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Camera School 01 :: Facing your Fear

camera school :: photography tips for scrapbookers
I’ve decided there is really only one important thing when it comes to photography, and that is to lose all fear. Go boldly in the direction of capturing something new to you. Be brave enough to take pictures that fail miserably and can’t be saved. Don’t be afraid to take a picture in a public space or to take a self-portrait or to ask a friend (or even a stranger) to be your model.

I first started to learn about photography for real in a high school journalism class. Before that, I only had instamatic type cameras – point and shoots with 35mm, 110 or even disc film. In fact, I should have learned something from the disc camera, but I’ll come back to that in a bit. In journalism class they threw photography vocabulary words at us, set us loose with Canon SLRs and sent us into the darkroom to develop and print our own images. The darkroom is magical. You know how memorable smells stay with you? I can dream of the smell of darkroom chemicals. I shot everything with a fixed 50mm lens, printed everything in black and white, and ‘everything’ was a mix of indoor school moments and outdoor school football games. A few of us were able to get a tiny bit of work with the local newspaper selling on our assorted football pictures, because Friday night football was a big deal and I think they paid between $5 and $15 per picture. A few of us absolutely fell in love with cameras and I’m pretty sure I could guess from the roll call of that group of teenagers who still shoots on some form of SLR today.

Then there was the rest of the class. As soon as there was vocabulary and technique and procedure, the group split. We hadn’t even gotten to the fun we could have with composition or depth of field or anything remotely creative: they had hit the wall with the technical know-how and suddenly felt photography just wasn’t their thing. Of course I didn’t realise it then, but years (and so many discussions with scrapbookers) later, it all makes perfect sense. The truth is photography is a balance of technical and creative stuff, and no matter what your gut instinct, there is no reason to be afraid of any of it.

LESSON ONE: Let go of all fear.

You may want a notebook for Camera School, by the way. Somewhere you can track things to do, remember things you want to try and note things that inspire you greatly. And to track your progress through a series of assignments. I’m only calling them assignments to match this whole idea of Camera School and I’ve already told you this is school in the loosest sense of the word, so don’t worry. You can pick and choose what you want to take on. You can take all the time you need. You can work out of order. You can do absolutely whatever you would like really – I’m just going to call them assignments because that makes it clear and easy.

So your first assignment is to take a photo that gets over your particular fear. Which means it may help to identify your photography fears in the first place. Do any of these apply to you?

cupcakes Facing my technical fear: shooting cupcakes in an entirely different style for me with some specific technical needs – for this cupcake workshop at The Make Lounge.

Technical fear: When someone starts talking about exposure and aperture and compensation and f-stops and grey cards, you’re convinced it’s another language. If your camera manual intimidates you, this may be you.

london pillow fight Facing my creative fear: trying to find an interesting angle to shoot for a pillow fight flash mob in Trafalgar Square.

Creative fear: Do you like the safe shot? So most of your images look the same, maybe with the subject right in the centre? Do you always stand straight up to take a picture? Do you see other pictures that look lush but you automatically think you couldn’t take a photo like that? Then creative fear may have captured you, I’m afraid.

mad hatter Facing my confidence fear: photos, fancy dress and a public playground filled with staring onlookers? Fear definitely faced.

Confidence fear: If you pick up your camera and automatically become shy and overly polite, this is you. You don’t want to get in someone’s way – to the point you will lose the shot. You would be terrified to take a picture in a shop or a library or in front of many people. The idea of asking someone if it’s okay to take a photograph in front of their house absolutely and completely fills you with dread. You want to take pictures of other people so you can learn, but you’re totally lost with how to make that happen.

flowers Facing my accuracy fear: a lucky shot grabbed while riding on a golf cart and not looking through the viewfinder.

