I am not a self-taught photographer.
But I hear lots of other photographers who say they are autodidactic.
I learned a lot by trial and error but a lot of what I learned were from generous wonderful photography teachers and mentors.
The late Charlie Brill was one of them.
Charlie was a newspaper photographer, but one who went back to school to get a Master’s degree so he could teach and share his wisdom.
Others like Doug Oster and Paula Kraus were mentors.
These folks by virtue of their generosity and kindness deserved every bit of credit.
They showed me many short-cuts some of which I may not have learned on my own.
Before I started my formal education in photography, I read voraciously anything I could get my hands on about photography.
There were of course some concepts which I would never have gotten on my own simply because I had never set foot in a darkroom.
I don’t necessarily feel knowing how to expose film and then learn to develop the film is that important.
But shooting film has one important lesson which digital photographers who never used film will find hard to appreciate.
Because you have a finite number of exposures you can make either because you can only carry so many rolls of film or you can only afford to spend so much, you tend to make every exposure count.
That forces you to look more carefully at your scene and subject before you push the shutter button.
My mentors spent time looking over my entire shoot, asking probing questions about what I was thinking when I made those images.
Instead of just saying a particular picture was badly done, their questions prompted analytical thinking which stuck in my head.
The best part of that experience was I came away without having my ego being crushed.
We all have our bad days where the pictures we make don’t feel like they are worthy to be shared.
The key is to recognize why those failed and hopefully when you come across a similar situation, you either anticipate by being better prepared or you learn to avoid it altogether.
I consider myself more of a coach than a teacher.
I tend to associate teacher as someone teaching a student who knows little or nothing– sort of a blank slate.
Generally speaking by the time a student arrives in one of my classes, most of them already know a thing or two about photography.
I’ll even admit that some of them might even know more Photoshop than I do.
Exactly how much more will they learn or improve, I tell them is entirely up to them.
So just as in the case of an athletic coach whose players already know the fundamentals, I push my students to be more analytical in their approach.
I show them the metadata of their pictures, ask why they chose one exposure mode over another and I ask why they chose a certain aperture or why that high an ISO.
I believe my approach will make them more analytical forcing them to leave less to pure chance.
Since I encourage them to shoot in manual exposure modes for their cameras and their flash units, they can always return to that EXIF information to study their successes and failures.
There are probably self-taught photographers out there today because of the instant feedback of digital photography but I just happen to believe in giving credit where it’s due.