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A Photographic Column for the Very Beginner
by Willie Elliott

Brenda at asked me to do a column on photography. Obviously she thinks I know a lot about it—I don't. I have been taking pics (snapshots) for over forty years in that dreaded mode that will get you either laughter or derision--auto. Most of my photographer friends like me so mostly they just laugh at me.

But if you are just starting or thinking about it, I do have some things to say that might help. I call these all these things I did wrong in my attempt to learn the finer points about photography. First of call, I think you need to get a fairly sophisticated camera—not a point and shoot as you will be quite limited as to what you can do with your camera. Nikon has good camera deals for the the beginner. I have the Nikon D3200 and some of my friends have that camera and take breath-taking photos. I just take photos. This is one of the few things I did right. I had an Olympus E-500 which is a good camera but most of the people in our area teach from the Nikon perspective so I suggest you get one.

One of the first pieces of advice I got was “know your equipment” in this case your camera. And believe me there is a lot to know. If you are not careful the info will overwhelm you and your will learn everything and actually learn nothing. Take is slow and nail down the executions one at a time. I have found that one strategy works for me: don't tell me—show me. Sometimes you can pour over the manual for days and still not have the answer when a a good instructor can show you in a matter of minutes, but you have to forego your embarrassment of not knowing and ask the question no matter how simple. Once you are shown the correct way to do the correct camera strokes—take notes and practice, practice, practice.

One of the hardest habit to break is shooting in auto. After all the Nikon D3200 takes razor-sharp photos and after getting a few fuzzy, dark, or bleached out shots, the temptation to return to auto is quite strong. Yes, shoot in auto when you really need a good clear photo but the next day shoot the same scene in one of the other modes. Maybe learn one mode at a time.

Frustration—that can be your biggest enemy. It only slows you down in your effort to learn the craft. So shake it off and try one more time. A good things about digital photography is the fact that you can shoot as many shots as you like for practice at no additional cost. In the old day one had to pay every time an image was made.

Of course, the standard mantra comes into play. When all else fails, read the directions (i.e. read, study and digest your manual). But at that there will be times when you need a patient teacher, coach or friend to show you what the manual is telling you. Afterwards you will be amazed at how the manual was telling you exactly what do It can be embarrassing especially if you are the type of person that was always at the head of the class, but what means more to you: not be embarrassing or learning how to take terrific photos. And really there is no need for the embarrassment—someone next to you needs the same information.

Having said all this, my photography (thanks to kind and patient teachers and co-photographer) has improved greatly and I take some decent photos, but I want to be able to travel around in that camera much like I did my grammar and composition books when I was teaching high school English. I have always said to be a good teacher you have to know your stuff. Same goes with photography. If you want to take those special photos, know your stuff.

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