Accuracy fear: A little like creative fear but more along the lines of specifically knowing that a shot might not work and therefore you would rather not click the shutter button. Trying a something that might not work with the settings you know pretty much freaks you out. The fact that I take a fair amount of shots without looking through my viewfinder in any way makes you think I am a crazy woman. You want everything lined up, perfectly framed and perfectly exposed at all times… because a blurry or ill-coloured photo makes you feel like you totally screwed up.

mirror self-portrait Facing my self-portrait fear: trying to capture something very real that I wouldn’t normally photograph, complete with eyes that say I need more sleep and vitamins.

In-the-picture fear: Right now, you’re already dreading me asking you to take a self-portrait. You are absolutely fine with photographs as long as you are not in them. Turning the lens toward yourself makes you want to run and hide like you just saw something dart across the floor that was part rat, part tarantula.

steps in luang prabang, laos Facing a whole bunch of fears at once, but mostly the idea that once I climb a zillion stairs to get the great view, will I make it back down with taking a tumble with my camera?

Can’t-put-my-finger-on-it fear: To be honest, you’re not quite sure why you don’t push yourself to take better pictures. You want to, but you haven’t found the right thing to motivate you to step up your game. You might not feel afraid of anything at all, but in a way, you’re a little bit afraid of just being awesome. Or in general, you’re not too sure what it is that holds you back.

Got it? If you have found something there that applies to you, it’s time to set it aside. Officially. At least until the end of these blog posts. I’ll make you these promises:
You don’t have to share a photo with anyone in the world if you don’t want to.
Your camera will not explode or laugh at you if you try something and the pictures just don’t come out that great.
You won’t have to memorise a list of vocabulary words or read your camera manual from cover to cover. (I have to admit it can be handy for a few things though, okay?)
You don’t have to have any special fancy camera.

But I also hope:
You will give new things a try.
You will let yourself be happy with your work.
You will accept compliments from others.

Because all three of those things make for a lot of good in life, I do believe.

So here’s assignment one: take one photo that proves you can set aside your personal photography fear.

There’s no deadline. You don’t have to share (but if you would like to, please do). You can interpret that assignment in any way you like.

Just let it go and click the shutter, and I’ll be back here tomorrow with something new.

By the way, all of these pictures are straight out of camera (SOOC) without any editing other than resizing and compressing for the web. They are not perfect by any means – but each one represents some bit of progress in my own little journey. Throughout Camera School, I’ll tell you what edits I’ve added to the photos, I promise.

06 September 2011



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31 Comments for Camera School 01 :: Facing your Fear

  1. Ruth Says:

    Thank You.

  2. Debby B. Says:

    This is a great idea. I’m trying to take a photo a day if not more. I know there are blocks as I do not like taking photo’s if there are too many people around or in the shot. I have had a couple of people get upset when I took their photo and it put me off. As they were hidden under their floral umbrella while it was snowing a blizzard I did not think they would mind. So I’ve been careful ever since. Getting braver now though and try and push myself to take photo’s anyway.

  3. glee stormont Says:

    Is that golf cart shot from your trip to Hawaii??

  4. Mandy Says:

    Brilliant idea, after 4 years being a professional I still have fear, especially the self portrait (don’t you think all photographers hate to be on the other side of the camera), I think a lot of people when they go over to a dslr feel they have to know everything and really being free means you can enjoy the process, we’re not all professionals and nor should we try to be, to enjoy is to be free

  5. Jennifer Grace Says:

    This is such a cool idea shimelle!

    I’ve got the technical fear – we bought a DSLR with gift vouchers from our wedding 3 years ago and I still mostly use it on auto! I also have the self portrait fear at the moment cos I’m still carrying baby weight! So I’ll try to conquer these! X

  6. Cindy K Says:

    I think I might have several of the fears you mentioned. I did, however, take a self-portrait today. Am I going to share it? Mmmm – not at this time.

  7. vanessa Says:

    my fear is not using natural light and photographing indoors…

  8. Krystal Says:

    this was awesome. i have quite a few of those fears. looking forward to facing them soon!! thanks, shimelle!

