You know, I sort of miss the time when the only way to gather knowledge was to buy massive books from shops. Not that I complain to have access to free knowledge, but the problem about internet is that it’s too dispersive and really, there aren’t many sources where this knowledge is actually free. During the last years I have used many web sites to study photography. Initially was obviously about all the technical stuff needed to understand how to use my tools properly. This phase didn’t last long, although to be honest it took more than a while to understand how to put everything together. Then, as it’s probably true for all the beginners, started the obsessive frenzy phase of sharing on specialized web sites looking for approval. When I realised that I didn’t have a clue about how to read and judge a photo, I started to read a lot of articles on visual theories (composition, balancing, leading lines, etc..) that is needed to create and read a photo. This took me down to a slippery slope, as I realised that constructing a compelling photo is much more than just make it perfect and since photography is for me just a hobby, I probably would not have the time to study everything is needed to know how to be a master. Human brains are complex and psychology as well as hard-wired instincts (i.e.: being naturally drawn to faces) play a fundamental role to make a photo successful. However I am digressing now. To get back to the topic, Internet, as it is true for many other fields, is obviously fundamental for one’s personal growth since I believe there isn’t such a thing as ending to learn. And on internet you can find a never ending stream of resources. The tricky part is to understand what is useful to read/use and what is instead a total waste of time. Hence I would like to show you the websites that so far I used and my impression about them (in TOTALLY random order of importance and usefulness):
Amazon: woah, harsh start. Sorry I actually had to find a way to mention the fact that I still buy books, but my books tend to not have any word in it. If I buy a book, I want to browse and study photos. Trying to understand if I can realize when a photo is a work of art (check my previous post) or just pretentious is what make me interested in books of photography.
WordPress: In my opinion, having a blog, even just as a journal to store one’s thoughts and reasoning (like I do here), is of fundamental importance for the personal growth. I am a messy thinker and writing all my random thoughts in one place help me organize them. I started with wordpress.com before to buy my own URL address. WordPress.com is a good starting point, but I really didn’t like the fact that my website had the word wordpress in it. One benefit of wordpress.com is that you can easily reach a broader audience using hashtags, but I fear that some likes come from bots to be honest. I tried also tumblr and medium, but I found them must less efficient.
Facebook: fairly useless as nowadays is incredible hard to grow your audience organically without paying. It’s a good way to reach less internet-savvy people, so probably still need for a business. I use it to share what is not good enough to be put on this blog.
Instagram: Instagram is an interesting place. Born to share photography is probably one of the worst place to do so. However it may be interesting for networking. I for example have a fashion/glamour specialized account on instagram in order to find TFP models more easily. Instagram accounts should be specialized and if you want to share more than one kind of photo, then you should create more than one account. It would lead to a much more reliable and loyal audience. The only way to grow the audience organically is to use very specific hashtags. The hashtags to use must be carefully studied as the most common one would attract only likes from bots. Expect 70%-80% of likes and followers being actually bots.
Google+: fantastic platform to share photos but a desolate place. If you don’t have much time to invest on social network, stay away from it.
Starnow.co.uk: I tried other website for model casting, like modelmayhem (dodgy) and purple (spammy), but I got good contacts only on starnow.
1x: I tried the new beta, but while I liked the idea of a curated web site, I didn’t like the execution. First the curators are basically the users as far as I understood, second with the limit to upload 1 photo at week, which is very likely to not pass the curation, seems just a harsh way to spill money from the users. Useless.
500px: I don’t share on it anymore, but it’s a good place to find inspiration!
Flickr: used to use this to share high quality photos with models and friends, but eventually found out that people find dropbox easier to use.
Pinterest: I use it only as a platform to gather, collect and organize visual resources. It’s actually great for this purpose.
Any Stock Photo website: I don’t use any. With so many photographers in the world, using a stock photo to make money is just probably a way to drive yourself mad. I guess it makes sense only if photography is a full time work. Do you have comments about this?
Behance: didn’t find a real purpose for this yet. Probably doesn’t really have one unless you are famous professional photographer.
Gurushots: I like this game, it’s easy to play and you don’t need to pay to win (sort of, at least I won one competition without paying). It’s great if you don’t have any inspiration at the moment. Try to stop the urge to post photos from your archive (it would be boring) and go get fresh photos to partecipate to each context. It’s a great way to make new projects!
LensCulture website: 1/3 pretentious, 1/3 rip off. I go there for the other 1/3, which is looking photos of some very talented photographers around the world. I do like the personal projects interface though. I have created a profile and I like to create projects there.
Blur Magazine: If you think photography is art, Blur magazine will help you to find new artists around the world. It’s very well made.
Burn Magazine: like above. A bit pretentious sometimes, but still resourceful.
F-stop Magazine: and the last one I actively follow. Obviously as there are million of photographers around the world, probably there are thousands of similar resources, so don’t try to find them all :). These are just the ones I decided to stick with. F-Stop also is a great resource to keep up to date with the latest competitions around the world.
Landscape Photography Magazine: if you are a Landscape junkie, LPM is the best resource I found out there.
World Press Photo: If you love reportage photo, WPP is the best for me. Would love to collect all the WPP issues made so far.
Phlearn: Incredibly resourceful web site to learn various post processing techniques. The guy who runs it is very talented and know what he is doing. There are a lot of free resources as well.
Photzy: Ok there are hundreds of web sites and thousands of thousands of tutorials out there. You really don’t need to read them all :). However I have to say, one book from Kent DuFault has been quite useful for me (Understanding Composition). Careful though, other stuff can be rubbish (was for me).
That’s it, the list of resources I use or used the most. Only one thing I want to add to conclude, photography is one of those subjects that can suck you in a vortex of never ending learning. Learning and confrontation is necessary, but it doesn’t make any sense without practice, practice and more practice! The learning order should be: learn your tools, then the visual theory, then how to convey your ideas and eventually the physiological aspects of photography. This is the learning path that eventually would take you to understand when a photo is good or not, regardless the purely technical principles involved.