All you need is ignorance and confidence


All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure. Mark Twain

It’s always great to find a quote that celebrates your ignorance in such as optimistic way. When I started out in photography a couple of years ago I bought myself a semi decent camera (it was actually described as an entry level DSLR by Canon (Canon 1000D)) and launched myself at photographing everything, amd I mean everything!

Soon I got into getting to grips with the exposure triangle, balancing Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO to get the result I wanted. I bought studio lights so that I could really control the light and get technically perfect pictures. The amount of time I have spent on the internet accessing tutorials and studying photographs has made me more knowledgeable than I was for sure (if not a little pasty skinned) and on retirement as a head teacher “invested” in a full frame sensor camera (Canon 5D Mk II) so that my pictures would be even more perfect in my view!

And I have been very happy taking photos of family and friends and been very pleased with the results. Designing courses for a local Photographic Studio, (photography training Northampton) has made me practice and design activities that help students get to grips with DOF, aperture, shutter speed, colour balance etc, etc.

I have even found that the expertise (?) I gained by doing this helped me on assignment (well, photographing for a friend) when she wanted a picture of her holding a hank of hair, but wanted a choice of Depth of Field in her pictures. Hey, I could do that and I did. (By the way she’s a trichologist and runs a scalp clinic!)  I changed my focal length , aperture etc and hey presto the same picture but with two different depths of fields. I was beginning to think around problems and beginning to get the pictures I wanted rather than just point and shoot.

In short I was getting arrogant. Well you know what they say about pride and falls!

An ex colleague asked me to do a family shot for her. She had just had her second baby and wanted to have a decent photograph of the family to send to grandparents etc. Well, I jumped at the chance. I arrived at her house at the appointed time, set up my studio lights and a white back drop to diffuse my back lighting through, set my umbrella light up at 45  degrees to the front, in short did everything I knew, and started to take some portraits. I was very pleased with them technically, and when I got home and processed the images, I messaged one of to my ex colleague. I quickly got a message back which was to the effect of –Very nice, but we don’t look very happy. I think that the point is that my earlier pictures when I just pointed a shot were full of spontaniety and life.

Getting more kit and thinking too much about the equipment and what it does can have, and did on me, the effect of stifling the subject. I’d forgot to interact with them and had forgotten, what I always told my teachers to remember, the big picture. If you forget why you are doing something and concentrate too much on the details you loose the something central. Luckily I had taken so many pictures during the session that I was able to find plenty of other alternatives for her.That’s not to say you shouldn’t concentrate on all the little bits. The professional photographer who I look up to, and I’m lucky enough to be able to work with has shown me that attention to detail is normally crucial to achieving that outstanding shot, every little improvement makes an impact on big picture, all those fractional adjustments to positioning lights, thinking about colour temperature, setting aperture are essential, but don’t forget that all these elements mean nothing if the overall picture doesn’t work for you, or for the subject.


The web is full of easily accessible tutorials which at best show you what is achievable, possibly teach you a specific technique, and at best inspire you to renewed efforts. The magic light bulb shot (I call it “She’s Electric”, she’s my wife and she is!) is full of mistakes e.g. the hands are slightly blurred, but overall I am pleased with the” big picture”, and it taught me lots about getting my exposure correct in “the dark”. (Three exposures, one for the face, one for the hands, and one for the lit bulb!).
This all may seem that its rambling a bit from Mark Twain’s quote, but I will interpret it as enthusiasm is more important than knowledge. Sure, you’ve got to know how a camera works and what the effect of the changes you make are, but it’s all about giving it a go. Learn from your mistakes and keep enjoying making images, and above all keep experimenting and moving into the areas you are ignorant about, it’s a great adventure! You might even find a rare multi tongued wood adder in your local park like I did!!! (It’s a cedar tree!)