  9. Jennie Says:

    I am so looking forward to this ‘class’. Since I took your Love Your Pictures class I have barely used the auto function. I think once for an occasion that was badly lit and there was action and I couldn’t miss the shots as they were of something important. Other than that I have been so much happier with my shots :)

  10. Barbara Says:

    I’m so in need of this :) – in my entire photo collection there are maybe 10 or 20 photos max that I really like. I suffer from both technical and creative fear (and of “perfection-fever”). Plus, my brother creates perfection everytime he takes a photo :)

  11. Jackie Ashton Says:

    I’ve just got new camera so this ‘school’ will come in useful. Looking forward to attending class.

  12. Jacky S Says:

    I think I’ve got quite a few of those fears!!

  13. Lara Says:

    Can’t-put-my-finger-on-it fear is me all over. I have a day off today so I’m going to tackle this! I’m going to try: not looking through the viewfinder and some off-kilter angles. Eek.

  14. Lisa-Jane Johnson Says:

    Help! I think they are all me! The technical one is my worst fear but I’m getting over random not-looking shots. Thank you for this school! xx

  15. Brenda DellaVecchia Says:

    I love this post. Mine is definitely confidence fear which I guess is tied to people that have seen me take the photo might expect it to be better than it is. I’ll be tuned in for this series. Thanks so much…love you on the Roundtable!

  16. Sarahp Says:

    Hiya, well I hate pics of myself and also have loads of lovely settings on my camera which I dont know what they are for … going to have a go at a self portrait today….aaagggghhhhh

  17. Sarahp Says:

    Here me trying to conquer my fear of self portraits.
    Assignment one

  18. Leslie Says:

    Thanks for this – it’s just what I need as I always look at my pages and think “If only my pictures were a little more inspired”. I think I have a mixture of Technical and Creative fear so will be working on those.

  19. Julie Says:

    I am loving this series already! It’s just in time for me as I am starting a 365 project. Thank you.

  20. Sall Says:

    My fear is definitely shots with me in them and I had sort of started to do something about it before reading this but now I’m certain I can do it. Anyway if this works pic should be on here :S

    http://i581.photobucket.com/albums/ss256/Sall-anne/Escot%20Gardens/20110810_94.jpg

  21. Cheri Says:

    I’m definitely so hung up on the technical fear that I’ve shelved my Canon Rebel in favor of my point & shoot. I need to dust it off.

  22. Clair Says:

    Just when I thought you couldn’t be more awesome…

  23. Stampersue Says:

    At last someone who is taking my language – simple. Thank you so much for demystifying the world of cameras.

    I can’t wait to follow your teachings.

    Many thanks

    Stampersue
    X

  24. Barb in AK Says:

    Yeh, I found it! The Accuracy category :-(
    That’s my fear! I find myself twiddling and diddling with my photos in PSE to get everything “just right”… which usually never happens! Why can’t I just take a decent photo the FIRST time???!

    https://picasaweb.google.com/110646663374773509521/September9201102

  25. Michelle M Says:

    I think you are just what I need! I am sooooo techno challenged its humiliating! I leave my DSLR in auto all the time!and forget trying to figure out PhotoShop!

  26. KateT Says:

    I’ve been out photographing people and in public today, so that’s 2 fears for the price of one! I’ve blogged about it here.

    ** Kate **
  27. Sofia D Says:

    I’ve been concentrating on Learn Something New that I haven’t stopped by in a while. Oh my goodness I am loving this series! Thank you, thank you for talking to me in understandable lingo.

  28. Karen Osborn Says:

    I have the accuracy fear AND the can’t put my finger on it fear. I see other photos and wonder why mine are just so ordinary, so boring!

  29. Kim (toomuchstuff) Says:

    Thank you! I’m looking forward to the series and letting go of all my camera fears.

  30. Michael Vick Jersey Says:

    You blog is so lovely that speak the words right out my month. I bookmark you so that we can talk about it in details, I really can’t help myself but have to leave acomment, you are so good.

  31. onetake Says:

    Now that I have the 600D I’m following along with Camera School. Took a couple of self-portraits today. They didn’t come out half bad. (The flip-out screen really helps :-) )

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