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  • Writer's pictureMike Mocarski

Photography 101: the easiest way to improve your photography now

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Have you ever heard of a painter who doesn’t know how to use a brush? How about a cook not knowing how to fry? Can you even be called a guitarist if you don’t know how to form any chords?

Learning the basics is the easiest way to improve your photography now. You could get the latest gear, but unless you learn how to use it properly it will only become an expensive gadget. You could be taking photos for years, but unless supported with basic knowledge, experience alone won’t improve your art. Trust me on this, it took me four years of taking mediocre pictures to finally dedicate some time to learn how the camera works, and my photography improved at a much faster pace after.

To be able to run you need to learn, so instead of depending on single tutorials start from fundamentals. This doesn’t only mean knowing how to use the manual mode in-camera. You should go deeper, understand the whole process of capturing an image from the moment you’ve pressed the shutter until the time people view it on a screen or print. It might sound like a hassle, but it’s a more interesting story than you might be thinking. Remember that all cameras work on the same rules, so investing your efforts in learning now will improve your work regardless of the camera you will use in the future.

Learning basics will help you to stand out from the crowd and be recognized as a professional photographer. Think of it as of getting new tools. Every time you learn something about your equipment, lighting etc. you add another tool in your toolbox. At the end of the day, the artist with more tools has more options to create amazing images. Also, the quality of your photographs will be more consistent: it will be still hit and miss but with much more hits than before. By studying other people’s work, photography rules they follow and the rules they sometimes break, you will learn what separates mediocre photographs from good or great, and how you can create this kind of amazing work.

Understanding your gear can help you save money, which is important for expensive craft like photography. It should be obvious, but if you know only 10% of your camera’s abilities, you will be able to use only this 10%. Sometimes this would mean that to improve your photos you would have to buy a new camera. But usually we don’t need a new camera, we just need to expand this 10% without investing in new gear. It’s a cliché, but photography legends like Ansel Adams didn’t have access to the technology we use today. What Adams had was amazing knowledge: broad enough to write a photography manual (link).

When I teach the first steps in photography, most of my students come to a single realization. Quoting one of them: “Now I understand why so many people love photography!”. We enjoy doing things we know and do well. Understanding the basics will help you enjoy the process of taking photographs more. Everything will change the way you see the light, the way you think about composition, the way you interact with models. You will finally understand how famous photographers create these amazing photos, and after some practice, you’ll be able to follow and even surpass them. Understanding photography will reduce fear and anxiety and bring more joy to your life.

So, where do I start?

I recommend starting from the very basic fundamentals: the process behind photography. You should understand what’s going inside of your camera to learn how to control it properly. After you’re ready, move to learning about the exposure triangle and using various camera modes.

If you’re interested, I’m preparing courses both online and offline (for people in Tokyo) so reach out to learn more.

If you would like to learn more by yourself, below are some sources I recommend to my students. Hope you find them useful, and feel free to ask if you have any questions.

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