Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Web of Photographic Knowledge

Eureka!I often get asked how I come up with lighting ideas or where I learned about photography or where I get my inspiration from. The answer is not too difficult. I get most of it from the web. There is just so much information out there. You can learn from the best photographers in the world without having to set foot in a fancy art school, or take a high priced workshop. Don't get me wrong those are great places for learning and you will learn a lot there, I'm just saying you don't have to. Most top photographers these days have a website and a blog where they share their experiences, thought processes and sometimes even business plans and detailed accounts of how they went about a particular assignment. A great number of them will even post videos or podcasts to share their knowledge. All you have to do is log in and learn.

Today I'm going to share with you some of my favorite places on the web for learning and inspiration. Continue reading to get a quick insight into my most accessed bookmarks.

I would say over 80% of everything I know about photography I have learned on the web in the last 6 years or so. Some of the basic fundamentals of working a camera (exposure, aperture - shutter speed - ISO relationships, etc...) I learned from my dad. Fortunately, I learned it on a fully manual film camera which really forces you to think about all these relationships before pressing the button.

Books and DVDs are another great source of information. The only problem is that with the convenience of the web, books and DVDs become harder to search, but are still great resources and reference materials.

The last great source of photographic knowledge is workshops. You can't beat the one on one hands on experience you get from a workshop. Again, I don't mean to contradict what I said earlier. You don't have to go to workshops, but they are great. Just make sure you research the workshop to make sure it will be worth the money you pay for it. I have been to really great workshops and some that I kicked myself afterwards for wasting money that would have been better spent on a new flash or a pocket wizard!

The Links

This post is going to be about the different locations on the web that I visit to learn and get inspired about photography. Each link will be followed by a brief discussion of what I like about that site and what I get out of it.

To me this is by far the site of sites for improving your photography skills. I discovered this site shortly after purchasing my first DSLR and it really rekindled my passion for photography. David Hobbie has a fantastic way of presenting basic lighting concepts that allow anyone to get great results with entry level gear. This site really woke me up to the possibilities afforded by off-camera flash. Strobist is a must read for anyone starting out in photography who wants to get serious about it.

This site is authored by Don Gianatti, a commercial photographer from Arizona. It is another fantastic site for lighting information. Don really has a gift for teaching and writting as well as photography. The site has changed directions some over the last year and Don is now focusung more on the business side of photography and what it takes to make the leap from amateur to pro than on lighting. If you search his archives though, you will find some great posts about lighting with in-depth explanations. This tech-sheets are particularly useful as you can print them out and refer to them later. He has a down to earth simple approach to lighting which just makes sence.

I would also like to add that Don puts on a great workshop too. I attended one of his workshops here in Florida and it was a blast. Don is a great teacher, photographer and just an all around great guy. You can read a detailed account of my experience at his workshop here, here and here.

This is David Zeizer's blog. It is updated daily with tons of great content. I really don't know how he does it but the man posts very long and elaborate articles with tips on photography, business, seminars, camera gear, lighting, you name it. He is the energizer bunny of photographers. He often adds great videos on lighting and post processing. One of his main strengths, in my opinion, is his eye for composition. I go to his blog to learn not only about lighting, but also composition. He has many videos where he shows you exactly why he placed his subjects where he did. What I find most amazing is that looking at every photo of his, you can see the rules that he's talking about. He considers his composition in just about every shot he takes. Truly inspiring.

Well, Joe is Joe. You can't beat the man of a thousand flashes. Joe McNally is one of the great photographers of out time. He is also a fantastic instructor. His amazing talent and hilarious humor not only makes the milk come out of your nose from laughing it also makes you learn without feeling like your learning. His blog posts and his videos make you feel like you are talking to an old friend. I own two of his books (The Moment it Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries) as well as one of his DVDs. I can't get enough of this guy! I would probably by the Brooklyn Bridge from him just out of respect.

I check Joe's site on a daily basis looking for lighting tips, inspiration, a good laugh, and the meaning of life.

The site of Bert Stephani, the David Hobbie of Belgium. A talented photographer who advocates the same minimalist style of the Strobist community. He believes that you should invest in education rather than gear, a philosophy that agrees with me and my budget. He also has a great passion and talent for passing on his knowledge. His blog is a fun read thanks to his sense of humor and the information he passes along is priceless. He recently put together an instructional DVD which you can download from anywhere in the world. It's a bit pricy but probably well worth the investment. I see his site as comparable to Strobist in many ways. Burt has some very creative lighting solutions based on minimal gear.

If you like BTS (behind the scenes) videos, which I do, you have to check this site out. They have video after video from pros in both the still and video world. They seem to be leaning more towards the video end of things lately, but there is still a lot of great videos on photography. I go to this site for entertainment and for getting a feel of what it's like to work like the pros.

Atlanta based photographer Zack Arias is not only a very talented photographer and film maker, he is also an enthusiastic teacher. His creativity is awe inspiring and his humorous style of teaching makes even the most mundane discussion about f-stops very entertaining. I go to his site for inspiration as well as education. His series on "white seamless" is priceless information. He breaks it down and shows you all the different things you can do with just a white seamless background. His "One Light" workshops are also very well respected. I have not personally attended one, but I have only heard good things about it.

Melissa Rodwell is a talented fashion photographer out of LA (soon to be moving to NY). Her blog is a great resource for anyone interested in fashion photography. She does not post often, but each of her posts is full of information and insight into the fashion photography world. She often posts behind the scenes videos of her photo shoots so you can get a glimpse of what it's like to shoot fashion. I  find her site both entertaining and inspirational.

This is the only pay site out of all the sites I am sharing here. Although Scott Kelby's site will cost you money, it is very cheap for the what you get. It will cost you $25/month to have access to hours and hours of instruction on photography, lighting, post-processing, business, etc.. From the best in their fields! You will see hours of video instruction on lighting from Joe McNally, get photoshop and lightroom instruction from Scott Kelby, and much more. In my opinion it is the best bang for your buck for education out there. I go to Kelby training for education on lighting and retouching mostly, but often access some of their other offerings - after all it's unlimited access for $25! You can't beat it.

This site reads more like an online magazine. Every month they publish articles written by well known photographers on various subjects from lighting to composition to post processing. I find most articles to be well written and with valuable information. What I like about this site is the variety of articles. They are often specific to a certain area of photography like children, senior portraits, or maternity. There are often good tips on workflow and little tricks of the trade that are worth noting.

I don't necessarily use flickr as a learning tool, but I do get a lot of inspiration from this site. There are just millions and millions of photographs on this site and you owe it to yourself to spend some time browsing what's out there. I will admit that there is a lot of bad stuff there too, but if you go to some of the better groups (most of the sites I mentioned in the post have a Flickr group) you can find some inspiring work that can get your own creative juices flowing. Before I go on a shoot I do a Flickr search on the theme I'm about to shoot in order to get some ideas. 

This is by no means a complete list of resources and you may have your favorites which I don't mention here. The point is, everyone has a different way of learning and so certain sites will "click" better that others. Find the ones that appeal to you and take advantage of the tremendous generosity of the photographic community on the web today.