Just Do It - Sound advice for new photographers

If you have an idea you want to try ... just do it, you'll achieve more!
Filming a music video on a budget with DSLR's.  Photo by Mark Hamilton
Over the years I've found a few things to be true about the world around me, it's not flat for example, good things generally don't last forever and human beings can roughly be divided into two categories; those who do things and those who talk about doing things, broad generalisations to be sure but an important behavioural distinction in my opinion. The realisation of this hit me quite a few years ago as I was starting out on my own adventure into the world of photography and video.

Now unless you are lucky enough to know someone experienced who can impart their knowledge to you personally the internet is usually the one stop shop for learning any craft and, for the uninitiated, it is a minefield of mixed information. The internet is filled with options and opinions so diverse that rather than help it will often times confuse the newbie seeking assistance and paralyse any constructive action to further their interests.

Auki Henry
"I'm not a technical photographer, I shoot by feel.  If I don't like a shot
I just test, adjust and try it again"
Having grown up in the era of forums and bulletin boards these were naturally the first stops on my own journey of knowledge. I am not an internet search novice by any standard but page after page of seeking helpful advice reached a dead end.

Fourm discussions were quickly filled with what I call 'snapperhead' jargon ... and I don't use the term affectionately.

Innocent questions from newbies (such as I was at the time) quickly deteriorated into inane flame wars about what lenses, numbers and measurements made one brand or one model superior to the others.  These figures were debated to the nth degree.

In those early months I wasted many a lunch hour vainly browsing posts to help me decide which lenses and camera bodies to buy on a limited budget, more often thatn not I would encounter the photography keyboard warrior willing to argue the physics of sensors to the number of photons and vapid discussions about lens chromatic aberration that was visible if you zoomed into 500% magnification (seriously don't laugh, these were some dedicated know it alls!) No constructive help in sight here, but lots of  'Avoid this model at all costs' and 'You'd be stupid if you get that one' comments.

More of these same encounters when seeking helpful photography techniques, again inevitably devolving into flame wars between a bunch of opinionated boasters arguing about what was wrong with everyone else's techniques. Don't get me started on what I saw in the 'critique my photo' sections of these places but the posters must have had a certain degree of masochism to run the gauntlet in the first place ... there should really have been an "Enter at Own Risk" warning somewhere.

So how exactly does someone interested in taking nice photos or video actually learn when surrounded by all this? I have some sound advice for you if this is what you are looking for.

This is the first piece of advice I will give you as it was ultimately this that helped me see through the fog of confusion. The snapperheads, the keyboard warriors, the debaters, the opinionated critiques. A large percentage of these people will inevitably upload a photo of their own that they've done, and you know what my general experience was with these? Most of them were VERY ORDINARY photos. So much for their endless discussion and debate about the finer points of technique/equipment whatever.

Lessons learned: photography and video are visual mediums, just because someone talks the talk .... the proof is in what they post up!

This one is for those who have been paralysed by indecision about which bit of equipment to upgrade to because you've been confused by the snapperheads arguing about how the number of aperture blades is the difference between 'good and shit bokeh'.

Many times I have had people ask me for equipment advice, "I looked at Lens X and Lens y but then read something about Lens y having slightly sharper focus under these conditions ...." is a common example. For the beginner there's really no need to take too much stock in this. Find samples of photos taken with the equipment you are researching, google is your friend. If you like how the photo looks and it suits your budget then get it, regardless of the snapperhead downtalk.

I must admit I have been in this boat myself too and had to take a step back to look at the trap I had fallen into to get out of it. Too many people are waiting for the next upgraded bit of equipment before they go shoot some pictures. "I'm waiting for this new flash" or "I'm waiting for this camera dolly" are examples of not just going out and getting shots.

Solutions: Borrow a flash, use the flash that you've got. Substitute a trolley or wheelbarrow for a dolly, whatever gets you out there. Shooting is practice and you will soon find that all these specialised tools are just refined optional extras, you can still get great results without them ... if you try.

One of the best bits of advice I can give you. I decided very early on in my photography/video adventure that I would rather fall into the category of "people who DO things" than the "people who TALK ABOUT doing things" besides trying to distance myself from all those negative photography forum snapperheads who bicker on ad-nauseum, this is about helping yourself achieve whatever creative vision you see in something.

Our second ever music video, better gear but still filming with DSLR's.
Use what you have and just have fun with it!
Whether it be something as simple as wanting to take a photo of a location at sunset or requesting security clearance to film a music video at an international airport (yes, I have done this and yes they said "YES") it all really is just about taking the steps to DO it.

Set yourself an alarm and drive to that sunset location, type an email to the airport people stating what you want to do and asking permission. The only difference is the situation. 

Now, what would I like you to take away from all this?  I can shorten it to a very simple statement for easy digestion.

When you DO, you achieve something. No one ever achieved anything just by thinking about it

So go, get out there and have some fun. Be creative, don't worry too much about what others think, after all 'subjective' is part of this game.  If you look at other peoples work and you like it try to understand what it is that you like about it and that will give you the best hints and tips to trying it out for yourself.

If you'd like to learn more about how you can get started on your own video or photography adventure please feel free to follow me and ask me on Twitter!


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