I am occasionally asked how I got to know so much about Lightroom, or birth, or research, or photography….
The truth is, I am lucky to have a pretty good memory that helps me to retain a lot of what I read, see and do. That goes a long way. But I’ve also developed some habits that have been really helpful in becoming a good learner.
Be curious…and follow through. So it occurs to you that you want to know something. Maybe an editing technique, maybe a marketing idea you want to explore. But in a stroke of bad luck, you can’t follow through right away. Maybe the kids are crying, you’re driving to Target to get that missing ingredient for dinner, AND you have to be somewhere in an hour. Make a note. Email yourself, text it, carry a small notebook in your purse. I have a secret Pinterest board for “Things I want to learn” and when I come across something that interests me but I am not able to explore it then, I pin it for later. And then when you have the chance, follow through and go in search of the answer.
Put in the work. In this day and age of the internet, the chances are your answers are already there. We have amazing search abilities right at our fingertips. You can search the internet using Google or another search engine. You may find better results searching in a photography specific forum or facebook group. If your first attempts don’t bring the results you want, check your spelling, try different keywords (“marketing” instead of “advertising”; “backlit” instead of “backlighting” etc.) or try using a wild card. Many search tools support the use of the asterisk as a wild card. So if you are looking for information on editing backlit images, try searching for “edit* backli*” – this will pull all variations of backlit like backlighting, backlit, backlight AND all variations of edit like edited editing edits etc. This saves SO much time over searching all the combinations together.
Educationally speaking, the process of seeking and learning results in deeper learning and greater retention than anything else. It is why teachers ask students to do research and write papers about what they learn.
Read all the opinions. Then form your own. In your searching, you’ll likely find multiple ways of doing things and even conflicting opinions. Don’t waste time trying to decide who is “the right one” and instead play around a bit, trying out all the ideas, and figure out YOUR way of doing things.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t limit yourself to the techniques and tutorials you read. The tutorial might not say you should play with the blacks slider. Do it anyway. See what it does. See if you like the effect. Try editing the same photo 3-5 different styles of color editing. Then try 3-4 different B&W versions. See which you like.
Practice, Practice, Practice! (outside of with client sessions or models) You can read and study all the day long, but nothing, absolutely NOTHING, will replace actual shooting and actual editing. Doing lots of shooting and editing simply for practice will give you freedom and time to practice and explore. When you are shooting for clients or models who are working in trade for images, client expectations and timelines make it difficult or impossible to spend the time and energy to explore and learn new techniques.
None of these are the easy route, none of these are passive ways to learn. But these are the ways that a motivated, self-starter will best learn and lay a good foundation of photography knowledge that will serve you well as you continue to learn and grow as a photographer.