Fumbling towards better photography

An old friend (we met in pre-natal class 10 years ago and still keep in touch) recently some time ago left this comment on my blog:

I would LOVE to take pics like yours, but I don't know where to start. Did you take a class? What kind of camera would you suggest as a good starter camera? [Husband's name removed for privacy] is picking up on my interest for Christmas, but I don't even know what to tell him!

Oops... I guess this advice comes a little late for Christmas. Maybe a new camera for Valentines Day? That would be one nice Valentine's Day gift by the way!

Anyway, it's late but I still wanted to answer these questions and point to some resources I have found helpful as I fumble my way to better photography.

Learning Resources

Did I take a class? Nope, although I'm sure there are lots of out there. I've just read... lots. Mostly photography blogs, but not the super technical kind. The photography blogs I like tend to be written by women and mothers (like myself), who know something about photography (unlike myself) and are kind enough to share it with us all.

I have gleaned different tips from different writers. When I started reading I didn't understand all of the photography lingo, still don't, but I apply what I can, leave the rest and in this way move slowly towards taking better photos.

Photography Blogs

  • Dolce Pics Tutorials cover camera talk, composition and exposure.
  • Just Pure Lovely wrote a one week series of posts on basic better photography, accessible for everyone.
  • The Pioneer Woman of course is well known in the mommy/photography blogging world. I like these Basic Photography tutorials.
  • Shutter Sisters is not a tutorial, how-to blog (with the rare exception). But the posts by women photographers are inspirational, just as important as the technical know-how in my opinion.

Photoshop & Editing

You didn't ask about this but as you read photography blogs Photoshop will come up often. My personal goal is to take better photos Straight Out of the Camera (SOOC) so I don't pay much attention to the Photoshop stuff on some of these sites.

I use Bibble for my basic editing like cropping and changing white balance (adjusting the white in your photos to really look white and not yellow, blue or some other color depending on the type of ambient light when you took the shot).

Other Resources

Refuse to Say Cheese and Beyond the Green Box Maybe I should of started with this instead of listing the blogs first. Because if I had to recommend one get-you-started resource it would be this. Except that it costs money whereas reading blogs is free!

I discovered these DVD's last fall and got them for a birthday gift. By that time I had actually learned on my own a lot of the technical information presented in the videos but I still learned new stuff, especially with regards to photography as story telling. Story telling does not require a spectacular camera by the way but an eye to look for and capture the "story" of that moment. The video explains this much better and was very inspiring. Story telling is a direction I'm trying to travel in. Refuse to Say Cheese inspired the creativity behind this shot, one of my favorites of Brienne from last year.

Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera is a good book, a tad more technical and definitely geared for an SLR camera but the photos are so inspiring. I'm slowly working my way through it.

Camera Talk

I started my journey to better photography with maxing out the features of my old point and shoot. When I reached the limits of that we started to investigate our DSLR options. Late last summer a familial gift largely expanded these options (thank you, thank you, thank you Mom & Dad).

We made the choice to buy the best gear we could with the money we had because my goal is to become a very good photographer. Damien did most of the research so I couldn't necessarily tell you all the specs on this camera but I LOVE it.

I also can't really recommend a different camera because I don't know enough cameras in general. I'd check the sites I referenced above for some gear recommendations. My old point and shoot was a Canon and it took pretty good photos. Here's one of my favorites from years ago.

When we were looking at cameras we decided to get a Nikon and were looking at the D60 and D80 before choosing the D300. But now that the D90 is out with video options that sounds kind of cool.

I like what Lori at Just, Pure, Lovely says about her camera the Nikon D40. As the name suggests she takes lovely photos of her kiddos, birds and general home life.

That's about all I have to say on the subject, except go for it! Photography has become a huge creative outlet (bye bye crochet - I was never very good anyway) and has the potential to move me in a professional direction I never would of planned. I love it and so might you. At the very least, learning a few tricks of the trade (natural light being the biggie as far as I'm concerned) together with a basic DSLR will help you better capture those beautiful everyday moments of your family's life.

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  • nicola

    nicola on Feb. 3, 2009, 10:28 p.m.

    thanks so much for this! it is a craft i am working on as well. i agree with you on SOOC, because i only have a basic point and shoot. (well, i took photography in high school and have a good film camera, but i can't deal with developing these days, so it just sits for now.) i can't afford a new dSLR, but i am dreaming. in the meantime, i am trying to figure out how to make the photo software i do have (jasc) let me make a collage/collection of photos. haven't yet....

    nicola http://whichname.blogspot.com or which name? :)


  • Kelly

    Kelly on Feb. 3, 2009, 10:55 p.m.

    Hi Renee, thanks for your comment on my blog! I live in Charleston, SC, and I'm jealous of all of you up north with snow! My husband and I just moved down from Northern VA in September, and wow, what a shock. I'm glad it's not cold, and I'm glad for the spring, but my camera misses the snow!

    This is a great post - so much information that I just never take the time to put all in one place. Just don't forget to look with your heart - all the composition and technique in the world doesn't make the photo as real as the ones you see with your heart!


  • Your Photo Tips

    Your Photo Tips on Feb. 4, 2009, 1:36 a.m.

    Great advice.

    There is such a vast amount of great photography websites and resources on the internet. It takes time, patience, and practice to get great photographs. Sometimes a little luck helps as well.

    FYI I just did a review of Understanding Exposure on my blog and we run a monthly photography book club you may be interested in.

    I'm just saying....


  • mama-pan

    mama-pan on Feb. 6, 2009, 7:44 p.m.

    These tips & links are great--thanks so much for sharing them. I clicked over here via shuttersisters, by the way--one of my favorite sites, too. I am very new to thinking of myself as a photographer and still negotiating the public vs. private question for myself on flickr, but anyway here is my little spot: http://www.flickr.com/photos/98076237@N00/

    Hope to come by here again soon!


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