How to Unleash Your Inner Photographer

Do your friends often tell you that your photographs are so good you should become a professional? Do you sometimes stare blankly at the pages of National Geographic and hear a voice inside your head that says, “I can do better than that!”? Do you post on Instagram more than 70 times a week? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, read on—and unleash the master picture-taker that’s lurking in your soul.

This series of exercises is guaranteed to help you become the photographer you know you want to be.

Exercise #1
For the first drill you need a sheet of white paper 8x10 or larger (common copy paper is okay), an envelope, a $10 bill and a $20 bill.

Place the sheet of paper on a flat surface in front of you so that the long edge is parallel to your aura. If you’re unsure which direction your aura runs, align the paper so that it’s perpendicular to the axis of your navel. Set the envelope somewhere near it.

Carefully arrange the $10 bill on the paper in a location you find aesthetically pleasing. Do the same thing with the larger denomination bill.

How does it look? It’s okay if the banknotes touch (or even completely overlap) but if they extend off the edge of the paper you must set these materials aside and repeat the exercise using different bills. No coloring outside the lines!

If the collage you’ve created has the photo of a queen staring back at you, you obviously live in Canada and must redo the drill using larger denomination bills (try a $50 and a $100).

If you thought you could get away with using a quarter and a dime instead of paper money, shame on you; you must be thinking in circles. You’ll never amount to much photographically. Better stick to collecting Beanie Babies or building popsicle stick replicas of famous landmarks.

Once the layout satisfies your inner artistic maven, carefully fold the paper into three sections while observing the Rule of Thirds. Place your creation in the envelope and write the following on the front: Famous Fotographer School, PO Box 777, Bratislava, EU, 801. In seven to ten weeks you’ll receive a detailed analysis from our panel of experts.

Exercise #2
For the second exercise you need the following: a dog or cat, a ratty-looking sofa, at least 8 oz. of bourbon, Scotch or corn whisky (more is okay) and a camera.

Coax the critter onto the couch, set your camera on Auto and take five or six shots, all the while being careful not to spill any. After drinking, wipe your mouth and begin photographing the animal. If the images are sharp, sip more bourbon and wait 20 minutes.

Hipsters may substitute large quantities of red wine (a nice Bordeaux from the Baron Philippe de Rothschild chateau works well), handmade small-batch vodka or a 32 oz. Charred Pineapple Mojito. Some students have completed this lesson using small, fuzzy rodents with reasonable success.

Post the best 100 images on your Facebook page. For extra credit, students can include a selfie holding the animal. If the beast is wearing an I Heart NY sweater or a Coach collar, award yourself ten bonus points. If you and your pet are wearing matching I Heart NY sweaters or Coach collars, award yourself 100 points. If you happened to caption any of the images by writing, “Want to see a picture of my baby?” give yourself 1,000 points—the test is over for you; you’ve graduated.

Are you beginning to feel your inner photographer leaking out? Are you feeling anything leaking out? Don’t quit now—you’re almost there.

Pop Quiz
We now move to the written portion of this introspective, artistic self-exploration. Choose the correct answer.

Photomic FTn was: 1. A secret weapon developed by Austin Powers  2. The name of the submarine used in several Jules Verne novels  3. A Nikon F body with an attached match-needle metering finder sold during the 1960s

Leica is: 1. Fuzzy green patches that grow on rocks and some roof shingles  2. The name of the dog who lived on the Goose Bar Ranch in Wyoming on the 1950s My Friend Flicka television series  3. An old camera that originally used leftover 35mm movie film scraps

Macro means: 1. A handicraft that weaves knots and ties string into useless shapes often seen at flea markets  2. Name of the street in the Akihabara district in Tokyo where Mac computers are sold  3. An expensive form of close-up photography

Tripod is: 1. What a vegan says to his family while offering ginger-glazed snow peas  2. An extinct three-legged animal that prevailed during the Jurassic period  3. The original image stabilizing technology

Canon Rebel is: 1. Transposed name of weapon used by the Confederate army during the Civil War  2. A camera company owned by Alex Agassi  3. One of the very few cameras that kept the same family name while evolving from film to digital

The Advanced Photo System (APS) was: 1. One of the cruelest jokes ever played on the American public  2. A major ingredient in Kodak’s collapse  3. Both of the above

Spiratone was the brand name for: 1. A mechanical drawing device for children  2. The Technicolor version of the Etch-a-Sketch  3. Popular photo accessories including a lens that could shoot offset 90-degrees (i.e., around corners)

Zenza Bronica was: 1. Maiden name of Mick Jagger’s first wife  2. A topical corticosteroid that is used to combat athlete’s foot fungus  3. A 6x6 film camera used by people who couldn’t afford a Hasselblad

EPOI is an abbreviation for: 1. The electronic version of a starchy, native Hawaiian food staple  2. The highest grade of French brandy (Extra Pale Old Intoxicant)  3. The first importer/distributor of Nikon camera products (Ehrenreich Photo-Optical Industries)

Shutterbug means: 1. Digital camera virus that causes underexposure  2. An insect (genus cameratos aficionados) that shivers and quakes when exposed to polarized light  3. The world’s finest source of photographic information, inspiration and (hopefully) humor

Subtract five points for every time you choose answer number one or two. Add five points for every time you selected choice number three. If your total score is zero or lower, congratulations, you’re normal—but not much of a camera nut. If you scored between zero and 25, dump your mirrorless camera, buy a Nikon D5 and prepare yourself to stand among the greats in the photography hall of fame. If you scored a perfect 50, heaven help you—you’re one of us.

—Jon Sienkiewicz