Because of some questions and comments I have had recently about my photographs, I wanted to share some things that have helped me when it comes to photography.
Let me preface by telling you that I am simply a mom who years ago fell in love with capturing my children on camera. My knowledge of the technical side of photography is very limited and every picture is a work in progress.
I am 13 days into the challenge I placed upon myself to take a picture every day for the next 365 days. As each day goes by, I am more and more surprised at what I am learning. Trust me, there is a whole lot of trial and error going on, but I am really enjoying the challenge so far.
So, here are just some little bits of advice from me to you...
1.) Before buying a camera... do your RESEARCH! If you admire a friend or family member's photographs, talk to them and find out what kind of camera they are using and what they like and dislike about it. Find a camera store that is going to guide you in making the right decision based on what you are looking for in a camera. You need to know what you want to do with your camera so you can be prepared in making a decision that in the end, you will be very pleased with. For those of you who asked, I have a Nikon D60. I also use a 35 mm lens which allows me to open up the aperture to 1.8. This allows a whole lot of light to come through the lens and it also creates the blurry background (bokah) that I LOVE!
2.) Read your manual. Read it over and over again, because I promise the more you familiarize yourself with your camera, the better your pictures will be. I have also found Pioneer Woman's photography site to be very helpful as well as The Digital Photography School. The DPS has some basic and easy to understand tutorials about aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings, and exposure. I have them printed off so that I have something on hand to refer to. So, READ, READ, READ!
3.) PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!! The more you have your hands on your camera and your eye behind the lens, the more comfortable you are going to be in taking pictures. I can't believe how much more comfortable I am after 13 days of taking pictures. While I took pictures all the time before, there is something to be said for taking pictures on a daily basis. I said it before, and I will say it again, take pictures of anything! Over the last week, I have taken pictures of shoes laying by our front door, chopped up celery and green onions, the dishes in our cupboards, my son looking in the refrigerator, a box of cereal, and well, you can see the rest here. My point is... Take pictures!
4.) Stop using the "auto-focus" mode. Sounds intimidating perhaps, but I guarantee once you get the hang of using your other settings, you won't go back. Your pictures are going to look so much different and better. The only time I am using the "auto-focus" setting these days are when I don't have time to take several pictures or because I want to be absolutely positive that I am getting a picture that is going to be focused and capturing the moment or event - like Christmas morning when the kids were opening their gifts. Refer back to your manual or other resources so that you have a real understanding of your other settings and how they work. Each setting is going to give you a different result so, when you are taking a picture, ask yourself what you are wanting to capture or create? Play around with the settings and familiarize yourself with how they work. Practice taking a picture of an object on each setting so you can begin to understand what the results will be in the end. Most of the time I have my camera set on aperture priority mode ("A" setting on a Nikon). The majority of the pictures I take are of my children, so I want to be able to control the area that is going to be in focus and the amount of light that enters through the lens. If I were taking pictures of my kids at a sporting event or another moving object, I would use the shutter priority mode ("S").
5.) I am learning more and more that great light makes great photographs. Pay attention to the sun, lighting in your home, or wherever you are taking pictures because it has a huge impact on how your picture will turn out. I don't ever use my flash (except if it's on an automatic setting) so I have to really pay attention to what the lighting conditions are. I know that most likely, I am not going to get a decent picture inside once the sun goes down so honestly, I don't even try or I use an automatic setting. Read your manual or other resources to know how to work the white balance and metering on your camera so that you get pictures that are exposed correctly.
6.) Be patient. While learning how to use your camera can be overwhelming and frustrating, don't give up. Remember what I said about trial and error? As I am taking pictures everyday, behind every one good picture, there are several that end up with me hitting the little trash can button.
7.) Don't think you have to use PhotoShop to have great pictures. One day, I will conquer the feat of PhotoShop but for now, I am perfectly content with my straight out of the camera shots.
And finally, remember why you are taking pictures. Every picture has a story and with that picture you have a tangible way of remembering the moment. What's important is that you and your family love your pictures!
Now, go take some pictures!!!