In attempting to get a bit more organised, less scattergun, and more focused with my photography, I am considering setting and sticking to a workflow that suits me, getting out to shoot as much as possible and to drive my skills progressively forwards, it also means (for me at least) sponging up as much Photography related knowledge as humanly possible to make the most of the "shooting" time so I can improve at each shoot. OK, breaking it down I'm separating out the obvious top level discreet activities into 3,
1) actual shooting and making the pictures, Considering Type, Location, Style, Gear and Reason(s) for the shoot.
2) post-processing and presentation of the final articles, considering workflow, tools like Lightroom, Photoshop, HDR, Nik Software Plugins and how to apply them.
and 3) pursuit of new knowledge, skills & inspiration, which cyclically loops back into the first 2 in order to try out and apply the new learnings, techniques and approaches.
For this article, I want to talk about this last one first, because in my humble opinion, it informs the other two.
So to the pursuit of new knowledge, skills & inspiration, there is a myriad of sources of "stuff" in this category so I'll take you through it chronologically to how I found it all.
For researching anything, the World Wide Web is the best of things and simultaneously, the worst of things, ever! Let me explain, it is Mainly because everything you'll ever need can be found or accessed from there, you can spend as much or as little time and/or money as you wish in pursuit of photography skills and knowledge. The number of Photography blogs is astounding and if you doubt me just search Google for "Photography Blog" and you will see. The reason it can be the worst thing ever comes in because with everything internet related, the challenge is finding good quality information specific enough for your chosen topic or purpose. I have tried ten times as many blogs as Ive actually been drawn in by because as with everything in the digital age (including photography), everyone can do it now, so the quality of some (scratch that, MOST) of them is appalling.
I began by searching for lots of things, "Improving photography", "Learning"Photography", "how to take pictures", "learning your camera", plus a load more connetations in a similar theme. What I can say is that I have spent many hours over the last year doing this and the best resources I will share here - if you care for it, you can have the benefits of my toils and if that helps someone else, then great! - job done! If not, well at the very least I am documenting it for my own personal use :p
The first resource that I found of note is a website run by Jim Harmer, a Professional Photographer and Photo Geek (his words not mine!) based in Idaho USA. This website has everything I was looking for initially, it is just shame I didnt FIND it initially.
The web interface is simple and clean and easily navigable, there are simple guides, some of the best being:
"Photography Basics". It starts off incredibly basic but soon ramps up and is one of the quickest routes to using and more importantly understanding Manual mode on your camera. Invaluable in my opinion and seemingly one of the things that lots of so called photographers still struggle with after years of shooting (in auto or Program modes normally hehe).
Many articles on taking "Tack Sharp" (or in focus) pictures. Lots of tips across a number of posts that really do help when you go out into the world with your camera.
Many articles on Lighting, Flash, particularly Off Camera Flash, there is specifically a really good 10 page free tutorial guide on learning flash photography, which helps you learn but also helps with what gear you require to get started and the best low cost options for buying it.
Other posts based written on topics around Post Processing, the business of Phototgraphy, Sports, Nature and Portrait Photography, so a huge range to immerse yourself in, with new posts and content being added weekly.
There is also an associated free Podcast that Jim presents and can be subscribed to from within iTunes. I have listened to all back issues on my commute to work and when I want to review the episode content or revisit a topic, the show notes and brief outline is also conveniently posted to the website. The format is now 2 episodes per week, one, an interview with a professional photographer and the second one on tips, tricks and questions & answers about all things photography.
www.Improvephotography.com has a partner site for Photography Classes, www.photoclasses.com. $98 each (about £60 to us Brits) for courses that consist of a video tutorial on a new topic every day for a month that is then available online to you forever. You can either progress through daily or at whatever pace suits you. For your money you get access to Jim Harmer via email or phone (more difficult for us Brits, granted but still cool) for help, guidance and critique on pictures you've taken or issues you're having trying out course specific techniques.
The courses here are 2 on Photography (Beginner and Intermediate). 4 on Post Processing (Adobe Photoshop - 1, 2 and Elements and Adobe Lightroom) and 1 on Studio Lighting for portraits.
The last word on this site on is that I particularly love the Recommended Gear section, (it whispers to me in Geek Speak, "go buy stuff") Jim focuses on good quality gear but also on value for money options for the discerning Photographer on a budget. His philosophy that comes through in spades is that gear shouldnt cost the earth, that there are plenty of lower cost options for most items . So far I've bought most of my own gear from these pages (well the UK version of Amazon but the same makes and models etc) and EVERY single purchase that I've made to date, I have been over the moon with.
Website run by Jeffery Saddoris and his partner Nikki Rae, I'll have to quote the about page because Jeffery says it better than I ever could,
Faded + Blurred began in 2009 as a simple blog that allowed a group of friends to keep track of monthly photo walks. Since then, the site has evolved into a fantastic hub for creative inspiration, shared by a worldwide community of photographers, both amateur and professional, who are passionate about the art and craft of making images.
