Do you remember the slides, the rolls, waiting between the shooting session and the results from the laboratory? If so, you are aware of the giant leap we have done thanks to the digital revolution, which first supplanted analog photography and then put in everyone’s pocket devices capable of producing images quickly and economically, aka smartphones. If, on the other hand, you were born in the digital photography era, well you must know that it is thanks to this that photography today is an activity truly within everyone’s reach.
Wherever you are, I dare you not to find someone intent on framing something on the screen of his device, ready to share it on instagram or to send it to friends on whatsapp. The technology has gone so far as to allow anyone to take a snapshot, without having the need to learn anything special. And the quality is constantly increasing, with any modern tool, even entry level low-end smartphones, capable to generate images that are more than acceptable.
But…we can all take pictures, but how many people can say they know how to properly do it?
Photography is communication
That’s right, photography is a mean to communicate something. It is like writing: it can be used to remember what we have to buy at the supermarket, or to tell a compelling story in the form of a book. It’s a language, and the way it is used can elevate it, or not.
If you take pictures just to communicate where you are, who you are with or what you are doing, pictures that are useful to you or a few others, and only for a short period of time, you are not photographing. You’re just scribbling a note. If you’re interested in nothing more than this, you don’t need to learn how to photograph.
If you’re here reading these words, though, your purpose is probably another. Maybe you just want to express your creativity, expose your concept of beauty, your view of the world. Or you want to tell stories, using the power and universality that only images can have. Or you may want to help others communicate their values, or to sell their products. Possibilities are endless.
Whatever the motivation that drives you, one thing is certain: who really photographs is not satisfied with the point-and-shoot, but he wants to control and predict the process that leads to the creation of the image, in order to make the shot that is in his mind, for the purpose he has in mind. This is Photography.
What do I need to do to learn photography?
If you love photography you will never stop learning and experimenting, but when you start from scratch or you just have some basic knowledge, learned here and there, and you want to consolidate them without wasting further time, you have to follow a path in four steps.
- Know your own equipment.
Knownig how your tools work is an essential step, as well as knowing what you really need to achieve the goals of your being a photographer
- Master the exposition theory.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a mathematician. You don’t need to go into technicistic details, you just need to know WELL the key concepts. Because learning to control exposure is managing light, and managing light is half the job in a successful photo.
- Learn to “see” the shot.
The second half of the job comes from the composition. That’s how you frame a scene. And how you get to frame it: planning, location, set-up, etc. While the first two points are generic and valid for any kind of photography, here I will talk about my field, automotive photography.
- Learn how to edit the shot.
Last but not least: digital photography also opened the door to what only the best did, namely the development in the darkroom. This will allow you to pull 100% off any shot, provided of course you know what to do and how to do it.
It’s amazing how quickly you can progress by working and deepening these four steps, and how quickly you can rise above most of those who, out there, call themselves photographers: simply because they never really learned the basics!
Can anybody make it?
Yes of course. The beauty of photography is that it is a very schematic, scientific art. And it’s based on a few basic pillars. Learning those is not that difficult, with the right method. It can take time to use these basis to express your creativity, but it is a matter of practice, more than complexity. So do not worry: in the next posts we will deepen all that we need to learn to Photograph!