I’ve been on the Digital Photography School web forum for about two years. If you aren’t familiar with the “forum” concept, allow me to pull you from under your rock
The Digital Photography School forum is a web site for people to share photography adventures. They accept anyone with any level of experience. There are photo games and challenges, and even critique sections. Providing you don’t misbehave, you may learn a thing or two. I got expelled. I’m not sure why, but they banned me. The nice thing about the internet is (generally) it doesn’t require any ID, unless you are buying something, so getting back in was as simple as making a new email address, and starting over.
What I have learned that has helped me be a better photographer:
I am not a pro – I don’t even try to play one on TV. I mean, I would if they asked, on TV. Otherwise, no. I don’t want to be a pro. A professional anything means taking your hobby and transforming it into work, and who wants to hate their hobby?
First – some definitions;
Fauxtographer: someone who plays at being a pro, when in reality they kind of suck at being a pro (that would be me if I tried to do weddings, portraits, or pretty much anything involving dealing with people not related to me). They are often female between the ages of 17 and 23, who have owned a “pro camera” for at least a week. Easily found on Facebook as “Cutesy Name Here Photography”, or on Craigslist.
Momtographer: Any mom who buys a camera as soon as her offspring falls out of her, and instantly declares herself the next Annie Leibovitz of her children. Momtographers are often seen running to the front of every graduation, christening, school play, t-ball game, or other community event where her child is doing anything other than standing still picking their nose (and sometimes then, too). Usually carrying a camera that outweighs her spawn, they can also be found in the balcony of the theatre. She will be the one with the 300mm lens, using the flash bright enough to initiate nuclear fusion. She will often post 700 pictures of her kid laying on the floor, smiling, eating, etc. Momtographers have been known to produce some pretty good shots, if only due to the law of averages. Between “skill” and “luck” is a whole lot of “suck”. Despite some self-proclaimed “momtographer” classes and schools, the word is generally seen as an insult.
Back to what I learned. Beware, there’s a lot of talking out of both sides of the mouth on the forums.
How to use graduated density filters in Photoshop. Love it. Blown out sky while everything else looks great? Graduated Density filter. Darken that sucker.
Use a UV filter all the time. It protects your lens.
Never use a UV filter, it can make your images soft.
Use a polarizing filter for bluer, more striking skies and colors outdoors.
Using a polarizing filter can give you a dark spot in the corners of your picture, unless the sun is 90 degrees away from the front of the lens. Oops.
The camera doesn’t take the picture – the photographer does. This is why wedding photographers just show up with iPhones and snap pictures. Oh wait… that’s not right.
The photographer is only as good as his gear. No – wait, that’s not right either. There are some pretty bad photographers with really expensive stuff. Somewhere there is a happy medium, though no one seems to be able to explain it.
Post-Processing is your friend. Peter Lik doesn’t sell anything straight out of camera. It’s okay to color-correct, saturate, de-saturate, brighten, darken, dodge and burn.
Post processing is not your friend. That person’s eyes and teeth are NOT radioactive. They shouldn’t be that white.
HDR is cool, and is a nice way to make images interesting and surreal.
HDR is for SLR noobs who can’t take interesting pictures any other way.
Some stuff that doesn’t apply to me:
Never, ever, EVER give your clients digital images on a CD. Why would they come back to you for more $30 8×10 prints?
Give your clients digital copies. If you don’t, they’ll go elsewhere. After all, how much are you really going to make five years from now selling those wedding pictures of the Johnson family?
Never work for free. All it does is build a reputation that you’ll work for free.
Working for free is a good way to build portfolios, increase exposure, etc. etc.
Working for free takes money out of a pros pocket. Never take pictures for free, ESPECIALLY weddings. For that matter – hire someone to mow your lawn, paint your house, plunge your toilet, carry out your trash, and have the electrician over to change your light bulbs.
Be a copyright Nazi. If you see your client’s pictures on their facebook page, sue their pants off.
If your clients post their pictures on facebook, just ask for a photo credit.
What I can say I’ve really taken away from the site? Not much. Its such a pain to link pictures (you have to upload to another site then post a link, so you need two separate accounts to two pages) that I rarely do so. I think that’s what got me kicked off the first time. Lots of talking and little posting. It seems like a lot of posturing pros giving conflicting advice. Maybe its time for me to “drop out” of Digital Photo School and just enjoy taking pictures. I could be a dadtographer…