How do you start to learn a complex new subject like digital photography? We all have a preferred way to learn, whether by reading, watching videos, or just picking a camera up and playing with it hands-on. But how do you approach it, how do you organize it to be as easy as possible to learn?
Way back I found a way for myself that I call “theories and jargon.” By “theories” I mean the basic ideas and concepts of a subject, those big-picture ideas that keep popping up. Jargon, of course, is the specialized vocabulary of a subject, especially something technical.
I figured this out in an early college course that was giving me problems, “Ecology and Field Biology.” The theories of Ecology, the basic ideas behind it, seemed pretty straightforward. But when I read about them in detail I became lost. I just didn’t know what the words, the jargon, meant exactly. I concentrated on learning the exact meaning of every piece of jargon I encountered. I started to do much better. The words were the building blocks to a thorough understanding of the theories.
I used that approach when I started to learn digital photography several years ago. The words were the key to learning the concepts. If a book had a glossary, I read the glossary. I started with the words I already knew from film days: Aperture, shutter speed, ISO/ASA, and learned how digital photography affected those. Then I branched out to foreign concepts like white balance, file formats, file compression, noise, color spaces, and so on.
Eventually, it all started to make some sense. But I didn’t need to know what every word in the glossary meant to start making better pictures. Each piece of the puzzle led to a better digital image, starting with understanding what white balance was, and then setting the proper white balance to get a better image.
I still don’t know what a “raster image processor” is: Something to do with printing images well. Since I’m into printing my photos, I look forward to better prints when I finally understand that piece of jargon.
One thing for sure, digital photo technology changes very rapidly and there will always be new jargon and theories to learn. Continuing to learn is supposed to keep your brain young. I guess then digital photography is a good pursuit for old coots like me!
Kings Park Photo Club: Our next meeting is on Thursday March 13, 2014 at 7 PM at the Kings Park Library (tonight). Mike will be making a presentation on Street Photography. Check out our members’ work on display at the People’s Bank on Indian Head Road.