Pieces Of The Puzzle…

Have you been beating yourself up over the sharpness of your images? You fill up your card with images and can’t wait to get them uploaded to your computer. You know that you have some great “tack sharp” images. You get the images uploaded then your heart sinks to your knees. What happened? They looked good on the back of the camera.

If you’re like me, then you’re pretty much a self-taught photographer. Everything you have learned about photography has been from books, videos, the internet, and countless hours of trial and error. Besides having a dedicated site for the wildlife of Arkansas and Oklahoma, this site allows me to learn. I’ll explain.

By sharing what I’ve learned I become a better photographer. When I write, I have to think, sometimes pull up some reference material, sometimes research a little. When I do this, I’m forced to remember or re-learn things that have become foggy or I’ve completely forgot. In short, I am forced to learn and re-think what I think I already know. As I do I find that what I’ve learned becomes much clearer.

When we first get our camera (specifically DSLR), immediately we know that we don’t know how to use it. We’re told by those that do to get into Manual mode as fast as you can. We’re told to take a picture in Auto and look at the settings and apply those settings to Manual and re-take the shot.

We’re told to learn how to read a histogram, take pictures of birds in flight at fast shutter speeds, don’t be afraid to turn up the ISO, learn how to compose. Often, we’ll learn from someone only to have someone else contradict what we thought we have learned. An endless cycle which is good.

If you’re always seeking out information that means you have a desire, which is often driven by your passion. One thing about photography, you never learn it all. We get better but we’re always learning. When you learn something new you immediately want to try it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. At least not yet.

Photography is like a puzzle. You first find all the pieces to form the border and start filling in the rest. The border represents the basics in photography. The starting point for knowing what piece comes next. Basics would be the exposure triangle (shutter speed, ISO, Aperture). Once we get those, we have a border for our puzzle in which to build.

The pieces of the puzzle are scattered and we must choose which piece will work with our border. We don’t just throw in a random piece, it needs to connect to something so that we have more in which to build on.

Think of photography gear as pieces of that puzzle. It’s out there but which is the piece we need first to start filling the puzzle? Most will say the lens. When we bought our camera, we bought a lens. Often a kit lens. Then we learn from someone that the kit lens is cheap glass and you’ll need good fast glass, longer glass, shorter glass, and so on. Yes, you will, but only after you’ve learned how to get good images with your original lens.

The kit lens allowed you to believe that the reason your images weren’t as expected was because it was cheap glass. You may have told people that the reason the images were bad was because of the lens. As soon as you had the lens you wanted that would change. It won’t or it didn’t.

If you were to immediately buy a good lens, you’d spend a lot of money but will have skipped a piece, or several pieces, of your puzzle. You’re trying to force a piece that wasn’t meant to be, yet. When you do, things start to get aggravating. Your pictures still lack and now you’re feeling like you’ve wasted money, the lens is bad, or your camera is broke. Been there, done that, have the t-shirts.

When I first started with my camera I read that before I purchase a new lens, I should learn how to get good pictures with the lens I had. Didn’t make sense to me at the time as my thinking was why not learn with the new lens? Because of that thinking it took me longer to get to where I am today, and I’m still learning.

Had I taken the time to work with that kit lens to capture the best images possible, when I purchased my next lens I would have been able to immediately use the new lens for its intended purpose. Instead I spent time trying to force a piece into the puzzle that hadn’t belonged.

Now, here’s the kicker. That cheapo kit lens I purchased with my original camera has made me a lot of money as I’ve used it many times during paid shoots. I can remember the first time I pulled it out to use during a paid shoot, I needed a focal length that only that lens could give me. My expensive L glass just wouldn’t work. I was concerned as I expected to have images that might be just OK.

But I had learned by then what I hadn’t given myself time to learn in the beginning, how to use it correctly. The images that it produced were great, the client was happy, and that lens is still used today. It being a kit lens had nothing to do with it, it was learning how to use it properly.

Using my puzzle scenario, I had skipped a piece and tried to force another piece. Although eventually I filled in the piece skipped, it took a lot longer to complete the puzzle. So, have you been skipping pieces of your puzzle? Are you thinking about skipping? Wait or go back and finish learning what you were meant to learn originally. When you have, your images will be more like you expect when downloaded.

Keep shooting…


2-Day Private Wildlife Photography Workshops

You can attend my 2-Day Private Wildlife Photography Workshop in Fort Smith. These workshops are ideal for the beginner to advanced wildlife photographer. It’s a mix of classroom and field work culminating with editing images using Lightroom and Photoshop. This is one-on-one instruction which is not rushed. You may also bring a friend and split the cost. Registration is $295, add $150 if you will bring a friend. You’ll learn my camera modes, settings, fundamentals, techniques and more during the two days. We have a lot of fun and you’ll leave able to capture better wildlife images. For more information, touch the Learn More button below.

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