read books written by Ansel Adams, John Hedgecoe, Kodak, and others.
    When I first started in photography, there was no internet; there was no personal computer unless you wanted to build your own IMSAI 8080 running CP/M. A few years later, Apple introduced their first I or II computer.
    Since I came from a manual focus system (1980) to an autofocus system in 2013, I wasn’t troubled when my lens wouldn’t autofocus at a company event due to the banquet seating arrangement. I switched the lens to manual focus to overcome the people between me and the stage.

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  2. Jill Schindel

    I enjoyed this article, and I’ve always appreciated photographers that take the time to address amateurs and enthusiasts in such a way that is not condescending or dismissing.

    For me the “focus” piece is a little more literal… I’m getting over a several year love affair with razor thin DOF and moving on to more deliberate focus with a bit more of the scene included ;). Also trying to work with my limited equipment (two primes – a 50 and a 100 macro) and make sure my compositions are spot on. Too many awkward crops in my past. Anyway, all to say that I’m focused on some of the “small” things right now. Can’t wait to move on to mastering some other aspects like flash.

    Also, for a newbie, Lynda.com has some really helpful tutorials too.

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    • Max Bridge

      Hey Jill,

      I’ve never actually tried Lynda, heard of it of course but never had any reason to give it a go. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Moving away from razor thin DOF is a big step. It’s so tempting to remain at shallow depth of fields as it makes framing and composition so much easier / non-existent.

      I’m very glad to hear you enjoyed the article and wish you all the best for your development

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  3. Lee Hawkins

    Great article! It’s so true that it takes years of practice to really learn photography. I like your advice to focus—it’s always helped me to focus for a time on learning one aspect of my photography and improving it, then moving onto another when I plateau. Over time, it’s helped me learn what I can control and how, and I get much better results every time than I did even a year or two ago! If you want great images, there’s no end to the learning…

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    • Max Bridge

      Thanks Lee. It really does take years and years. I’m sure we’ll get there one day.

      Focusing on techniques is fantastic but I also think focusing on each individual photo is extremely important for learning. It’s not possible all the time and less for some genres than others. However, if one can take the time to focus on every photo they take, analyse every element, troubleshoot methods to improve lighting etc. then you naturally learn. Basically, you’re always trying to produce the absolute best image and nit pick every detail.

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  4. Jean-Francois Perreault

    “Amateurs take photos; professionals create them.”
    Love that quote :)

    I’m unfortunately well below the 10000 hour mark and it shows. But learning is a lot of fun so the journey to becoming good is a joy!

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    • Max Bridge

      As far as I’m aware, that’s an original quote too. Don’t think I’ve heard it said anywhere else. Never know though! :)

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  5. Pye Jirsa

    Always love your articles Max. I can see that you have fallen in love with learning just like I have. Shows in your work, as your images have come such a long way in a short period of time, shows in your articles, and shows in your attitude. You will be rewarded for your love of learning, consistently, and repeatedly.

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    • Max Bridge

      Thanks Pye! I’m always learning something new, even if it’s just something small, and will always try to find new techniques and methods to push my photography. These days I especially love the improvisation from my product photography. Learning never stops!

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