Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Photography Learning Curves

Edited: I have gone through these after the fact posts and tamed them down considerably … this because I’ve decided to wind down my involvement with that community completely, which includes my comments on the community and its behavior since leaving. This post is thus severely altered from the original. Because … who really gives a sh*t …

I have been told that there is a feeding frenzy of libelous defamation going on in the Fuji Talk Forum since I left. Those people who really disliked my style.

The disconnects on the forum all pretty much come down to people at different points on the learning curve trying to interact with one another and having difficulty because some people have no idea how low they are on a very long curve …

So here is my take on the photography learning curve ...


Obviously, I consider the curve pretty steep ... this is one reason why manufacturers are forever trying to build a more automatic camera. But the camera cannot judge the way a human can, so the best photographers will *always* be people who have climbed this curve.

As to the shape of the curve ... the first few things to learn are on a fairly shallow slope ... not bad. Shutter, aperture ... makes some sense. But it quickly becomes complex with white balance, exposure, compensation, modes, etc. Also composition, lighting (including adding light), and processing.

The more control you want, the harder you have to work. Eventually, you reach the hump, after which things get a lot easier. Your solid fundamentals allow you to absorb new information very, very quickly. Professionals are on a rather shallow slope where there isn't much left to know and they understand it the second they see it.

So let's explore the five points I've plotted. Obviously, these are an extreme generalization, but if you bear with me, I think you will understand how this works.

Noobs: These are people who have a camera and know literally nothing about how it works. Everyone is a noob at first. Everyone!

He who shall not be named: One fellow who has taken over the Fuji Talk Forum through sheer volume and the tendency to make stuff up with abandon is still not on the steep part of the curve. Never will be according to history.

Wannabes: These are people who think they are professionals but have not learned enough to justify that title. A lot of beginning wedding photographers fit here ... they bought a great camera and read a couple books but have not experimented or practiced enough to be comfortable. They make a total hash of a few weddings and I'd bet many disappear after that. Those who continue to climb the curve, eventually get really good.

Me: I forgot to include myself in the first iteration of this article. I think I am nearing the hump. I have a good understanding of a lot of the fundamentals but am a mile behind the professionals, who have put all of this into practice many times over.

Professionals: These guys know how to shoot anything that they care about, using any equipment under any light. They make few mistakes and their work stands up to very close scrutiny. They teach and they lead tours. People pay because they are that good.

So … all of these people interact on the forums on DPReview. And many are where I am … several are professionals (real ones) … this would include Thom Hogan, who regularly posts into the Nikon dSLR forums.

What happens is that people split into two reactions … some go sycophantic, effusively praising people above them (you should witness the embarrassing comments on the FTF once in a while as the noobs go nuts over HWSNBN’s mediocre galleries) … and some attack those above them. These two groups then get into p*ssing contests and divide quite clearly into camps.

That, in a nutshell, is every forum on DPReview. Every day.

13 comments:

Hards80 said...

I think you have not only summed up most photography forums in general, but many forums of all topics in general.

As you have stated the majority of people you find on the forums are somewhere on the left tail, as they either A)are trying learn, i.e. far left, or B)think they know something and think they have something to prove, i.e. the rest of the left tail. those on the right end either A)dont bother with forums since they have nothing to prove or B)genuinely like helping ppl and usually end up as administrators/moderators of some capacity.

while simplistic, your graph is rather accurate, and amusing.

-Dustin

Kim Letkeman said...

Thanks Dustin. I don't quite know where I fit, but it is quite obvious where some do ... and I always shake my head when noobs argue. I don't like the smell of answers pulled from behinds, if you know what I mean :-)

crazy football mom said...

Hear, hear! LOVE the graph :-) Listen up people...Kim has been photographing since the 1970's, so I THINK he knows what he's talking about and y'all might learn a thing or two from him! Ye who shall not be named, try doing what Kim says - shut up and listen! and maybe learn...that is all.

Kim Letkeman said...

Thanks Gaye ... boy, do I miss those awesome cameras of yesteryear ... the Olympus Trip35 and Pentax Spotmatic II ... I got such great photos with them and Kodachrome ...

Anonymous said...

Given your topic, I thought you'd get a chuckle out of this. Defamation, oh yes..........

A blogspot blogger goes off on DPR and its community:

http://dpreviewsucks.blogspot.com/

Lili said...

LOL, excellent.
Sadly the most active thread now is the one about that was mentioned earlier.

Kim Letkeman said...

Lili, thanks. I am certain that the psychoanalysis thread will max out to 150 ... no shortage of people who will feel the need to patronize me.

Kim Letkeman said...

Anonymous ... thanks for the link. I've seen that site before but had forgotten about it. Amusing how it resonates now :-)

Mark Hagerman said...

Hey Kim, just took your advice and spent alot of time playing with my F70 in manual mode as per your recomendations. Here is a link to some of my photos from a Rascal Flatts concert last week at the JLC in London,ON. All are manual 5 meg with no flash and various ISO's. Look forward to your thoughts. P.S I enjoy your blog and thoughts.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/markhagerman/

Kim Letkeman said...

Mark, that's an excellent photostream! Wow ... your images are better than mine I think. You also had a great angle on the catwalk and got some really nice images with the audience in the background and foreground. Nicely done!

Mark Hagerman said...

Thanks Kim, I thought you may like them as I know you enjoy the candid concert and show shoots yourself. I really love this camera and I love its ability to reproduce what you see, I agree with you 100% about the human eye being the better meter and when I look at these pics it is true to life, it is as if I am back at the concert. What a gift to be able to preserve time. Thanks again and happy shooting.

Ted said...

Hey Kim, not sure where I fit on the curve, dont really think about it too much. It's obvious everyone can continue learning in this hobby for as long as they care to. Every time I read a book on Photoshop I get the feeling I will never know more than 2% of what can be done with that application. It still all comes down to a good capture to begin with so I will continue to focus on that.
My job recently took me to Japan and Korea and I didnt even take my Nikon (took a little Panny TZ) because I knew I would be very busy and have no time for much photography. I'll be down in San Diego and San Francisco in a couple weeks and may have a free weekend plus a day. Nice to see your doing well, talk to you later.
Ted
tdkd13

Kim Letkeman said...

Ted, you strike me as being somewhere around where I am on the curve. A decent grasp of the fundamentals, and the knowledge that there is lots more to be learned. I have always envied your travels ... you get to some rather exotic locations. I'd find it pretty hard not to take the big dog along, but I know that'd be brutally heavy. The F70 is pretty good, but seems somehow a little light weight for that job. Still searching for the answer on that issue. I love SF, but haven't seen SD yet. More envy :-) ... anyway, enjoy the trips. Hope to see you around the net.