The goal of the site is simple – to share great work and to celebrate the creators behind it.
I LOOOOOOVE this site and everything associated (as described here).
I specifically love it for its behind the process approach, it doesnt neccesarily tell you how to take or make pictures but uniquely considers sources of inspiration and motivation en route to a great image. The weekly 5 for Friday posts are great for catching up with the lastest stories and there is a spotlight which has a "Spotlight Gallery" on each of a series of the masters. Photographers and artists classed as the greats, past & present. Want to know about Henri Cartier-Bresson or Alfred Stieglitz or find out about less known Photographers like Vivian Maier.
Jeffery co-hosts with Bill Wadman, the best Photography Podcast I've ever yet found, ON TAKING PICTURES!
Every week, Jeffery Saddoris and Bill Wadman provide the highlight of my week, erm I mean they take on the art, science, and philosophy of photography and explore how each plays out behind the camera in the process of making images. They also highlight and discuss in a similar way to faded + Blurred's Spotlights section, a Photographer of the week. A fantastic and revelatory way to learn about all sorts of Photographers.
There is also an associated On Taking Pictures Google+ Community where you can post photos for critique and engage with other like minded photographers in constructive & supportive discussions about making images and the creative process. Share your personal project images (Project 365 or 52 etc), or join in with the weekly photogaphy challenge topic to broaden your own experience, eg #Texture, #UnderExposed, #MyTown, #NegativeSpace, #AfterDark.
Bill Wadman has a personal webpage too www.billwadman.com, showcasing his personal work as a professional (fancy) portrait photographer based in New York. If ever you are considering Portraiture as a path for your photography, Bill's work is hugely inspiring and about the best example of a contemporary Portrait photographer I have seen, for what my humble opinion is worth.
I personally like to understand everything about a topic or pastime. In my browsings, I listened to an episode of the Candid Frame (See below) of an interview with a Photographer and lecturer called Jeff Curto. Jeff is a lecturer of a Photo History course who had put his lessons onto a podcast for students that missed or wanted to review the course notes and lectures. Once on iTunes, the interest from the rest of the world has been astounding, (including from little ole me). This series of podcasts are great and takes you back right to 1839 when the camera was invented (and even before then too briefly). It is recorded in a lecture classroom environment so there are sound inconsistencies and muffled questions from class members but it is very engaging and a great way to learn photo history. It goes in more detail than any of the other websites I have read or even than the wonderful BBC series Genius of Photography. In fact watching that series and then listening to Jeff are a great way to get the full information on the history. Jeff also has a long term Photography project with Italy and has been taking large format images of Italy for over 15 years which can also be found in more detail at http://www.jeffcurto.com/
OK enough gushing about the absolute best, now lets look at the best of the rest...
provides, simple yet succinct articles on Tips & Tutorials, Cameras & Equipment, Post Production, and a Forum for discussions. If I'm honest I have liked the Facebook page and most of the articles I read from this site are delivered directly to my newsfeed. Always useful and always easy to understand.
A mixture of news items from the world of Photography and reviews on the latest gear, including new releases and rumours. There is also a useful tips section, a Learning area and a series of feature articles. It is run by a group of photographers including Ibarionex Perello who also hosts my next item.
A I said before is hosted by Ibarionex Perello. A series of podcasts where Ibarionex interviews a photographer per episode. Insight into how Professional photographers get started, what keeps them in the business and tips, tricks and advice. With well over 200 episodes, this has been a rich resource for those commutes to and from work. Companion website providing the show notes is www.thecandidframe.com and doubles up as a window into Ibarionex's portfolio.
A collection of simple succinct single topic articles, not the hugest amount of detail in each, but a good introduction to whichever topic you're looking at.
Good Blog site with a huge range of detailed information - the Sharktank is a critique only posts area for posting work to have other users and readers comment and critique your images. The philosophy is no cooing and aaaahing ove nice pictures as no one really learns from that - serious critique only, but I repeat critique, NOT criticism. Other than this I have only really scratched the surface of the rest so far but it seems good, although it has one irritating feature that it doesn't EVER stop asking you to sign up to their newsletter - even when you have already!
For a bit of fun there is Pixoto.com a hot or not voting site that pits your pictures against others, gains you votes, awards, comments, followers, friends and mainly a bit of pride if you win a daily, weekley, monthly or yearly award. You can also enter competition challenges if you so desire. Find me here if you want http://www.pixoto.com/pete.lebow
I am fairly Sure though that there are a lot more as yet unfound resources in the WWW, but I still have my hands full digesting this lot and it is surely enough photography fodder to keep anyone busy, at least as a starting point. If anyone has any other sites of resources that they feel worthy of reccommending please let me have them. Mostly though don't forget that Every Expert was at one time a Beginner.