When you are driving down the road and someone cuts you off what do you do? You don’t think about stepping on the brakes or turning your wheel away from the car… you just do it. It is instinctual. That is how it should be when you shoot. You should know your camera inside and out so that when you shoot you do not have to stop and think about what to do in any given situation. In speaking yesterday with an old professor of mine, Tim Bradley from my Art Center days, we got on the issue of teaching and the digital era. He was telling me how many an amateur photog is getting famous through flickr.com and how interesting it is that the human aesthetic is changing because of the digital camera. People now just keep shooting until they get the shot. The fact that the shots are “free” have caused a bludgeoning to the image world. Thousands upon thousands of horrendous shots are being burned onto our sensors in hopes of getting the one money shot. Interestingly enough, those money shots are coming to even the most novice of shooters. 5 minutes browsing through Flickr will prove this thought. You had to be a trained technician with an artist’s eye to make it as a photographer not long ago. Us film shooters did not have the luxury of shoot-until-you-get-it before digital went mainstream. The digital phenomenon has, however, created a bunch of photo idiot savants: brilliant photographers who have a camera control IQ of 20. Does this matter? I’m not sure, but the one question I get from every new photographer is how do they master their camera and not let their camera master them. I have a friend who I have been helping learn a few things over the past few months. She just sent me this email last week and I think it could have been written from any one of the photographer’s out there who are just starting out.
“Ok, so I am really trying (and getting frustrated) to get a better handle on my camera and using the manual mode instead of the darn handy green box!!! Is there are good rule of thumb for your shutter speed when you are shooting pics? For example – when outside the best shutter speed is . . . or in the shade a good SS would be . . . Does that make sense? I know that I can mess around with it, but I get overwhelmed wondering if this is the best shutter speed for this particular locale. I don’t know if I am making any sense – i know that most of this is learned from doing and I am trying to “do”, but am scared to do it with clients right now because I don’t want to spend all of my time messing with my aperture and shutter speed when I should be just taking pictures. Aye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who knew doing it the right way was so mind boggling?!?!?!?! Will my head actually explode at some point????”
If this is you, then my blog is officially dedicated to you. For the next several posts I will be covering the basics of camera control. Your first assignment: Pick up a film camera, buy some film (yes, they still make the stuff) and go shoot 3-5 rolls in an afternoon. You need to slow down and get some foundation if you really want to learn how to use your camera. Sadly, you might say, “I just don’t have the time or money to invest in shooting film.” If that is you, then be prepared to have the above statement be your mantra. If you are dedicated to truly learning how to control your camera, you have to start with the basics. Your digital camera is only holding you back from learning what you want to know. I have enclosed a little “cheat sheet” with regards to basic starting points for shutter speed and aperture to help you get off and running. Good luck and joy to all your shooting adventures!