Ditch the Manual: Use Your Learning Style to Shoot Better Photos

Does anyone else ever feel like their camera’s manual is just…staring you down and totally
judging you for never having read it? Just me? Nah, I didn’t think so. But honestly, who has the time or the inclination to sift through hundreds of pages of dry, technical information?

Here’s the thing – everyone learns differently. For some people, reading the manual is the best way to get started with their camera.

For others, learning by doing is much more effective.

There are five basic learning styles, and identifying which one sounds most like you will help you to make the most progress.

Visual learners learn best by looking at something. They enjoy studying photographs to see how they were achieved, and they like to watch video tutorials that show people setting up a shot.

Aural learners are natural listeners. They might tune into a podcast that explains new
concepts and theories.

Linguistic learners are classic book-learners. These guys have probably read the manual, and they likely pick up a photography magazine to learn from, too.

Physical learners learn by doing. They enjoy just heading out with the camera, fiddling with settings, and learning through feel. They also probably prefer classes in which they can shoot alongside a teacher.

Logical learners were usually pretty good at maths at school. They like to learn things in a
formulaic way – for example, they’ll be the first to understand and make use of the exposure triangle.

It takes a little while to work out which style fits you best, but once you’ve narrowed it down, you can start to tailor the way you take in information. Set yourself a challenge: each day for five days, try to learn a new skill in the way someone with one of the learning styles would. For example, on Monday, you might try some macro photography using flowers in your garden, but you’re going to learn it visually. Find an online portfolio of
macro shots, try to identify the methods used, and then watch a video tutorial.

Finally, go out and try to recreate the shot.

On Tuesday, you’re going to pick up a new skill like an aural learner. Download an episode of an instructional or semi-instructional podcast, give it a listen, and then put it into practice yourself. We like Street Focus for tips on street photography in various cities, or So You Want to Be a Photographer to learn how to pose people.

Wednesday will be your linguistic day. You can pick up that manual if you want, or you can pop down to the shop and grab a copy of a photography magazine. These are great, because they’re jam-packed with tutorials – pick one and give it a whirl.

On Thursday, you’re going to dive in the deep end. Come up with an idea for a shot – yes, you can take inspiration from photos you’ve seen elsewhere – and simply dive in, using your accumulated knowledge and a willingness to experiment to find the right settings and method for the job.

This is a great one to try at a horse show, where you’ll have loads of potential subjects, but no one will be waiting around for you to get it right.

Finally, on Friday, you’ll be looking at the technicalities of photography. Do you know how to balance your ISO with your shutter speed and your depth of field? If you’re shooting in variable lighting, such as at sunset, what adjustments will you need to make? Swot up, and then head outside to put your new knowledge to good use.

Not all of these methods will work for you, and one or two will likely work really well – but in any case, you’ll learn plenty through trial and error as you give them all a go. Once you’ve honed in on your style, why not join a photography challenge? You’ll find yourself shooting subjects and scenarios you generally wouldn’t – and that really is the quickest way to learn how to get the best from your camera.

What’s your learning style?

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