A few weeks ago we published a post titled “Don’t Buy a Camera”. In response to that article, I’ve had quite a few conversations with people, online and off, pushing back against my claim. See, the basic thesis of that article was that our smartphones are mostly capable cameras, and people who don’t put the effort into learning to get good photos with that camera aren’t likely to suddenly learn to get good photos with a dedicated one. In fact, they’re even less likely to try. I stand by those statements.
Of course, I wasn’t claiming that this was always true, just true frequently enough to be a useful rule of thumb when it comes to dolling out advice. Even so, the counter arguments I heard ranged from those along the lines of “If I spend more money I’ll be more committed” to “If I’m going to try, I want to really try”—as if the degree of one’s trying is in direct proportion with the ‘professionalism’ of the equipment they’re using. A few people seemed personally offended, and maybe even a little defensive. Like this perspective was a direct affront to some closely held beliefs.
So, in reflecting on these conversations, I started to feel like maybe it wasn’t enough to just say “don’t buy a camera”—even if it was often the right advice. It started to seem unfairly self-serving. It’s easy for me to tell you not to buy a camera. I know how to take a good photo, and my livelihood depends on you paying me to do so. Meanwhile, you only have a bunch of crappy, frustrating photos and no guide to helping you fix it. Perhaps it’s unfair for me to tell you not to do something you want to do and think will help, without giving you at least some of that help.
Taking Better Photos
So, beginning next Monday and every other Monday indefinitely, we’ll be unpacking knowledge, one step at a time, to help you take better photos with your smartphone.
Photography is a kind of visual language, and you don’t have to be ‘fluent’ in it to see some significant benefits. At its most basic, having a simple working knowledge of photography will help you spend less time on photography, and more time actually enjoying a moment, or spending time with friends and family, or getting work done. If you’re a professional of some kind, running a business, or needing to do promotion of any kind, then you can reduce your reliance on professional photographers in everyday kinds of images for social media and newsletters. And, with practice, you can dramatically improve the enjoyment of the images you create with friends and family by taking fewer crappy ones.
Photographic literacy is like computer literacy—you don’t need a whole ton of it to get a whole ton of benefit.
In this series, we will not be getting overly technical. We’ll avoid using too much photography lingo, and we’ll do our best to explain it when we do. Our focus will be just on that knowledge you can put to use with your smartphone and nothing else. We won’t get into fancy phone attachments, or complicated apps. We’re going to spend most of our energy in these articles focused on real world, actionable information that the average non-photographer can use in everyday picture-taking situations.
In the course of writing this series, I’ll be making some assumptions. The first, and most foundational assumption is that you have a smartphone that was made in the last 2-3 years. I will also be assuming that you want the photos you take to look better, and that you’re willing to put some level of effort into that. And, every one of these articles will assume that your practicing.
If you follow along with this series, you practice regularly, and use the information in conjunction with itself regularly, the quality of the images you create will get better. And, you will find more enjoyment in the images after the fact.
If you’d like to stay up to date with this series, follow us on Facebook & Twitter. Feel free to comment, share and ask questions. We’d love to engage with you. We’d also love to see how you’re making progress! Tag us in your posts to share your improvement, or tweet to us on Twitter for some human feedback.
We sincerely hope you’ll be joining us! See you next week!