Thursday, June 4, 2009

Photography, as told my me...episode 1


I have been known to say a few hundred times that I don't have a creative bone in my body. And really, I believed that for a few years. I detest crafts...glue and scissors and scraps of paper/material and paint and needles and anything that is close to any of these terms...not fun, not fun at all in my world. Then...I had a little baby girl who had so much colic that I wanted to pound my head in, and that really has no relevance to this story, but I thought about it today and wanted to add it in here. Anyway, I was home with a baby and was overwhelmed with the intense urge to get every minute of her life on film. When Abby was about 6 months old, we bought our first digital camera...a cute little point and shoot that opened up a whole new world for me. I loved taking pictures and having a digital camera opened up the possibility of experimenting with lighting and composition while also being able to delete the shots that were painfully awful. I loved it. I very quickly became neurotic about taking pictures and learning everything I could about photography.Here are some of the basics from my experience...and questions that have been asked by quite a few over the past couple of years:

What kind of camera do you have? Currently, I have a Canon 40D. I love it...as in, I feel as if I should name it and add it to the list of recipients of our will. It's the friend who always vacations with us and promises to attend every big life moment in our family. We've become quite close over the years. I did start out with a Canon XTi but I think those are being replaced with Canon's fairly new XSi. Both are great starter SLR cameras!What's the difference between Canon and Nikon? Really, I don't know of a huge difference between these brands. Both are great brands of cameras and are extremely similar. But once you chose a brand, it is easier to stick with that one because the lenses are not interchangeable between brands. I like Canon...I will probably always be a Canon girl. That is, unless someone throws a free Nikon at my chankles with the promise for free lenses if I just used their camera. Then, I will definitely be a Nikon girl, hands down.

What lenses do you use? First off, in my opinion, the kit lens is a piece of poo-poo. It is made of cheap glass and is just not that great of a lens. That said, if you have the opportunity to buy the camera base without the kit lens, I would do just that. The first lens you should invest in is the 50mm 1.8f lens (more on the sizes later) (and remember, I'm currently a Canon girl, so I am only talking about Canon lenses here...but you can usually find comparable Nikon lenses that are usually about the same prices.). The 50mm is a fixed lens (meaning it doesn't zoom) and is around $100. This is a great lens to keep on the camera at all times and can give you that good "blurred background" effect that is often desired. Aside from the 50mm, my favorite lenses would be the 85mm 1.8f and the 100mm 2.8f macro (my absolute fave!). I use the 100mm for a lot of my portrait shots because the glass is great and gives amazing clarity to pictures. But it is a very long lens (long in focal length), so you have to make sure that you have plenty of room for shooting (great for outdoors). I took the snake pictures from a few weeks ago with the 100mm macro. Did you go to school for photography? Nope, but I read everything I could get my hands on about photography and lighting and exposure and what not, so it kind of feels like I did some schooling. My hints at learning how to take good pictures...
  • Read your camera's manual. You really need to know what every button does and how to change settings to fit your need. This is an essential step, in my mind. I still get my camera manual out at times to go over settings I had forgotten about.
  • Other books that are helpful in understanding your camera and photography in general: "The Digital Photography Book" by Scott Kelby, "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson, "Learning to see Creatively" by Bryan Peterson, "Natural Light Portrait Photography" by Douglas Allen Box
  • Shoot, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot. Shoot in every lighting situation to figure out what looks best in what light. Shoot from every angle possible. Get close to the subject...go far away...lay on the ground...shoot at an angle. The only way to truly learn what looks best when, where, and how is to shoot as much as possible and train your brain to "see" the shot before you actually lift the camera.
What do you use for editing software? I use Photoshop CS3. It is a wonderful editing program, but it is a little daunting to learn. I started on Paint Shop Pro 9.0 a few years ago, and after I was fairly confident with the editing terms after a couple of years, I was able to upgrade to Photoshop.

These are the basic questions that others usually ask, and I hope to dive into some more in depth photography topics (modes of shooting, shutter speed, aperture, actions for editing, etc) in the near future. Please feel free to ask any questions, and I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability in future posts.

(Boy meets mud puddle...and finds it appetizing.)

12 comments:

The Whitsitt Family on June 5, 2009 at 12:45 AM said...

For not having a creative bone in your body you take fantastic pictures! I am glad to see what lens you used for that snake picture. It is pretty amazing. You’ve given me a couple of ideas of lenses to think about renting. I am learning about photography basically the same way, reading every book I can get my hands on. I wish I had started sooner when my son was a baby. Thanks, for the post!

Amy

Laura on June 5, 2009 at 6:18 AM said...

Amber, that is so funny that you posted this today. I was planning to email you and see if you could recommend some books. I read my camera manual and felt like I needed something to decifer some of the terminology used there. I'm really excited and appreciate all the tips! Thanks.
Laura

wandaconner on June 5, 2009 at 10:06 AM said...

And all this time I thought you were standing right there close to that snake!
Enjoyed the lesson!

Kim on June 5, 2009 at 1:40 PM said...

This is a great post, thanks Amber! I've never considered the 100mm. Ive thought about getting the 85, but I hear that people seem to like either the 50 or the 85 - do you like both? Could you see yourself with just one or the other?

Amber on June 5, 2009 at 1:52 PM said...

Eh, no I love both the 50 and the 85. I use the 50 indoors a lot, and I usually take the 85 when we are at the park or somewhere outside.

Christine on June 6, 2009 at 12:12 AM said...

cant i just email you when i have questions so you can walk me through it all?? that way I dont have to actually READ the books?? sounds good right?!? surely you will go for it....kinda like my blog ;)

Dawn @ My Home Sweet Home on June 6, 2009 at 6:34 PM said...

Amber, I love that umbrella picture so much! This is a great post series. I've been meaning to talk to you: I'm the NAPP Evangelist (National Association of Photoshop Professional) now for the demographic of SAHMs, bloggers, designers, homeschoolers, and digiscrappers. That is totally my demographic, except for the digital scrapper part, and I need to figure out how to reach them.

Check out the post series I've got going now "9 Days of NAPP." There are 2 Scott Kelby books and a NAPP membership up for grabs!

Heather on June 8, 2009 at 11:54 AM said...

Thanks for the photo posts - I'm really looking forward to more! Like you, since my girls arrived on the scene I've been compelled to capture every moment on film. I was wondering if you could do a post for those of us thinking about venturing into photography as a profession - although I understand you are currently on a break caring for you (adorable) son! Thanks! Heather

Lok on June 8, 2009 at 4:04 PM said...

Thank you Amber!!! I know it's hard to find time to post stuff like that, but just wanted you to know that there are other beginning-very-amateur photogs out there who really appreciate the quick lessons from someone who was once where we are now! I'm putting my 50mm lens back on my camera and will get to practicing again. I will! I promise!!!

Lok on June 9, 2009 at 8:09 AM said...

Okay - I have a question. How much editing do you actually do on average? What types of "fixes" do your pictures tend to need?

Texas Mom on June 9, 2009 at 10:35 AM said...

Yay! I am so happy to see a post about photography! I want to be you...... as a photographer, when I grow up! Ha!

Melodie on June 9, 2009 at 5:17 PM said...

this is awesome! i can't wait to read more.. i've always been very interested in photography but never know where to start. It is very overwhelming for me! Thanks Amber! and also, chankles.. hilarious.. thanks for the laughs!

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