Beginning and novice photographers often attempt to race up the learning curve as fast as possible. Today, using digital imaging technologies, the learning curve has been exedited, sometimes producing better and better photography from less and less experienced photographers... sometimes, that is.
Back in the day, most student photographers learned with 35mm film SLRs. Given today's technologies, that was probably the worst and most difficult way to learn. Why? Because of the lag time--sometimes days, sometimes weeks--between snapping a shutter and seeing the results. Sure, some students used cameras with Polaroid backs and doing so helped them immensely through the learning process. But many of us didn't have cameras with Polaroid backs and we plodded along, capturing images and waiting to see the results. Often, by the time we saw those results, we'd forgotten how we captured them.
So that's today's good news for people learning photography. The not-so-good news is that many new(ish) photographers, hoping to ramp up their skills, rely too heavily on the so-called "creative mode" functions of their digital cameras, i.e., they attack the learning curve as auto-shooters. (And I ain't talking about photographing automobiles. D'uh.)
Whenever I'm helping someone learn the art and craft of pretty girl shooting, the first thing I tell them is to set their cameras on "M" and learn how to manipulate exposure and color and depth of field and all that stuff. In other words, to put themselves in control of the images. Truly, that's the path new photographers need to take if they hope to become competent photographers: As pretty girl shooters or photographers of any other genre. While light meters are extremely helpful, you don't absolutely need a meter to accomplish this. Taking the time to learn how to bracket and to read a histogram might be a bit more tedious than taking meter readings, but you'll learn so much more when you--not hardware-designing, algorithm-writing, camera engineers--are in control of what you see in your viewfinder.
The pretty-girl jail-house guard at the top is Maya. MUA was Lee Garland. I captured this image of Maya a few weeks ago using my Canon 5D with a Canon 28-135 IS USM. ISO 100 f/5.6 @ 125. Three light sources were employed: A 5' Photoflex Octodome (for the main) and two edge lights working behind her from either side, one of them modified with a Chimera medium strip soft box and the other with a small, silver, umbrella. I hit Maya a little harder than usual with the edge lights as I wanted to really "pop" her off that dull, concrete block wall. If I ever have to go to jail for something I didn't do (I'm innocent, I tell ya!), I can only hope someone like Maya is assigned as my guard!