10 Things I learned my first year of photography

The first picture I took with my 50 1.8 and fell in love!

While I have always been interested in photography I only really jumped in about a year ago. Before E was born I had been sending Aaron Pinterest tutorials on newborn photography, hoping he would be able to recreate all the beautiful pictures I was lusting after. Unfortunately my nuclear engineer husband didn’t have the adequate time needed to learn it all, so I decided to start reading the material. I soon learned this was something I could do, and do kinda well. I enrolled in Shultz Photo School online and asked for a 50mm 1.8 lens for Christmas (Thanks mom and dad!). This is what I consider my “starting point”.  Here’s some of the things I have learned along the way:

1. It’s not as hard as you think it is: Early on I was really daunted by the DSLR and would hardly even use it on auto. After learning the basics of shooting off auto I realized there were some simple things I could do to make a big improvement in my images.

2. It’s a lot harder than you think it is: this may seem contradictory, but once I started learning the basics I realized there was a lot more to learn to be as good as I want to be. Then the pet peeves begin. Do not ever tell anyone shooting off auto any of these things: “her camera takes really nice pictures”, “It’s amazing what a nice camera can do” or anything along those lines. Most of the time it is being said out of naivety of what manual photography encompasses. It negates the hours the photographer has spent learning exposure, posing, aperture, lighting, and everything else that results in those beautiful pictures.

3. Light is everything. This really should be the first thing anyone learns about photography. Even if you’re just documenting life and not interested in shooting in manual, learn the basics of good light. The first time I tried to do a photo shoot for a friend I did it in my unshaded backyard in the middle of the day… All it takes is a few adjustments to make a so so shot look great. (Seriously, just move to the shade people!) Then my love affair with the golden hour began. Most families shy away from shooting at this time because young kids are not their most cooperative, but I beg as much as I can. Most of the time the kiddos are just fine and the pictures have so much more dimension to them.

4. You don’t need the best/most expensive gear to have great photographs. I’m sure this is something everyone learns eventually and a pet peeve of all established photographers. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting the next best lens and camera, but without the knowledge of how to use it, it doesn’t do a whole lot. One of the best things I learned was my next point…

The first few months I apparently only took close up pictures of my sons face…

5. Get the nifty fifty and use it for a year. I think I saw this on Pinterest when scouring the internet for lens recommendations. It’s an inexpensive lens and makes a world of difference in the quality of your pictures, and can be used for just about everything. This lens has taught me so much and it really did take a year before I was ready to try something else. I also love that it taught me to appreciate, love, and prefer prime lenses. I recently borrowed several different lenses to decide which to invest in next, and definitely love primes. Oh and after trying one zoom and two primes, I ended up getting the 50 1.4 … I just love that focal length for what I shoot most.

6. Don’t upgrade until you know what your stuff can’t do: Something I read on Click It Up a Notch, and so helpful. Again, at the beginning it’s easy to think the expensive stuff is what makes good pictures. I’ve been shooting with my husbands Rebel and finally have learned enough to know why I want the full frame 6D. So hopefully that’s the next investment 🙂

7. Be patient: During shoots, waiting for clients, and for experience. I am not a patient person and this is one thing I struggle with the most during sessions. I tend to feel rushed to get “the shot” and don’t take the time to properly compose it. Most of my clients are families with small children and so there is not a whole lot of time to take everything in. I seem to vacillate between taking too many pictures or not enough, and still missing the shots I want. Practice, practice!

8. Don’t rely too much on post processing. I was thrilled when I discovered Lightroom and could fix all the little things I was still missing while I was shooting. I discovered a huge difference in the sharpness of my photos when I was more accurate with my exposure. Instead of relying on Lightroom to lighten and darken, I make sure my exposure is at least twice my focal length.

9. Find a photographer to follow that inspires you to shoot what you IMG_4993like. I adore Sarah Hill of Sarah Beth Photography. I love the emotion she captures between families. After pouring through her site for hours I found myself more inspired to find my own style and voice than trying to copy hers. I loved that she doesn’t seem to follow the typical “rules”. You can’t always see everyones faces and it looks more like you stumbled upon a family hanging out rather than being stuffed into an awkward pose. Each session is unique and encapsulates that particular family and doesn’t look like she s just rolling them through the same pose and location.

10. Shoot what you like. This goes along with my previous point, but deserves one of its own. I started shooting for clients because I wanted more time behind the camera and my family had had enough! It’s a balance between getting the shots your client wants and maintaining a consistent look. I look forward to the day when people seek me out for my style, but for the time being I’m happy with how much I love this new passion 🙂



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