It was last summer when I bought my Canon XSi camera. At this time a year ago, I was pretty convinced that simply by having this SLR camera, I’d suddenly become a much sought after, talented photographer, simply because I had a fancy pants camera. That hasn’t been the case exactly, though I do think that THE CAMERA itself has helped my photography.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the past year.
1. It’s very difficult to devote much time to photography when you have two very small children.
I have heard over and over again that I should carry my camera with me at ALL times. This is just NOT possible for me. With two not yet independent children, a purse stuffed with juice boxes, snacks, diapers, and toys, and the fact that I only have two measly hands, I find it difficult to add a fra-gee-lay camera and lenses to the mix. When I do take my camera along, it’s hard to watch Carson, whose running in one direction while I’m trying to take a picture of Ella who is running in the opposite direction. Also, I always feel like I’m irritating others simply for trying to shoot some pictures or for taking TOO LONG to take the photos, like “hurry up already and take the picture!”
It takes time to become a good photographer and time is just something that I don’t seem to have enough of.
2. Most good photographs have been edited to become GREAT photographs.
This is also related to the time suck that is photography because HOLY HOURS SPENT UPLOADING AND EDITING! Before actually owning my camera, I had no idea that the photographs I admired didn’t just magically turn out that way, but that most were edited with some sort of software.
If there were just about 14 more hours added to each day, I’d have time to edit the hundreds of pictures I take and learn how to really use my photo editing software. I’m just starting to understand and use actions for my pitiful editing software, Photoshop Elements. There are dozens of sites that offer free actions, or a series of edits that make a photo all purdy like when editing with one of the many Photoshop softwares. Coffee Shop Photography and The Pioneer Woman are two sites that offer free actions to download.
I think this is a good time to mention my love for vignettes. True love always.
3. Photography is a very expensive hobby.
What I want and cannot have because I want to be able to feed my children: 24-70mm lens f2.8, 50mm f1.4, Photoshop CS4, Canon Speedlight Flash…(there are many other lenses and software that I’d like, but these are at the top of my never-going-to-get wishlist)
One great way to test out new camera equipment is to rent it from a local photo store or to find a place online that offers rentals. I’ve rented from Pro Photo Rental and that is what made me fall in love with the 24-70mm lens.
4. To even begin to take a great photo, you MUST understand your camera.
**Understand aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These are known collectively as the “exposure triangle.” A great reference that I’ve found invaluable is the book, Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.
**Get your camera out of Auto Mode. I shoot almost exclusively with my camera in Manual mode, occasionally I’ll put the camera in AV (aperture priority) or TV (shutter speed priority) mode. When I just want to get a shot and I don’t really care about the picture being “artistic” is the only time I put my camera in Auto mode. This post by Aimee from Greeblemonkey is also very helpful in explaining how to take photos with your camera in Manual mode.
**Shoot in RAW (vs. JPEG). Shooting in RAW format requires software on your computer capable of reading this type of file, but RAW files can be edited far more easily than a JPEG file and gives you much greater control over how your final photograph can look.
**Use Custom White Balance. Because I don’t how else to better explain it, it’s something easily fixed during editing if the photo was taken with your camera set for Custom White Balance.
5. Use Flickr to share photos and get inspiration
Flickr, For the Love of god I Can’t Kwit looking at pictRs. See also: Time suck.
But seriously, there are zillions of groups where you can submit your photos, some of them are merely for showing off great shots, others are for receiving feedback and constructive criticism. Oh hi! I’m a spineless wienie who only submits my photos to places where I’m sure nobody is going to say anything negative.
6. I have SO MUCH to learn
Here are some links to various and sundry sites that I’ve found useful and/or inspirational this past year…
**7 Photography Questions podcast. I like this podcast because they use words I understand and explain things so that novices like myself get it.