Tyler Shields on Learning Photography from a YouTuber vs. a Photographer

YouTube holds a wealth of information for budding photographers, but it’s also worth being more critical of what you’re learning to improve your craft.

The Internet, especially YouTube, has been a both a blessing and a curse for those who want to acquire new skills or get better of what they do. With the sheer volume of tutorials we can access with just a few clicks, it’s possible to learn everything there is to know about photography. However, the esteemed Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker Tyler Shields cautions us about the information we’re taking in, and who creates it. In a short video, he explains why we need to be able to differentiate between a YouTuber and a Photographer, and how it can make the learning experience more meaningful.

We’re living in a strange time for creative industries like photography. Almost anyone with a camera or a smartphone can call themselves a photographer. Everyone can make YouTube videos of their “behind the scenes” and “photography tutorials.” Add to that the pressure to garner a significant following on social media and you have a really complicated (and toxic, even) environment to practice photography. This reality is perhaps what led Tyler to categorize people tinkering with cameras into two: YouTubers and Photographers. He talks about this succinctly in the short video below:

The point here is not to demean photographers who are making YouTube videos on the side. Rather, it’s for the audience to be more critical of what they’re learning and who they’re learning from. Before we take in someone’s tips and tricks, it’s important to first find the answer to this simple question: is this photographer doing actual, quality work or is it just pure social media work?

“There’s a lot of photographers on YouTube who are maybe not the greatest photographers but they’re a great YouTubers. And you have to be very careful about what type of advice you take from a YouTuber versus taking it from a photographer,” Tyler explains.

Bottomline? Take a look at a photographer’s portfolio. Figure out whether they’re making high-quality work regularly. See if what they do as a photographer is aligned with what you want to learn. Do not get caught up in the numbers — their subscribers, likes, followers, and sponsored posts. All these do not make someone legit — it’s their work. Always.

Visit Tyler Shields’ website or check out our previous features of his work and you’ll see where he’s coming from.

Lead Image from Tyler Shields used courtesy in our Historical Fiction Feature