I am by no means an expert on this subject but seeing as in the last several weeks, I’ve answered questions about photography and how I learned it several times over via email, I’m talking photography today.
I had a camera as far back as I can remember – nothing a kid could destroy – and I took pictures of the people and places I loved. There were many photos of my great Aunt Grace, my grandparents, photos of weekends spent on the farm with my grandparents. I think every single time I went to my grandparents house I took a photo of the light coming in their master bedroom windows. They had very tall windows and they were framed with deep purple curtains (it was after all the 70′s) and in the late morning, the light was lavender and I loved it (note: I’m consistent. Lavender is still my favorite color). I started studying photography in high school. I bought an old SLR at a pawn shop downtown. It quickly became my favorite class and any free time was spent in the darkroom.
If you’re looking to improve your photography, shoot. Shoot every single day. I’m guessing most of you out there are shooting digital so shoot, shoot, shoot! It doesn’t cost you a thing. If you were training to run a marathon, you’d train every single day. So pick up your camera and shoot. By shooting every single day you’ll begin noticing the small things and you’ll begin to train your eyes to see those moments you want to capture. Challenge: take a picture every day for a month. Don’t be afraid to change your perspective.
Next: light. I always feel a little like I’m up on my soapbox when I talk about light but light is what makes your photograph come to life. Find the light. Light is your friend. Watch the light move around your house in the day. Find the good light. Find the soft light. Find the harsh light. In my house, the best light is in the early morning in the dining room so I shoot about 90% of the photos you see here on the blog right there on my dining room table. It often means I’m rushing the kids to finish breakfast or having them scoot to the other end of the table (thankfully we have a long table) so I have a crumb-free environment for shooting but they’re used to it. Don’t be afraid of details (my favorite things about the above photograph are the light, the powdered sugar on the table and the drips on the mug). Challenge: find the light in your house and practice shooting it – shoot the light and shadows, shoot a doll laying in the light, shoot the light in your daughter’s hair, etc.
Cameras. It doesn’t matter what you shoot with. Canon, Nikon, Sony, whatever. If it’s a point and shoot or top of the line DSLR, the camera is only as good as the person operating it. Get to know your camera. What better way to get to know your camera than to practice?
Someone actually emailed me back and asked, “Practice shooting what?” Easy. Photograph your breakfast every morning. Or the dirty dishes in your sink after breakfast every morning. Photograph the favorite part of your day. Or maybe the least favorite part of your day (laundry, anyone?). Photograph the pile of books on your bedside table, the sticky notes around your computer monitor, the pile of stuffed animals threatening to take over your child’s room. All that matters is that you start. I find it’s easier when you start with what you know but if you can’t find an iota of beauty in the chaos that is your home (and trust me, I have those moments too) then pick a theme each week and shoot it every single day. Examples: morning, play, water, summer, quiet. You don’t know how to shoot water for seven days? How about a glass of ice water, water running in the kitchen sink as you prepare to wash dishes, puddles after a rainstorm, raindrops on your windows, kids playing in the pool or sprinkler, kid toys floating in the bathtub, the beach, a river, someone drinking from the hose, water droplets on leaves… Are you beginning to see all the possibilities?
Read Understanding Exposure. In my opinion, it’s the best book for helping you understand the technical stuff (aperture, exposure, etc.) and the only one you’ll need to read.
Editing. Get it right in camera and there is no need for editing. Get it right in camera means a.) consistent practicing and b.) understanding light. The photos you see on this here blog are usually straight out of the camera. Occasionally I might do a gentle bump in curves or crop the photograph but 98% come straight out of the camera. My clients on the other hand usually demand editing and what most of the women really want is plastic surgery via Photoshop: eye brightening, zit removal, skin smoothing. It’s one of those things that make cringe because a.) it’s not keeping it real and b.) I don’t care if I got rid of her cellulite and made her look 20 lbs lighter, she’ll still find something to dislike and it isn’t about the photography but about her body issues. Oops. Mini rant over. Apologies.