December 11, 2008

My Photography Journey

I'm occasionally asked how I moved from Point A (let's say, fully Auto shooting) to Point B (my current photography). Here are a few of my best pieces of advice to stepping up your photography to the "next level." Nothing I say is going to be earth-shattering or novel, but it is what has worked for me.

First: Turn OFF your flash. Try working totally with natural light for awhile.


First image is flash. Second is no flash. Ok, I admit: my poor, sick son looks miserable in both images. But, can't you see how much richer and full of depth the second image is?!? ;-). And there's no annoying, ugly flash shadow on the wall.

Second: Stop using Full Auto mode, and try instead using Aperture Priority mode. This will give you much greater creative license with your images in terms of what is in focus and what is OUT of focus (the parts you intentionally blur). I think Pioneer Woman has a tremendously helpful explanation of how to use aperture. Throwing a background out of focus helps to keep the focus on your desired object/person/etc.

Here's an example of what aperture does for a picture.
practicing eyesIMG_4996-Edit

The first image is f/1.8. The second image is f/8. See how the background in the first image is blurrier?

Another example:

First image is f/1.8; second image is f/16.

Third: Along with using aperture priority, manually select your autofocus point (read your camera manual to discover how) and make sure to put that focus point right on an eyeball (preferably the eyeball closest to the lens). It's a rare occasion when you don't want the eyes in focus!

Fourth: Consider your perspective and get creative with it. I'm not creative by nature, so I have to study other's creativity to jumpstart my own. I find lots of inspiration perusing, a fabulous photography forum where people post their favorite pictures. Look around, see what images move you, and try to reproduce them.

So ... I'm kinda slow. I spent about a year just on step one (turn flash OFF), while still using full auto mode. Then I spent about half a year using aperture priority with manual autofocus points. THEN I began shooting full manual. And then I began lusting after a new camera with higher ISO capability. But, that's another story for another day.

If you haven't already, start playing around with aperture and without your flash. You just might be surprised how much you improve your photography.

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Jackie in AR said...

OK, you've convinced me. I've been wanting to learn about aperture for a few months now. Now I have another "resolution" for 2009.

Heidi said...

I'm still on step one. :) I need to start practicing on something other than wiggly boys... Ah, a perfect goal for next year: work with aperture! You are terrific inspiration, Susan. :)

Ashley said...

Thanks for the advice!!! I had figured out the flash part but my camera rarely comes out of auto focus! Oop!

heather said...

Thank you! I really admire your work!

magistramater said...

This is such a helpful post. Donna and Ree convinced me to keep the flash off, but I'm still confused on aperture.

You've convinced me to dig out the manual to my camera.


JourneytoFamily said...

You sound like my hubby! He's always taking without the flash, and I'm always flashing it on "auto". LOL Which is why your pictures look better than mine!

Kat said...

I have just started turning my flash off. And learning how to control my own light. But I am not sure how to get my background to not be blurry. Or wait. Do I want my background blurry?

I am still on auto focus...but I need time. I am glad to know you spent a year where I am. I am hoping I'll be further along the road by this time next year. Maybe...

tearese said...

My camera is a high-end point and shoot. So while it as the options of using Aperture or Shutter priority, the results aren't the same.
In general, I love my camera, but sometimes I get frustrated that I can't blur the background!
At least I have a fairly good eye for composition...sometimes.

Tracy P. said...

Ah yes--I totally need to learn about aperture. I can't control the aperture on my camera manually, however. The macro mode does a pretty nice job on things that hold still and allow me in close. But not on the kids. :-) I wonder if it would make a difference if I tried narrowing my focus more often, though. Good food for thought!

Carebear said...

Thank you so much for your willingness to share tips. Some photographers are like magicians and guard their secrets like pirate's treasure. It is so generous of you to help other fledglings (like me!) improve their photos. You are my new favorite spot on the Web!