Question#27: About Photographic Skills

Q: "Hi Valerie, I have always wanted to learn photography. Though I'm far from being even a novice in photography but have a very strong urge to learn it. My question is whether photography is for those born with a seed for it or can a person develop it as a skill from 0 (like me) ?

In addition to it, what must be my approach to learn photography because at present all I have is a point-and-shoot camera. Do I need to start with a workshop or any other way?  Thanks." U. Kartikey

A: "That's a great question and a topic that many probably wonder about but never ask! There's never been a better time to learn photography. Everything that you need to learn about the technical aspect of the craft is available online and mostly for free. This is a huge advantage what didn't exist 15 years ago even! For some, a classroom setting is better than learning online and there are photography classes offered everywhere through community colleges, etc.

You are also raising a very good point about 'natural talent' and the part it plays in the outcome. Learning the technical aspects of photography is the easy part that is accessible to all. Everyone can take a technically great picture but not everyone can make a compelling image. The rest of the ingredients you need is a combination of passion, determination and LOTS of practice. I do believe in natural talent but that comes in various forms. We are all talented at something. Some will see a perfect composition right away without ever having to think about composition rules. Others will have the ability to see a story in a frame and, with the technical skills they acquired with experience, will be able capture that moment flawlessly. Some new photographers have such great people skills, they can position themselves as portrait photographers because they have a natural talent at interacting with their subject, etc.

If you are just starting out, try a lot of different things until you find one genre (or several) that you are truly passionate about. If you focus on what you love, you're half way there! With passion, determination and experience you will grow and develop a style. 

About gear: Your point and shoot probably has some manual settings that you can experiment with. Start with what you own. Remember that the camera doesn't make the photograph and you can take killer shots with any point and shoot or camera phone. As your skills improve and you start to feel limited by your gear, then consider upgrading. Go to a camera store, rent or experiment with a friend's camera to determine what feels right for you. It may not be a DSLR system, there are hundreds of choices out there. There are no bad cameras. Take your time to figure out what you really want to spend your money on.

 ©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

About education: As I mentioned above, most of what you need to learn on how to use your camera is available for free, you can also learn a lot about techniques and composition online. Join a local photo community or photo walk group. Start a photo project such as a 365 day challenge. Anything that will make you want to go out and shoot everyday! Photo workshops are also a great way to learn in the field with like-minded people. There are many options available that range from a few hours to a few weeks.

Most importantly, shoot for yourself. Do not worry about pleasing others with your pictures (or we'd all be photographing kittens and puppies to post on Facebook...) Follow your heart and your vision. As long as you are not shooting for clients, make yourself happy first! As you grow, get some honest and reliable critique of your work in order to improve on it.

Remember the number one rule: Have fun with your camera! I hope this helps and I wish you the best." Valérie

Please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions!