Photography

Let me start this by saying that I am an amateur with a capital A.  I’ve completely self taught and am in no position to give expert advice.  I’m not going to try to teach you about photography here, there are plenty of people that are way better at that than I am.  What I can do is share with you some of the resources that I have found helpful.  I am happy to share what I have learned!  Here goes…

 

Equipment

I got a “good” camera for my birthday before Maxwell was born and have LOVED it.  I knew zero when I got it and would now say that photography is my true hobby.  Which, by the way, I love actually having something to say when people ask what you like to do outside of work and kids!  :)  I have a Canon Rebel XSi.  The Canon Rebel XSi was the bottom of the digital cameras (meaning the cheapest!) when I got it. I think Canon equivalent now is the Rebel T3.  I only have 12.2 megapixels…sure it doesn’t have as many megapixels as the more expensive models but you can still get FANTASTIC pictures with it!  Don’t overbuy at first…the Rebel is honestly all you need.  That said, if someone wants to buy me a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, well, go right ahead.  I’ll love you forever, promise.

I have also gotten three awesome lenses which make ALL the difference. It’s not the camera body that’s most important, it’s the lenses.
  • 50MM 1.4 fixed
  • 24-70mm 2.8 zoom
  • 85MM fixed
I use the 50MM 99% of the time and think it is the absolute best for taking pictures of babies!  While I know you can get decent pictures with the kit lens, I would recommend buying just the camera body without the kit lens and saving your money for a better lens.
Here is my one preachy moment about photography – if you are going to get a nice DSLR, take the time to learn the basics of how to use it.  If you’re going to get it and just leave it on auto mode, then save your money and stick to a point & shoot – the pictures will be just as good.  But, if you are willing to take a little time to learn, you’ll get fantastic photos and the camera will totally be worth it.

 

Resources for learning the basics:

I actually took a basic photography class at Samford (local college here in B’ham) when I got my camera and it was a great way to learn the basics.  There’s something to be said for hands on learning with a teacher to answer lots of not-stupid questions!

Another great resource for me at the beginning was The Pioneer Woman.  Yes, the same Pioneer Woman who’s Pesto Pizza has changed my life!  :)  Her website has a fantastic photography section with really easy to understand basic lessons on it.  Start here with aperture and then go through the other topics listed under the “photography” tab (composition, exposure, lighting, photography equipment).  p.s. want to get that blurry background in your photos?  It’s all about aperture so start reading!
Wanting to learn more, I decided to take an online course through 503 Photography.  Jessica has such an encouraging teaching style and I learned sooooo much.  I cannot say enough good things about the workshop. I was able to take my basic knowledge of aperture, shutter speed and ISO and build on it as well as learn the basics of editing in Photoshop.  Jessica has since started the Define School with all sorts of awesome photography classes.  I’m definitely planning on signing up for some to keep learning!

Another great basic resource I have recently discovered is Shoot Fly Shoot.  This site is done by the husband behind The Lettered Cottage and has fantastic videos to help you learn the basics of your camera.  Videos are such a useful way to learn and I’ve definitely picked up some tips and tricks from the Photography 101 section.

There are a zillion more resources out there.  The best thing I can say is to pick one that you will actually find the time to do and go for it!  :)

 

Editing

After I learned how to use my camera and take decent pictures, I wanted to learn how to edit them and make them look kind of “professional.”  I have Photoshop CS4 and every single picture you see on my blog (except the hundreds of iphone pics!) have been edited in Photoshop.  I know just enough to get by in Photoshop and am constantly learning new things.  I picked up the basics in my 503 Photography Workshop and then really learned how to edit through another online course by Erin Cobb called Clean Color.  Clean Color is an awesome video tutorial download of Erin’s entire workflow in Photoshop.  She teaches you how to actually do things in Photoshop instead of just relying on actions.  Warning – Erin is another super talented photographer who’s blog you’ll become addicted to as well!

While it’s important to know how to manually edit photos in Photoshop, you can’t beat the variety and fantastic effects that can come with actions.  There are SO many actions available for download and purchase.  Here are a few that I like:

The Pioneer Woman’s FREE (!!) actions.  Download them here.  The Boost is one of my favorites!

MCP Actions.  Jodi is the queen of Photoshop Actions and has an endless list of effects that you can apply to your photos.  I love her Magic Blog It Board action to create the collages you see on my blog.

Nichole Vann has actions that I use on almost every photo.  Color Pop?  Yes, please!

Another thing to note – I almost never use actions at 100% opacity.  It’s all about playing around with the actions and making them work for your style.

 

Workflow

When I started taking pictures, one of the hardest things for me was trying to figure out how to organize them all on my computer.  Here’s the system I finally figured out that works for me:

1. Download photos off of my camera and onto an external hard drive in this format:  External drive/year/date.

2. Open and save all photos in Lightroom.  Lightroom is photography software that has the best photo organization system that I have found.  You can also do lots of editing through Lightroom too but I just haven’t really learned how yet.  I probably only use about 10% of what Lightroom can do for me.

3. Go through all photos in Lightroom and flag those that are worth saving.

4. Save all flagged photos in a separate folder within that specific date.  So, for example:  I saved all of the photos that I took on August 30, 2011 as External Drive/2011/8.30.11.  I then created a separate folder within that date to save the flagged photos.  The flagged photos will be saved as External Drive/2011/8.30.11/Maxwell’s bday.

5. I open all the photos in the “Maxwell’s bday” folder to edit in Photoshop.  The pro to organizing them this way is that I still have every single one of my original photos saved to my external hard drive and they will never be edited.  I am only editing the copy that is saved in the “Maxwell’s bday” folder.  This is a good back up just in case of a major editing fail!  :)

6. After all the flagged photos are edited in Photoshop, I save them back to the “Maxwell’s bday” folder (just click save since that is where they already are, duh).  The photos that I want to put on the blog are sharpened/resized for the blog and I do a “save as” to put them in an “upload” folder on my desktop.  I then go to Flickr, pull all of the sharpened/resized photos from the “upload” folder and upload them to the internet.  From there they go onto The Brown Brick Road for you all to see!

7. Once all of my photos are edited, all of the flagged photos go into iPhoto where I organize them by month or event.  I ultimately like having them all in iPhoto because it’s such an easy way to quickly see what all photos you have.

Phew!  Did you follow all of that?  I know it sounds confusing but, once you get a system down, it will make all the difference!

One other thing to note:  I also have a folder on my desktop called Mpix and whenever I edit a picture that I LOVE, I drag it into that folder.  At the end of the month, I upload all of those photos to Mpix and get prints made.

 

Want to see some of my favorite pictures that I’ve taken so far?  Click here.

I hope this little photography tutorial has been helpful.  PLEASE let me know if I can answer any photography questions at all.  Happy to share what I have learned!  The best advice I can give is just to start shooting!!