What Every Aspiring Photographer Should Know

Here’s a wonderful bit of advice for aspiring photographers from Cheryl Jacobs Nicolai at PhotoDino.

What Every Aspiring Photographer Should Know

These are my thoughts, nothing more and nothing less.

I get asked all the time, during workshops, in e-mails, in private messages, what words of wisdom I would give to a new and aspiring photographer. Here’s my answer.

  • Style is a voice, not a prop or an action. If you can buy it, borrow it, download it, or steal it, it is not a style. Don’t look outward for your style; look inward.
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Miroslav Tichy, redux

Miroslav Tichy is a reclusive artist who has resided in his hometown of Kyjov, Czech Republic, for most of his life. Born in 1926, he was a painter until the late 1960s, when he started taking photos, mostly of local women sunbathing, using equipment that he built himself. The cameras are made of cardboard, bottle caps, and rubber bands. Tichy mounts his photos in his own handmade frames and enhances them with pencil markings wherever he sees fit.

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Exposure-Mat, a free light meter (no batteries required!)

I’m a big fan of the Sunny 16 Rule for determining exposure. Print film is forgiving enough that you don’t always have to get the exposure *exactly* right to get a good shot.

The”Sunny 16″ rule, paraphrased, says, “Set the shutter speed to the reciprocal of the film speed, and set the aperture to f/4 for open shade, f/5.6 for overcast, f/8 for hazy sunlight, f/11 for sunlight and f/16 for snow, water, or bright surfaces in sunlight.

Here’s a great link to a do-it-yourself paper slider exposure meter. Use one of these and you won’t need a meter for 90% of your outdoor shots on print film.

Shooting an old retro camera without a meter and guesstimating exposure is a liberating experience. I recommend it.

[ http://expomat.tripod.com/ ]

Plates, Jingletown (Oakland) CA


The scale of this photo is misleading. It looks like a small-ish dished plate, but they’re actually two machined plates approximately 12 feet in diameter. Taken out in Jingletown, a post-industrial/art studio/loft neighborhood nestled between Oakland and Alameda near the Oakland Estuary.

Jingletown Open Studios coincides with the Pro Arts East Bay Open Studios on June 6-7th and June 13th-14th, 2009. It’s a great way to see a mind-bogglingly wide range of artwork, meet the artists in person and support a vibrant arts community directly. Check it out!


Headboards. Vivitar UWS, Fuji Superia 400 film.

Barriers. Vivitar UWS, Fuji Superia 400 film.

I do most of my shooting with a collection of junk store plastic cameras and a freezer full of film I’m working through. Digital doesn’t compare to film – not knowing what I’m going to get until I get the roll back is delayed gratification compared to chimping on a LCD display seconds after the shot was taken.

…And what can compare to opening the envelope and seeing the print in your hands with that memory captured seemingly forever? Hold the print just right and you feel like you can reach in… Digital doesn’t do that.