This week we didn't do much work because we were so busy, and my son was away at scout camp. We did practice a little, and that's something I'm emphasizing. If you want to improve your photography you must practice, daily if you can! There's a reason that 365 posts are so popular, daily practice really does help you improve.
This week I'm going to show you what we are using to help us learn.
Your camera's manual: This is so essential! You need to know what your camera can do and how to change the settings. Take time to read it, and refer back to it often. We carry our manuals in our camera bags. You can often get the digital version from the manufacturer's website, and keep it on your mobile device .
Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson: Buy this book and save yourself the cost of those photography classes. Seriously. Bryan Peterson takes the exposure triangle and makes it SO easy to understand (but there is much more in the book). If you've read your camera manual and can change the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, you'll be shooting in manual mode by the time you are a few pages into the book. This is the book that teaches you about "worker bees", and you'll have to read it to see what I mean! Take time to practice throughout the book as you learn new concepts. This should be your first purchase, and it can be your only purchase. It's that great. (My copy is about two editions past. The book linked will look different.)
BSA Photography Merit Badge booklet: A Google search will locate this file for you, or a shopping trip to your local Scout Office will get you a nicely printed copy. Since my son wants to earn this merit badge, and I have been given permission to be his merit badge counselor for this, we are following the requirements outlined by the BSA.
The Beginner's Photography Guide: A DK book. This is great little book full of pictures and information to help you understand the basics of photography, from camera types, to more in depth camera functions. It explains so many different things, and each topic is presented on just a couple of pages so you can read, practice, and improve your skills quickly. It is not as in depth as other books listed here, but it is a great beginner's book. I use this as I am teaching to show examples of what we are learning and the graphics help explain photography concepts. For instance, it's helpful to have images of aperture blades while teaching what they do...aperture numbers and function can be difficult to visualize!
Digital Photography Complete Course: Another DK book. This book is laid out in 20 weekly lessons with a quiz at the beginning and a test at the end of each week. In between a new concept is presented, instructions given for practice time, and questions to help you critique your photos. It also gets into photo editing. I have read that other people use this book for high school courses, and it will allow my children to work more independently during theirs. After we get through the BSA booklet, they will begin using this book and I will coach them to ensure they understand, and go over their results with them each week. Having a mentor is vital when learning photography, and this book will be their guide while I am their mentor. I plan to work through this course with my new camera too!
Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson: Another great Bryan Peterson book. This one is a good way to help you learn to visualize what you want to produce with your camera. It helps teach composition rules and how to break them for visually stunning images. It is a great book to use once you are comfortable with your camera and shooting in manual, and will continue to help you understand when to use manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority. There is some portraiture information here, but much more landscape and lifestyle information. We use this book to flip through and find examples of composition and creative use of shutter speed and aperture. If the children choose to read it from cover to cover later on, that's great. If not, that's okay. I have a feeling my son will really enjoy this book once he has improved his skills. (My edition is older, the link will show the updated book)
Extras for inspiration:
Photographs from the Edge: This book by Art Wolfe is a wonderful source of inspiration. Knowing the settings used to take a photograph is only a little bit helpful. You need to know why the photographer chose those settings and what their vision was in order to understand their photography better. This book provides just that. There are bits of background information, photo tips, and insight into Art Wolfe's mind with each image. It is quite an inspirational and informative book, much more so than most photo books like it. I wrote a review of it here. I want to get more of this photographer's books!
Online forums: My children will not be using a forum at this time, but these are another great source of inspiration, and can also be the perfect place to find a mentor or group of mentors. Search for forums that are specific to the type of photography that interests you. I know there are many for landscape photographers, but I am not familiar with them.
Be sure to join a forum that offers critique from experienced photographers. You can get friends to tell you how great your photos look any time, but you need critique from those with a more technical eye if you want to improve.
Clickin Moms is a forum for women focused on portraiture. It is a wonderful place to learn, but I would advise that whatever forum you choose, don't get caught up in the excitement of presets and actions to use on your photos. Take all the time you can to learn how to get the image you want "in camera", and use software only to make minor adjustments (especially if you are shooting RAW, and you should be!).