Learning Again

Took a friend’s teenage daughter around my ‘hood last week, as she was interested in photography as a hobby. I agreed to take her around and shoot some photos with a mini digital camera I lent her. It was a lot of fun, but I do wish the weather wasn’t so hot and humid! I know I got looks because of how unsightly I looked with my crunched up face and sweat pouring down. Oh yeah. We were having so much fun we didn’t even realize we were outside for three hours straight! I definitely DO NOT recommend doing this in Shenzhen because you can really get sick from it, trust me.

Talking with her and just showing her the basics really got me thinking about how I started in photography.  From this experience I realize that I should give myself credit for some of the good photos I’ve taken so far.

Here is what I’d recommend/do if someone is looking to get into photography:

1)Surround yourself with the ‘right’ people – by this I mean fellow photographers who are interested in taking photographs. When I lived in Korea I met a bunch of guys who were also starting out and we all scouted different areas in Seoul to take photos of. We’d share our photos with each other once in a while. This really encouraged me to go out there and photograph, and I ended up being the one to initiate photo meetings. Being around people who want to do the same hobby as you can be a really great motivator, and they can also help with tips and suggestions.

2) Figure out what you like  – When I talked to this girl I took around, I wanted to see what subjects she was interested in. Turns out she likes to look at old black and white photos from the 20s.  She showed me some of these photos on her phone and we went around looking at how to turn ‘modern’ Shenzhen scenes into photos similar to ones she likes so much. I think she got a lot out of that and by the end of our walk she didn’t need much encouragement to take photos around her.  If you start taking photos and you have no interest in what you are taking photos of (e.g. for me I wasn’t so much interested in studio photography) it won’t encourage you to stick to the hobby. That being said, if you want to experiment with different areas that in my opinion is the same is figuring out what you like.

3)Shoot shoot shoot! – This one is a given.  I’m still a little nervous taking photos of people on the street but I am a lot better than before.  Practicing more also makes you more comfortable around a camera, and of course, shooting better photos 🙂

4)Learn to shoot at different angles – When this girl and I stumbled upon a mini firetruck, I suggested she take the photo in different ways. I got her to get close, far away, crouch down, tip toe while taking a photo and just look at the difference even though it’s still the same thing she is taking a photo of. Of course, you can only do this with inanimate objects, unless you want to chase a person down!

5) Don’t invest in too much equipment, or the ‘best’ that money can buy at first– Unless you’ve been shooting for a while and you are seriously interested in it, I’d hold off making a big purchase (Leica cameras anyone?). It may collect dust or you’ll lose money trying to resell your equipment. When I first started shooting with a digital SLR, I got two basic lenses and built my collection from there. I also knew a friend who bought about 6000 USD worth of equipment then was reselling it three months later. Of course, if you have more money than you know what to do with, by all means disregard this advice.

6) Look at photos and forums – I know this personally helped me to define what I really liked about photography and just learn new techniques.  Through online forums I actually found my wedding photographer who ended up teaching me studio photography (I’m actually kind of interested in it at the moment, though I’d want to get a DLSR again if I want to do it more), met some great friends I’ve had for years, and gotten advice on where to buy film etc.  Looking at images from other photographers really inspired me to shoot more. If you are in a position where you don’t meet hobby photographers in person regularly, chatting with people online can also help be a good motivator.

If there are any tips you’d like to share I’d definitely appreciate it!

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