I wanted to share this awesome article with everyone. The link to the original PDF copy is below. I love the analogy Steve uses!
What You Need to Know
There’s a baby grand piano in the center of
Mr. X’s living room. It’s just been tuned and
its sound is clarion. Alas, Mr. X cannot play
a note—but wait! Thanks to some fancy
electronics, he can choose a tune, hit a few
buttons, and voilà, the piano plays itself.
Can Mr. X bill himself as a piano player?
That would be absurd. Yet that’s just
what happening in professional photography.
People with high-end digital cameras are
attempting to enter the field, when all they
know about using their cameras is something
about P, T, and A modes, and the little green
camera icon. How would you like your dentist
to know as little about dentistry as these
folks know about professional photography?
I support individuals who are entering
the profession. In fact, I instruct new photographers
at Imaging USA and PPA-affiliated
schools across the country. I teach them how to
approach the profession with a plan for success,
and that success starts with learning the fundamentals
of photography. Exposure, f/stops,
shutter speed, manual flash, lighting and posing
are just a few areas one should fully understand
if he expects to call himself a professional.
We all have to start somewhere. I suspect
the majority of today’s professional photographers
didn’t study photography in high
school or college. But many of the successful
photographers spent countless hours learning
the profession outside a traditional classroom.
WELL, WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
If you think your digital camera is so
advanced and automated, consider this:
Believe it or not, these are photos of the
same object, a black matte. The image on
the right was taken in program mode (P).
Look at that. I got the same result when I
photographed a white matte in program mode.
What’s wrong with my camera? Nothing. The
camera did exactly what it’s supposed to do.
It’s up to the photographer to get it right.
If you’re a photographer who uses pro -
gram mode, aperture priority (A) or shutter
priority (T) exclusively, this examples illustrates
how out of control your exposures
are and will be. If you don’t believe me,
shoot a closeup of a white matte and a
black matte on any of these automatic
settings and see for yourself.
If this or any of the concepts mentioned
here are new to you, I advise you to look for
a basic photography class with a qualified
instructor. Your goal in a basics class should
be to understand how to use your camera in
manual mode (M). You can find such classes
taught as continuing education courses in
colleges and universities, by local Parks and
Recreation departments and outdoor out -
fitters, by PPA-affiliated schools and various
local clubs. These classes are usually quite
Once you’re adept with your camera,
you’ll want to study lighting to learn how to
see light and use it to your advantage, and
ultimately, how to control it. Photographers
are called upon to work with window light,
sunlight, reflected light, portable flash and
studio lighting, sometimes in a single day
To begin your studies in professional
photography, your best bet is to take one-week
classes at the nearest PPA-affiliated
school for hands-on learning, and PPA-sponsored
At one-week courses, students have one
instructor, who generally focuses on one
aspect of photography. These instructors are
usually top-ranked, seasoned pros who are
selected for the quality of their work and
their zeal to teach others. You can sign up
for classes on posing, lighting, environ -
mental portraits, Adobe Photoshop and
much, much more.
You’d also benefit from joining a local
professional photographers guild. These
groups usually meet monthly, and the pro -
gram generally features a speaker, print judging
or some kind of educational session. You
will meet other pros and aspiring pros who
will become your colleagues, and the net -
working opportunities will prove invaluable.
Local guilds are often part of larger
state associations, which are also educational
resources. State organizations usually
hold yearly conventions and various seminars th
at provide speakers and programs
to help members expand their skills.
Education costs money, but it’s worth the
Professional affiliations could also lead to
your finding a mentor who will help you
become the photographer you wish to be.
Now, you can’t just walk up to someone you
admire and ask him to tell you everything
he knows. You might ask the photographer
to privately tutor you for a fee. Better yet,
and free, you could offer your services as a
kind of full- or part-time intern or helper in
his studio, so you could closely observe a
professional at work. And ask questions. To
be successful, the arrangement needs to
benefit both you and the photographer.
THE BENEFITS OF GOING NATIONAL
PPA offers several outstanding educational
opportunities for photographers, and
members pay lower registration fees than
non-members. For example, Super Monday
programs are held twice a year in studios
across the United States and beyond. These
local workshops give small groups individual,
hands-on instruction. PPA’s popular monthly
webinars cover a variety of topics each
month, and are archived and accessible to
webinar subscribers at any time.
The annual PPA-sponsored Imaging
USA convention and expo brings in world-class
image makers from across the globe to
present seminars and workshops on technique,
new ideas and the latest trends in
professional photography. There are classes
for photographers of all skill levels, not to
mention the popular pre-convention programs,
which are generally introductory. I’ve
been honored to be asked to present my
program, “The Secrets To Success When
Turning Pro,” at Imaging USA for the last
eight years. PPA is committed to bringing in
new photographers and providing the
knowledge and skills needed to succeed.
With so many opportunities available to
aspiring photographers, there’s no reason to
own a beautiful instrument that only plays
itself. Commit to learning the craft and
taking control of your imaging skills.