My favorite method of learning about photography seems to come from simply talking with other photographers. Within minutes, all sorts of new information can be learned off of one another. There is a synergy between enthusiasts that can not be found elsewhere.
At times this is not feasible. I have yet to develop a list of individuals to simply call up and chat about photography. My time to attend workshops at the moment, is limited. The web, of course has amazing resources but sometimes navigating to the good ones can chew up a significant amount of time. Watching videos of instruction can be a fruitful source of learning if the resolution of the video is well done, if the speaker is dynamic, and the content covers what you are interested on at that particular moment. Sometimes however, waiting for the video to download and then to find the bits of it that are interesting, can be another time suck.
Yesterday, to satisfy my urge to learn on a day that was raining, I went to the bookstore.
I`ve recently finished reading, Top Tips, Digital Photography by Michael Freeman (according to Chapters.ca the book hasn’t been released yet, so go figure.) This author was recommended to me by Peter West, a dynamic, intelligent instructor for Henry`s School of Imaging.
I bought this book, because it seemed like the logical choice as a first book before I considered the more specific one`s from Freeman`s many books. Freeman`s work will inspire you. Even if you are very tired and should be sleeping because its 1am and you find yourself still reading.
What`s most fantastic about the book is the simplicity. Each tip is organized by category into chapters. Freeman`s writing is simple, direct, and personal. No matter which tip he gives you, you are left with a feeling that you`ve been privy to some casual advice by a friend (albeit a VERY well informed friend) rather then been given advice from a lecturer who sees life only one way. He has brief, but informative text with multiple pictures illustrating his concepts.
A novice can gain some important insights as well, I think could an ammature photographer. To get the most out of his ideas, familiarity with some photo editing software is a must. If you are of the belief that a `real`photographer would never digitally enhance their work, then you would do well to skip the last three and a half chapters or read them while choking down your feelings of superiority.
That being said, at least a third of the book does give some great tips to those of use who have access to digital software such as photoshop. Let it be known right off, that Freeman`s tips involving digital processing of your images cover enhancing the photo you took in the first place not changing the actual image (for example his tips illustrate how to bring out detail rather then how to change the color of your subject`s dress).
The one tip that he didn`t spell out that might be of benefit to those just starting into the photoshop world of digital processing of their images, is that while his tips can completely change how you shoot, and what you can get out of them, that this will take considerable time for a novice to get right post shoot. If you are shooting multiple shots using different exposures with the view to combine them all in photoshop to bring out detail that would otherwise have been lost shooting with only one exposure (and doing this in raw format), give yourself a good 30-40 minutes per combined shot. So, while this is clearly a method that can produce something unique, it is not a method I would personally endeavor to do with a large number of shots. Yet it may be a way of getting the most out of one shot that I would like to print that I could have otherwise not done so.
I finished reading the book in one sitting, of about four hours. I`ve earmarked five of the pages to come back to later. I will flip through the book in future just to see some of his images. If you are an enthusiast and starting out on the path of photography, this book will most certainly give you plenty of food for thought, and show you where you need to learn a bit more to feel comfortable. If you are an experienced photographer, who is just coming into the field of digital photography, there are some amazing hints in there for you to see the fantastic range of abilities of digital work. This is not the be all and end of all a digital photography guide by any means. It is, however, a great stepping stone.