Getting Started

About Outdoor Photo Academy

Outdoor Photo Academy is a site I created to give aspiring photographers a path to learn photography. Rather than being a collection of tips by different photographers, it is one perspective that takes you from start to finish in learning to take great pictures.

There are a million videos and blogs with photography tips, but this can result in a hodge-podge of conflicting advice that confuses you. Here you’ll get one perspective presented as simply as possible that walks you through the entire process (not that I expect you to slavishly follow it). You can fill it in with other tips after that.

The idea here is also to make things simple and understandable, no matter your photography level. We will ignore technical aspects of photography that don’t actually result in better pictures. Others seem to revel in this technical stuff, but it just results in sharper snapshots, which isn’t what you should be after.

We’ll also keep the advice practical and concrete. Lots of photography advice you might hear is just vague and mushy “artist-speak.” That won’t help anything. You need practical and understandable advice to create real results.

So that’s what this is all about. Now let’s get you started using the site. Doing that will depend on your level in photography.

For Beginners

If you are reasonably new to photography, I don’t want you to start with this site at all. Rather, you should start with my book Getting Started in Photography. Check it out here:

That may seem rather self-serving, but it is important and you’ll be happy you did it. Don’t take my word for it; read the reviews. This book will get you up to speed fast. It should only take you a couple of days to read. Once you do, you’ll be equipped to understand everything here and make the most of it.

Once you have done that, come back here and start filling in areas you want to learn more about. You might start with this introduction to landscape photography (even if that isn’t your primary focus). The reason is that it has a lot of links to other articles throughout the site.

Exposure

Once you are beyond the basics in the book, I suggest you spend some time mastering the exposure process. This is an area people often skimp on nowadays, since cameras are so sophisticated, but if you aren’t in complete control of the exposure process you aren’t in control of anything.

This is an area worthy of your attention. There are so many effects that are controlled with the exposure controls. You are probably aware of things like depth of field, but there are also effects you can create like light trails, starbursts, etc. Take control by diving into the articles on exposure here:

Composition

The next big area where you can really improve quickly is composition. This will do more to improve your photos than anything, and it is where I find most people’s problems actually lay.

To help you get started, I have created a three-part series with a process for approaching composition. They are:

  1. The Critical Importance of Composition in Photography.
  2. A Framework for Composing Your Pictures.
  3. Composing Back to Front: The Best Approach to Your Compositions.

I suggest you work through these first. That will create an overall framework and you can fill in from there. Once you do, the remainder of the composition articles are here:

Processing

Finally, if you aren’t already, I suggest you master the basics of photo processing. This sometimes makes beginners uncomfortable – as if it is somehow cheating – but it is just how things get done. There are no serious photographers out there who aren’t using processing to their photos. You should too.

You have options but the best software package is the Adobe Photography Plan, which gets you the power and simplicity of Lightroom – which you’ll use most of the time – along with the beast that is Photoshop. Get that and then enjoy these articles:

One more thing on processing. If you are totally new to Lightroom, I created a free mini-course to get you up and running in an hour. Start with that. If you want to advance your Lightroom skills, I have a Lightroom course offered at Digital Photography School.

Gear and Other

Photography depends on gear, so it definitely matters. At the same time, it drastically overrated in how much it really improves your pictures. So I avoid any specific product reviews and such. In addition, things change pretty fast, so what gets written today is obsolete in just a few months.

Here is how I suggest you approach gear. For beginners, use one of the setups recommended in my book. Work with that for a while and, when you think you’ve outgrown it, first think again, but then come back to these articles on gear to help you mull your big upgrade. These articles will help you understand what is important and what isn’t. That way when you dive into the specifics you’ll know what you are looking at.

In the end, get the camera and gear you need, but then start using it and don’t look back. Great photography is much more about technique than it is about gear.

Courses

Along the way, if you want to take your photography to another level, I have developed 3 courses that are designed to drastically improve your photography in as short a time as possible.  I created them with Digital Photography School and they are hosted on that site.  The courses follow the same three key areas as mentioned above. They are:

  • 31 Days to Get Off Auto
  • 31 Days to Better Compositions
  • 31 Days to Better Processing

(I will add the links as the courses get published. These are all a comprehensive expansion of my popular 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer class).

Each of these courses consists of 12-15 videos that cover a discrete element that will make your photography better. Each lesson ends with a photo assignment, designed for you to put the concepts into practice.  The final key part of the course is an online discussion group (through Facebook) where you can get feedback, ask questions, or just look at what others are doing in the class.  That has proven to be most people’s favorite part of the course.  You also get access to a lot of my time, and I spend a lot of time answering questions and giving pointers.

These classes start with a lot of the concepts you’ll see here, but take it further.  Give them a try. There is a money-back guarantee if you don’t like them (but you will).

Tours

Finally, for a select few who want to turbo charge their photography and at the same time have the experience of a lifetime, I also offer photography tours.  These are photography trips to places I specialize in.  My focus is Ireland and France because I love them both and have been to each so many times. But I also offer tours to other places as well.

My tours are much different than others.  We don’t stay in cheap hotels and we don’t skimp on anything.  These tours are designed for those that want the trip of a lifetime that also includes photography.  I will put you in the most scenic spots possible to capture great photos.  But we’ll also have fun enjoying the locations, learning the culture, enjoying great meals, and relaxing.  You are equally likely to end the day in a pub enjoying traditional music as you are standing on a scenic vista behind a tripod. Check out my Tours page for more info.

Using This Site

Thanks for reading this overview of my site and what I have to offer. I hope this introduction gets you started. I have detailed menus at the top and bottom of each page to help you find everything as well.

I write additional articles for this site as the muse strikes me. However, if there are topics that you have questions about or would like to see, don’t be shy about sending me an email. I respond to 100% of the messages I get. I’m happy to help however I can.