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Advice next steps



I would like to improve my skills as a photographer, and I would like to get some advice on what my next steps might be

I have been amateur photographer, on and off for 20 years now, lots of life in between, (got married, kids, new jobs etc.) I have a basic grasp of the photographic technique, the technical stuff, (speeds, apertures, etc). Last year I took a B&W photography class at a local Community College. It was great and I learned a lot about B&W technique, as well. Currently I do a lot of family photos, (trips, the kids, etc). Most of this is digital point and shoot stuff. Every once in awhile I dust off the SLR (N90s + 28-105mm) and take some pictures, most of them seem to be uninspired, not real expressions of me, or what I think I want rely. I seem to have a desire to express myself this way. I read a lot of photo magazines and marvel the pictures inside; as I write this I think “am I nuts?â€

What would you advise my next steps would be to develop my artistic skill as a photographer? I looked at local colleges in my new hometown, but there only seem to be basic classes, similar to tone I took last year. I’ve also considered “NY institute of Photographyâ€; I’m reluctant to spend $600 on a correspondence course that may not be what I’m looking for. I’ve also seen some digital classes on the web, but I’m not ready to move to DSLR yet, too expensive for me this year.

Any advice would be appreciated, I’d hate to let more months go by and not peruse this.

P.S you may see this post in other groups as I am trying to get as much feedback as possible.


Well-Known Member
Since you do have a digital camera now, you are well on your way.

The great advantage of digital is its interactivity. Not only does it cost practically nothing to do a lot of shooting, but you can see the results immediately and respond, refining shot after shot. For someone learning, there is great benefit in digital. You have a teacher in your hand.

It is not the camera, but the photographer that makes the great pictures. When you can afford it, move up to a high-end prosumer digital that gives you full control of the camera. They are substantially cheaper than a dSLR body and lenses, and capable of making extremely fine images.

I have the Nikon CP5000 and after a lifetime of shooting with film SLRs, I hope to never jam a camera in my face again. I love the swing and swivel LCD monitor, the mobility of the camera and the fact that the sensor is immune to dust.

While technical skills are a prerequisite to fine photography, they are not an end in themselves. They are the language of photography - the means by which you express yourself. The more fluent one is with any language, the more grace with which you can express yourself. Art happens when one transcends the technical aspects.

Artists all work in similar ways. Most of the time is spent in practice, with an occasional finished work emerging. Concert pianists spend their days at the keyboard, learning music and advancing their technique, with the occasional concert. Dancers spend their days exercising at the bar, and adding to their repertoire. When photographers don’t have a shoot, they are invariably testing. Poets are constantly jotting down ideas and painters are constantly sketching.

Which is to say that a lot of time passes between finished works, while the artistic process is being relentlessly pursued. The great teacher and photographer, Ansel Adams admitted he was pleased if he shot one satisfactory image each year.

All this practice and preparation pay off when you are actually facing some incredible subject matter. You are fully prepared and you react. You know by the instincts you have developed, what settings will express the image you want to show. You will hardly be aware of camera operation. This is fluency and it only comes with a lot of practice.

Carry the camera at all times. Shoot constantly. Explore your exposures in Photoshop, until you get a real bonding between the output of the camera, and your eyes and your soul. View great photography and try to understand the intentions and emotions of the shooters, but don’t try to copy them.

If you don’t have a good inkjet printer, it would be a good investment. If you print only your best, the cost of operation is not that high. There is something very tangible about holding a print that you have created from the concept of the picture, through the exposure and interpretation in processing and final print. A print that is entirely yours. Go back from time to time, browse through the pile of shots and better get to know yourself as a photographer.

Don’t set unreasonable expectations of yourself. As above, no significant artist spends eight hours a day generating masterpieces. With photography, it only happens when preparation meets opportunity. By constantly testing, you enrich your language and thus handle the preparation. By seeking out likely venues for photography, you create the opportunity.

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Please let me know if there is a better place to ask this question, thank you all in advance for your help. I am a beginner but have been getting great results with a Nikon N55 that I bought about a year ago. Yesterday the autofocus just stopped working. I replaced the batteries, everything else seem to be working fine. Any hints as to what I do to fix this? We live in the back of the beyond and there are NO repair shops out here, the nearest is about 500 miles away. I really need this cammera to be working, today and next week are both important times for me to be able to take photos! Can anyone help? Thanks so much!!


Check to make sure you have the fstop ring set right on the lens, some camera won't operate properly if it's not set to the highest (lowest number) setting on these CPU lenses.

Also, check to make sure you have the lens fully engaged (hear a click?)

Do you have another lens you can install to check?

Worst case scenario: you'll have to manually focus through next week!



Some lenses have a Manual/Auto focus tab that can easily be moved from A to M, check and make sure that it is in Auto. I am not familiar with the D55, but if it has an Auto/Manual focus tab check that also.


Ideas on improving photography:
To add to Larry's thourough advise, I'd suggest also looking at photos:
Exhibits, catalogues, magazines, books, newspapers, advertising, whatever: photos are all around us all the time. Pick out the ones that really move you and try to analyse why that is, what is the element/style/light/line/juxtaposition/frame, etc. in each of them that "make" this particular photo "work" for you, become sensitive to how your eye moves across the photo, what really grabs your attention in them, what you notice only later, what surprises, shocks or endears that particular scene to you, what takes your breath away. Study them and keep a collection of clippings, photocopies, or even digital photos on your computer and go back over them at different times to see what else you discover.
Next take photos that just didn't "make it" in your eye. Where did the photographer miss? How could he/she have improved the shot? Why is it dull or flat or uninteresting? Was it lighting? camera position? too close? too far? choice of lens? composition?
Pick a subject or an object or a scene and shoot off dozens of shots of the same thing, move all around it, use different backgrounds/framing/lighting/camera-to-subject distances/lenses/composition,etc. by just changing your point of view and give yourself plenty of permission to experiment. Who says verticles have to go up and down or horizontals can't stride a diagonal line across your frame? Look them all over and analyse. What do they "say", what do they tell you? Make groups of duds and those that hit the mark of what you were aiming at. Ask yourself what you saw and whether you got in on the film or memory card. What can you discover in the shots that you didn't notice in the shoot? Show them to others to see if they "read" the same to others as they do to you. What do others perceive when looking at them?