Dan Dooley Photography
Non Expert Photography for Non Expert Photographers

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An Introduction

Let me start by stating emphatically that I am no photography expert. I have had some photography training and some years of experience with photography as a hobby. When does training and experience alone make one an expert? It does not. What then qualifies me to even begin such a bold and presumptuous work? What can I, an avowed non-expert, offer anyone seeking to gain an understanding of the art and science of photography? I won't answer that directly but will let the material presented here answer for itself.

First off, a little background and an explanation as to what prompted me to begin this work. I think I come to photography genetically. My mother was a prolific picture taker. I use the term "picture taker" rather than "photographer" to describer her and the majority of camera users. There is a difference. I do believe that there is a little bit of the photographer gene within any picture taker. What else would prompt anyone to pick up a camera? Any picture taker has within them the makings of a photographer. Some will make the transition. Others will not. My mom was one who never did.

My mother recorded every event within the life of us kids and the family. She never really considered artistic appeal in her pictures. She stood us kids up in our Sunday wear and told us to be still and smile while she pointed the camera at us and, "click." She took no note of background distractions, depth of field (uh oh, I've tossed in a technical term there which you may ignore for now) or composition. She thought nothing of balance in her pictures. Neither did she consider beauty or artistic appeal. My family never went on scenic holiday trips and if we had, chances are she would not have thought about shooting a majestic mountain vista or the preverbal babbling brook. If she had, she would have lined us kids up against the backdrop and, "click." Her intent would not to capture the beauty of the scene, but rather create a memory of, or record of, our trip.

Once the developed prints (oh, did I mention that these pictures were all black and white?) came back from the drug store processor, she would write notes on the back of them and send them by Post to extended family members living in different parts of the country. It would be just like her to comment on the back of a picture taken against the majesty of the Grand Teton Mountains (had we ever gone there), "Charlotte has on her new shoes we bought for this trip", or "Dannie is not smiling in this one." Yes, that is exactly what she would have noted. The mountain scenery would have simply been for the purpose of the picture, a handy backdrop. Don't misunderstand me, she would have certainly recognized and appreciated the beauty of the setting and chances are she would have shot a picture or two of it. You see, her intent was to capture the event and chronicle the growth of us kids through years of growth and to provide a means of sharing the images of the kids, other family members and family events with others.

I think I picked up the picture taker or "recorder" gene from her. For a lot of years that was what my photography amounted to. Though I strove for some sense of artistic appeal in my pictures, the primary motivation for shooting was to record events, scenes and memories. There is certainly nothing wrongwith that aspect of photography. I have no doubt that many more photos are made for the purpose of recording events than are made for the purpose of artistic expression. By the way, do you recognize the car in the picture?

Yes, that's me with two of my sisters.
Don't judge our ages by the age of the car.

I did attend a photography school many years ago. At the time I had aspirations of taking up photography for a living. Who hasn't had such aspirations? I soon discovered that everybody and his brother had the same idea. It was very much like Web design now. Everyone believes that they have a talent for Web site design and can make a living at it. Just like photography, an incredibly small percentage will succeed commercially. Maybe one percent? Perhaps not even that. I did not want to do wedding photography and I certainly did not want to end up shooting for Santa while kids sat on his lap. It is enough to enjoy it as a hobby. Once your hobby becomes your work, the enjoyment which made it a hobby to start with quickly fades away. No offense intended for anyone who wants to either earn a little extra money or even an entire living wage shooting weddings or babies for your local department store. I simply do not personally receive any gratification from that field of photography.

Though I believe I learned much from my formal training, I tended to ignore in practice much of what I learned. I understood the technicalities but more often than not in my photography I did not put the techniques to work which would have resulted in my own advancement within the field. The old and very true adage is, what you don't use, you lose. From long disuse, I ended up forgetting much of what I had learned and I failed to make the best of my photographic efforts. Within the last couple of years I have made a conscious effort dig out and dust off the old skills and knowledge and put them all to work. At this point in my photographic "career" I proudly cling to the title of non-expert. Whether I ever am able to claim expert status remains to be seen. In the mean time, I, like all of you reading this, am working to become better at this art form.

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Dan W. Dooley