When I first started learning photography, and for a long while beyond that, I would spend a lot of my time looking at what OTHER photographers were doing.
I would search for interviews to see what lenses they used, I would scour blogs for information, or go into forums or groups to ask people for help, for quick tips or tricks.
At this point, you might be thinking “What’s the problem with that?! I do that too!”
Guess what - I’m going to tell you 😀
The problem is, when you are not getting advice that is tailored to where you currently are in your photography journey, it can actually do more harm than good.
Many times, it can send you down completely the WRONG path for where you are right now, as you try to skip ahead without having laid any of the foundational steps first.
It’s probably easier to explain with examples, so let me give you some from my own photography journey, so you can see when this might happen...
Some examples for you….
Let’s say I would see an interview in which one of my favourite photographers would say that finding your photography style was incredibly important, as that was when you would start to produce work that felt like yours and that resonated with you or others.
So I would rush in and get straight to work trying to figure out my style…..
...before coming to the realisation that I actually didn’t have any of the basics down that would help me CREATE images of a certain style! I didn’t even know enough about light or composition (never mind editing) so finding my photography style shouldn’t even have been crossing my mind at that point! I just didn’t have the skills to do it - even if I could have figured out what it was at that stage :-)
Or maybe I’d mention in a forum that I was having problems with color, and someone would recommend calibrating my monitor - when actually what I really needed to focus on at that point was learning about white balance: the FOUNDATIONAL step of learning about color.
Or I would see a comment that said that back button focus would be the answer to all my focusing problems….and then I’d run off to try THAT without understanding all the other more fundamental (and quite frankly, vastly more important) aspects of focus, and wonder why the heck it wasn’t working!
As a result I spent a lot of time worrying about what everyone else was doing, and trying my hardest to play “catch up” with them all, and all that happened was I ended up feeling like I was failing.
My advice to you, young grasshopper...
If I could give you one bit of advice it would be this:
Focus on your OWN photography path, no-one else's.
If you are just getting started in photography, or you have some knowledge but wouldn’t yet call yourself experienced, then you don’t need to worry about finding your photography style just yet. Worry about exposure, about focus, about light and composition, and become a master at those things before you even START to try to figure out how you can put it all together for your “signature style”.
Of if you are asking whether you should toggle your focus points or use focus recompose, or you don’t know about all the OTHER elements that go into focus (or are sitting there right now thinking “what elements would that be then?!”) then using back button focus will not be the answer to your focus problems. Back button focus is nothing more than assigning a different button on your camera to activate focus, so without those other foundational elements in place, it’s not going to help you very much (sorry!)
And if you are using Lightroom, but thinking that, actually, you aren’t getting the kind of images you hope for, and maybe you should switch to Photoshop instead (because that’s what your fave photog uses) then - you guessed it - switching programs is not be the answer.
You need to learn how to EDIT first, and how to look at an image to see what it needs, and then you’ll realise that LIghtroom can probably do most - if not everything - you need! In other words, it’s not the program, it’s the user :)
When taking advice from anywhere or anyone: whether that be from your favourite photographer, in a Facebook group, or even in a blog much like this one, I want to you to keep in mind where you are in your photography journey, and where they are in theirs (or in the case of a blog post, who is it geared toward).
Every single person is at different stages along the photography learning path, and I know that many people can forget what it is like waaay back there at the beginning of your photography journey, when everything is new and there is everything to learn, and give tips and advice that would be better suited to you when you are a little farther along your own path.
Please note that most of it the time it’s not wrong or bad advice, and it was given with love and the best of intentions, but it’s just not RIGHT advice for where you are now.
How to focus on your own photography journey.
Believe me, I totally get how difficult it is for you to focus on your photography journey when you are surrounded by information.
We live in a world where there has never been so much easy access to information, from places like blogs, Facebook groups, forums, Instagram and Pinterest….yet all that happens is we feel overwhelmed and bombarded from every corner.
What’s more, all the free information in the world won’t help a jot if you are not aware of what you need to know now, and what you don’t!
The best advice I can give you is to try your very, very best to FOCUS.
Try to block out the noise of the online world, and focus on where you are now, and the NEXT step in your journey.
Filter out the (currently useless) information so that you only focus on that next step - not ten steps ahead because that’s what I happen to be posting about on the blog that week, or what someone has linked to in a group, or a comment you saw on Facebook.
I can tell you this: if you keep getting waylaid by different things, then it will take you 10 times as long to learn photography. Worse, you’ll probably then discover that although you have a lot of information in your head, because you have missed out on all those little teeny tiny nuggets of wisdom that makes the whole lot come together and actually make sense, you’ll still feel like you are not “getting it” but can’t figure out why. (that was me!)
The shortcut to great photographs is not is a set of hidden tricks, or getting a quick tip that is going to make everything look amazing: It is about about learning the steps in a logical and linked path.
It’s about taking the time to truly learn your craft - and the surprising thing is, when you commit to THAT, instead of endlessly searching for something that will help you get there faster or cheaper, you’ll find that your photography path actually shrinks and you’ll get there in half the time. Pinky promise.
Here are some ways I can help you based on where you are in your photography journey:
If you are fairly new to photography, click here to enroll in my free photography video course for beginners.
If you are ready to focus on learning manual mode, click here to read 10 things you’ll wish you knew about shooting in manual mode and save yourself some time.
If the time has come to focus on editing (and Lightroom is your editing program!) click here to get my Lightroom starter kit, which has all you need to get started with Lightroom, plus an editing checklist.
And if you just want me to lay it all out for you, step by step, and not waste any more of your precious time trying to figure it out on your own, check out my online learning courses here.
P.S This blog post was created by a Facebook live video I did some time ago. It covers the same things, but if you prefer to watch instead of read, just hit play below!