How I learned about photography
While I still have plenty of room for improvement in the area of photography, I have to say that I’ve come a long way since the old days of just picking up a camera and hoping for the best. Sadly, that was my actual approach until about 12 years ago.
To be fair, I didn’t have any education about photography back then, a lousy camera - and it wasn't always in my pocket. There were even a few years in the early days of our marriage when I didn't have a camera because ours broke and we were too poor to buy a new one. When my kids came along, they weren't very patient with being photographed and I didn't spend a lot of time on trying to change that.
When I started to become interested in photography, the only photo editing "app" I had ever heard of was a computer program called Microsoft Digital Image and I didn't even use it for photos because I had just barely made the switch to a digital camera and I didn't really understand it yet. It was a lowly 2 megapixel and the quality was lousy. I've gone through a lot of cameras and phones since then and I have to say that I have learned and re-learned how to be a photographer many times over. And I am still learning! So where did it all start? Glad you asked!
The first step: DESIRE
I truly believe this is the first requirement on any learning journey. If you don't have the desire for more knowledge, you won't really pursue it. You might dabble here and there, but if you want to improve a skill, you have to work at it and that takes persistence and desire.
For me, it happened when I found the online world of scrapbooking. I had been a scrapbooker for a long time, but in 2005 it all changed when I found forums, galleries, and blogs. That was the year I started digital scrapbooking and also started my own blog (still here today!). I had seen beautiful photography on scrapbook layouts in magazines but always just figured that was something other people could do - not me. I didn't have a nice camera. After hanging out in some online communities, I was encouraged to find TONS of inspiration and ideas that I could implement. I wanted to improve so I soaked up any tips I could find.
Next up: EQUIPMENT
While I often say "it's not about the camera" when I talk about photography, there is a basic level where it is about the camera. You can be a very talented photographer, but a 2 megapixel digital camera from 2005 isn't going to take you very far. Either is an entry level iPhone from 2007. Thankfully, those arguments don't really apply anymore. Many people have fabulous cameras with them all the time right in their pocket because of the advancements made in smart phone technology. Even with camera companies struggling to compete, there has never been a better time to shoot with a camera. The technology is just top notch. Point and shoots are great. DSLRs are awesome and now there are even newer options like mirrorless DSLR cameras. Not to mention tripods, lenses, and all sorts of fancy accessories. It's a great time to be a photographer!
Here are some great resources to learn about the many types of camera (and smartphone) equipment available now:
STUDY and LEARN
I’ve read articles, taken online classes, followed blogs, and talked to friends about what works and doesn't work for them. There are so many resources that it is really quite overwhelming. I guess it was an advantage that when I started out that there weren't as many? It has taken a village to turn me into a photographer, and the cool thing is that most of that “village” is accessible to anyone with an internet connection! Here are the resources that have made the biggest impact on my learning:
- Shooting with Soul
- Capture Your 365
- Becky Higgins photo tips
- Digital Photography School
- DIY Photography
- Peta Pixel
- Scott Kelby
- 5000 photo ideas
- Make pictures
I actually don’t follow a lot of “Photographer Blogs” because I’m not interested in just seeing the results of professional photo shoots. I really like blogs that are about something or someone that I”m interested in that ALSO feature beautiful photography. Find the photos that inspire you and study them. Look at the composition and pay attention to the lighting and subject matter. What do you like about those images?
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
That makes the biggest difference! Take TONS of pictures. Just keep snapping away because you are bound to get some good ones. Also, don’t just focus on the posed pictures, take lots of “in the moment” shots of people visiting, hugging, playing games, napping, etc. Those are the ones I usually like the best. Constant practice is the most valuable advice I can give anyone who wants to improve their photography skills. That's why I say if you want to be a better photographer, you should do this one thing every day.
There is no way I can cover this topic in one post. There are no magic formulas to ensure that your pictures will be better, but I promise if you try a few things you will notice improvement right away.
- Make sure your camera is set correctly. You don't have to use all the fancy buttons, just be sure it is on the proper automatic settings. Look in your manual or find an online manual for your camera and double check that you are using it correctly. I shoot a lot of pictures on auto setting (no flash) on my DSLR and I constantly use the "easy" setting on my point and shoot.
- Same goes for your phone. There aren't a lot of settings to fuss with, but take some time to understand what all the buttons do and learn about how to make the most of the camera features.
- Explore photo editing apps! These are my very favorite photo apps. Learn how to edit your photos and take advantage of the great programs that are available. This is how I edit all of my photos.
- It's not about the camera (for the most part) - it's about holding still, aiming carefully, and paying attention to light and background. Those simple steps make all the difference.
- Lighting really is a big deal so study up a bit and don't use your flash unless you have to. Really, I mean it on the flash thing. Unless you have awesome flash equipment like the pros. Try this simple tip for nice natural lighting.
- Get closer to your subject. Fill the frame with your subject. Move closer in instead of using the zoom (especially on point and shoot cameras).
- Take several pictures of the same thing when possible. Rarely do you ever get the perfect shot by clicking only once. Practice makes perfect so you might as well increase your odds by taking a few extras. You can always delete them if you want.
A great photo draws the viewer into the page and gets their attention. They long to know the story behind it especially if the photo is captivating or well composed. Pleasing photography is beautiful. Sure you can just grab your camera and hope that once in a while you will get a good shot, but why not put just a little time and effort into improving your photography skills? You will see the difference!