One reason to learn in a formal setting is that it helps you ask the right questions.
“But surely, Michael”, you say, “there are no bad questions?”
True enough – but there are many questions that waste your time if you try to really answer them; that should not be pursued, but rather should be answered with “don’t do that”, or “do it another way” or “that is unimportant”. In that sense, they are simply the wrong questions.
I get many of those questions as a teacher, and of course students in a class will hear and understand the explanation and move on. But if you take no classroom training you will spend much energy on those “wrong questions”.
I mean questions like:
- I don’t like changing lenses, so which all-purpose lens can do all my photography? (Understandable, but wrong question. If one lens could do it all, I would own that lens. Except it would weigh 10lb and cost $5,000 and distort around the edges).
- How can I take the same sports pictures you do, but with my kit lens? (Ditto. you simply cannot).
- How do I best use my pop-up flash? (Not. Use an external flash: it is more powerful and you can direct its light elsewhere, and in any case it is farther from the lens).
- What happens when I press exposure compensation while at the same time pressing exposure lock and the shutter? (Who knows! This is the kind of question that just wastes energy. Yours.)
- How do I best mount two filters on top of each other: polarizer on top or polarizer on the bottom? (You don’t. Only one filter at a time).
- How do I avoid flare without going through the effort of getting a lens hood? (Not very well. Use a lens hood.)
- What is the highest zoom I can get? (Before answering, I would need to hear much more on why this is important to you.)
- What lens/camera/flash should I buy? (That is an understandable question, but you should not expect a real answer, since only you can make that decision – after you understand the criteria for choosing!)
…the list goes on ad infinitum. Many of these are “wishful thinking” questions. Some are not. They are all questions that are easily answered, or at least countered, by a teacher- but when you ask them without that formal training, you will waste half your energy (I bet you can find a dozen sites on the Internet that try to answer those unproductive questions.)
I have an interest in saying this, of course – I coach privately, I teach at the School of Imaging and at Sheridan College – but that’s not why I am stressing the point. I would not do this daily blog if it was. Instead, I am prompted by a closed Facebook group where thousands of pros and would-be pros converge and talk, and it amazes me that quite a few of the would-be pros proudly say “I don’t go for formal training”. That is a shame – because training, rather than giving you all the answers, helps you ask the right questions, and in doing that, saves you lots and lots of time.