Now that the Holidays are upon us and retailers have been talking about Black Friday for the past six weeks, people are sure to be getting some kind of tech gear as gifts. One of the items that’s usually missing is training on how to use all of that new stuff. There’s also the tendency to believe that training beyond the Getting Started cheat sheet is all you need. Well, if you’re simply going to be consuming media, like setting up a new HDTV that may be true. However, if you are going to be creating digital content, you need some type of training to get the most benefit from your new gear. Whether it is hardware or software here are a few points to consider when looking for training opportunities.
The first and probably most important is; “What do I really want to know and what do I want to do?” This seems so basic that it’s usually overlooked as an important factor when looking into training. As an example I’ll use photo gear. Say you get a new fancy camera and you want to know more about photography and Photoshop (or another photo editing software). Photography and photo editing software are two different things. They’re closely related, yes, but different. So first begin by learning something about photography. The best way is by looking at photographs. I my opinion, the best way to look at photographs is photography books. Not tech books but image books. During this process you’ll begin to determine the kinds of photography you enjoy. Once you get into that, start emulating those photos you like looking at. This will also help you determine when you’re successful and when you’re not. It may seem odd, but the bad photos you make will teach you more than the good ones will.
Next, let’s look at photo editing software. As with the photography aspects, start with the basics. Become familiar with the software’s interface. Learn how to open, save and close a photo file Learn the difference between cropping and re-sizing an image file. Find out how to make a photo lighter and darker. Believe it or not, that’s all you need to get going, don’t worry about getting too fancy just yet. Also, most software packages now have tutorials built in for beginners.
With these initial steps you’re ready to really start looking for training. Basically, there are two types of training free and paid. Within these two types there’s live and online training. Let’s start with free training. Start by enlisting the help of a photographer friend to give you guidance. Go on a photo walk for about one hour, take a break like having lunch on you. Then spend another hour going over the photos you both captured. If you don’t have a photo friend, find a local Meet Up or User Groups. Go to a couple of meetings and see what happens. Both of these live methods, as with all things social, can either be fun or a drag. But one thing for certain they’re both a slow way to learn. But if you’re not in a hurry, then that okay.
Free online options aren’t as social but they allow you to move quickly through the material because you can go at your own pace. You also have the option to bail completely if you don’t like what you’re experiencing. A good place to start is the web site of the folks whose gear you own. Most manufactures have a separate Learn section on their web sites that have video tips and techniques on using their products. Many of these manufacturers also have an active social media presence that you can follow. If you’re on LinkedIn or Google+ you can usually find unofficial groups and forums for the gear you own.
When paying for training remember, a paid option doesn’t mean it’s automatically a good option. What this means is you really need to do your homework before you enroll. If you’re a photographer you may not want to get Photoshop training from a person who’s a graphic or web designer. Check online for local software training centers, art centers, continuing education programs, libraries and museums. Also conferences like Photo Plus Expo, Imaging USA, and Photoshop World are excellent opportunities for live training.
Finally, one of the best paid options out there is lynda.com. For $25 a month you have access to there entire library 3,145 courses with more than 100,000 video tutorials. If it’s just photography training you’re looking for check out KelbyOne. While the training offerings aren’t as deep as Lynda.com, and you’re looking to learn Photoshop and othr Adobe family of Photoshop products while putting an edge on your photography skills, KelbyOne will not disappoint.
So, look into learning more than the basics of your photography tech gear with some training. No matter what level you’re on there’s a training outlet that will increase the enjoyment of your creative vision. I’ve put together a resource cheat sheet you can download here.