You read your manual, right? Okay, but you’re going to, right? As discussed in Part I of how to get great photos from whatever camera you’re currently holding in your hand, reading the manual is crucial. You may not learn a lot about photography from the manual, but knowing what the buttons and dials do will go a long way in helping the end result. And the cheaper the camera, the more you need to know about its operation. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s proceed.
Sadly, I’ve had several regretful moments with my photography. Regret in the sense I didn’t take a picture of something that on hindsight was a monumental highlight either during a trip, or some event that would never be repeated. Such as, you ask? Such as the time I negotiated for 2 days with a carpet factory owner on the 6,000 year old Silk Road in Kashgar, China for a hand-tied silk rug, and left without a picture of the three of us – me, him, and the rug.
The rug now hangs in my study. It’s stunning; the back almost as beautiful as the front because of the tapestry effect created by all those tiny knots. I’ve got the receipt from the purchase. I’ve got the story of the owner inquiring of my hotel information from the tour guide my son and I were with that day and contacting me directly at the room (would NOT happen anywhere else in the world). And how my son and I negotiated like we’d done it a thousand times before. And how we had to accumulate enough cash for the purchase over a 3 day period and then used most of our U.S. dollars in the end because we ran out of time. And how we traveled to the factory that day with 6,300 Yuan on us, stuffed into every nook of our backpacks and clothing. And were 1,000 Yuan short and knew we’d have to negotiate like our lives depended on it, or head to our next destination with all that cash. I have all that. But I don’t have a picture of kind, sweet “Andy” who hadn’t seen a tourist in months, whose family was depending on that sale from the Americans for sustenance, whose face indicated we’d reached his bottom-dollar when I told him all I had was 6,300 Yuan (at that point, I actually wished I had more to give him). I missed that opportunity. Maybe I was just so thrilled to be the owner of a future family heirloom with such a great story behind it. I’d told myself I’d be purchasing nothing, that the trip itself, with my beloved son, was enough. Maybe we were in a hurry to catch the train to our next destination since we’d checked out of our hotel. Maybe I was just relieved the exhilarating and exhausting process was over and that I had the rug and Andy had a sale. Maybe, maybe, maybe.
My advice in this post is simple: Don’t let regrets happen. Shoot a LOT. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel guilty or silly for taking a lot of pictures or for always having a camera on you. Those family gatherings where no one wants to pose for more than 1 second? Make them stand still for longer. This is not to say there are times when a camera is disrespectful or inappropriate, or downright not allowed. I’m not talking about those times. Trip that shutter a lot. If you do that, you’ll reduce the regrets, and guess what? Your photography will improve.