Friday, October 23, 2009

A little knowledge

As they say, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." And in photography in the hands of some, it's worse than knowing nothing. Like everyone, as we're all human, I'm guilty sometimes, but I try to remember when expressing my opinion is it based on how much of my experience, knowledge and understanding that is relevant to the issue or subject. I've learned, and sometimes the hard way, to simply walk away from discussion in photography forums and about advice given on photography Websites.

There are a number of photographers on the Internet who love to amaze people with their technical knowledge of photography, especially cameras and taking photographs. There are far too many Websites offering and usually selling instructions, lessons, advice, etc., often gleaned from readily available information anyone can find with any good search tools. The problem is that much of their advice is incomplete, inaccurate or just simply incorrect.

It's not necessarily wrong, just not right. That's because almost every photographer speaks from their own experience and rarely is that broad enough to work for everyone, and it's always from the cameras they've owned and used, where so many other types, brands and models won't work the same. I'm no different, I've only learned to answer questions for the equipment I've used or am familar with.

The problem is that many photographers think their experience translates to universal advice. It doesn't. It doesn't mean all the advice is bad or wrong, just some, but it's hard to know which unless you have more or a different experience. A beginner would be hard pressed to discern where the advice is wrong, bad or doesn't work.

And prey tell, do I have an example? Like I wouldn't discuss this without one?

Well, it's the Website Digicamhelp. Even though there are 18 photographers listed on the Website, there doesn't seem to be much peer review or editing of the help Web pages, or at least the Web pages I read. But then, yes, I haven't read all of them, so even my opinion is biased from a some examples.

And my point? Sone of the advice can actually be more confusing if your camera operates differentlly. You have to ensure yours works the same or the advice will be wrong. And the techniques for taking good pihotos is also relative. They often advise to check on sone things first.

So are they useful? Well, it depends, but overall I'd say you could learn more and better from other sources, and really the old adage about just doing it. Photography is about practice. And it's about mistakes. In many ways you'll learn more from mistakes than from successes because with the former you learn to do better and the latter you wonder what you did right but don't really know.

At least that's how I've learned. After some classes and the on-going learning from articles, books, etc. I usually learn best from just trying and playing. I know I'm not and won't be a professional in any sense, and much of my photography probably barely fits into the serious amateur ranks, but it doesn't mean I, like any photographer, hasn't and can't produce gems every now and then.

And those gems are from experience, knowledge and understanding of photography, my equipment and the subject. It's how I read the photography help Website, to ask myself is this information useful and helpful in the field. And when it's inaccurate, incomplete or just plain incorrect, then it's not, and should not be used unless you translate it to your photography equipment and interests.

And after criticizing these and pointing out this Website, are there examples?

For one, the advice on the shutter release button is in correct. Almost all newer film camera with autofocus use a two-step shutter release, but you can make them one-step buttons, and you can also use a digital camera as a one-step shutter release by simply moving some controls to other buttons, like the autofocus. And the statement about the sequence is erroneous as there is only one sequence, how the button works according to the settings.

The shutter lag Web page is confusing, describing differing focusing techniques. The key is to just use one of them. You can't use continuous focusing if you lock the focus. And the type of memory card isn't relevant to shutter lag, the camera writes to the card after the camera has completed the capture. A faster card won't improve shutter lag.

Anyway, there are more minor points, and yes, some might say that's nick-picking, and they would be right. But when a Website advertises and presents itself as a photography learning one, then it should present accurate, complete and correct information. Otherwise, it's a waste of time.

Any photographer would be better if they just follow some basic steps. For example, I like the advice to know your camera before you go out, meaning sit down with the manual and walk through all the features, functions and controls. Then simplify what you need to set in the field, and always check it for the situation and conditions. This is what Galen Rowell did and advise new photographers.

Other advice is also freely available on the Web or through books, and personally, you'll do better than sorting through and sorting out these Websites. But then, that's also just my advice and opinion.

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