A couple of weeks ago, I was on the phone with my mom asking her how she was doing with the last exercise I’d given her (read more about it here). She said she had gone through the exercise a few times and she was doing ok. So I asked if she’d gone out shooting, and what she said back really stuck with me, because it sounded like something I hear from a lot of people (and something that had happened to me a long time ago).

Why Wasn’t My Mom Shooting?

So, when I asked my mom if she had gone out shooting she said “Well, not lately… I’m going to try to practice these settings more, and maybe in a month or so I should be ready”.

That response really hit home to me because I hear it from a lot of people. It seems a lot of people own really good photography gear, but are almost afraid to use it. They think they’re missing something, and that studying more will help.

Obviously I disagree. Here’s why. I believe the best way to make better photos is by gaining confidence. And how do you gain confidence? By getting out there and making a nice photo. And how do you do that? By shooting! There’s no substitute. You have to get out and shoot. Again, it’s that timeless piece of advice right? Practice makes perfect! The more you shoot, the better you’ll get at it. Seems simple right?

Elowah Falls

But she, like a lot of other photographers I run in to, think they’re missing something and are almost afraid to get out there and just create photos. But here’s what I can tell you… there is absolutely no setting that is keeping her back from a good photo right now. I can say with 100% certainty, that the only thing keeping her from a good photo, is getting her camera in to a good place.

I don’t care where she focusses, I don’t care what ISO she has it set to, I don’t care if she shoots it at f/4 or f/22, or what metering mode she has, or if she’s shooting HDR brackets and all of that crap. All of that stuff is nice-to-know extras, that all get in the way of the most important thing – shooting. Get your camera in to a good place, and shoot!

Why My Mom’s Situation Really Impacted Me?

Here’s a little back story to why this really impacted me, and I’d never even told my mom this story before that day on the phone. When I was a teenager, I played the guitar. I started when I was about 10-11 or so, and fell in love with it. I took lessons every week for years. I had 2 of the best guitar teachers in the state of NJ at the time. They’d literally spend hours with me each week. I sucked up information as fast as they’d give it out.

Like many photographers I meet, I became obsessed with the “technical” details of music. When most of my friends who picked up the guitar were just jamming away to Van Halen, Motley Crue, and Ozzy Osbourne (I was a kid in the 70s and early 80’s), I was studying music theory. I knew every scale, every chord, up down, left and right. I became an expert at the “technical” part of playing the guitar.

But one thing I never did was to create. I never created anything. I was afraid. I always thought I wasn’t ready to make music, so I just played other people’s music, and read/practiced the technical stuff (scales, chords, etc…). My friends would take their tape recorders and just play rock rhythm chords to them for 5 minutes. And then they’d play it back and just jam over it. Eventually they got really good at “creating”. I was jealous. I always felt that I “knew” more than them about music, and theory and all that techie stuff. But they were better than me.

So why didn’t I do the same thing as them? I always thought I didn’t have the right equipment to lay one track on top of the other. I always thought I didn’t have the right amp, or effects pedal. I always thought I didn’t know enough about the song, or what scale to play in, or the music theory behind the song to really make anything that was my own.

Friends would ask me (much like other photographers may ask you to go shooting), to bring my guitar over and just jam out and play. I never did. Even though I knew I was good, I never felt good enough to actually go and “create” with them.

As a result, I eventually stopped playing. I lost interest because I got tired of not knowing enough to get good (or at least what I thought “good” was). I never created anything, and eventually I wasn’t interested in just playing other people’s songs so I dropped out of playing the guitar.

Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls by Rick Lepage

(Photo Credit: my buddy Rick LePage taking a photo of me)

Just Get Out and Shoot!

While I agree that my mom should indeed spend 5-10 minutes a day for a few weeks going through her menus (again, this was from the last blog post, so read that if you haven’t yet), I also believe that what’s keeping her from making good photos is not a setting on her camera.

My mom isn’t a working pro, nor will she ever be. My advice to a pro would definitely not be “Sure… go out and shoot that wedding even if you don’t know your camera that well… you’ll figure it out. And if you don’t, no sweat!”.

Definitely not! By becoming a working pro and accepting client work, you’re undertaking a responsibility to produce good work for them and you should indeed be as prepared as possible. But for my mom, there’s zero harm in her grabbing her camera and driving down to the beach to shoot sunset one night.

Sure, she may not feel totally at ease with the settings on her camera just yet, but nobody feels at ease at first. That’s how we learn. It should feel awkward when you’re learning. You should feel a little bit overwhelmed by all of the settings. You should wonder if you got a shot, and probably not know much of what you got until you get home and look on the computer. All of that stuff is totally okay. It happened to everyone who learned photography over time. The pros only show you the good stuff on Facebook, Instagram, and their websites. They don’t show you all of the crap that got them there. But rest assured… there are many bad photos somewhere in the photo archives 🙂

So my second piece of advice to my mom… just shoot. Stop studying, stop worrying about settings, stop overthinking gear. Instead, worry about where you’re going to put your camera, and the quality of light you’re shooting in. I guarantee that if you tackle that enough times, you’re going to come back with a winner that you’ll be proud of. And that, I believe, will give you way more confidence than studying up on ISO or Metering settings in your camera.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!


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