Around the time that K was born, a scant five years ago, I was suddenly highly interested in photography. That’s just how it seems to happen. Spouse + spouse + kid= instant interest in photography. I’d always liked it, just hadn’t previously had so much inspiration and was okay with paint-and-shoot with a decent zoom lens. But that doesn’t cut it with kids. There’s too much detail to capture and they are never (ever) still. Unless they’re sleeping. I tried repeatedly to capture a beautiful photo of K’s eyes before they changed from blue to brown. They were fascinating to me and I knew that beyond just her eyes, as a new parent I was being barraged with moments that would never. come. back. (I never did get a good photo of them, dangit.)
So I played and played and was lucky enough to have access to a good camera. Not that I fully took advantage of it, because I was always shooting on auto. Had no idea what all of the features did or how to shoot in manual with something other than a white or black exposure as a result of it. I did learn to change the lenses to capture different things, but was lucky that there were already lenses with the camera to try, or I would’ve had no idea how different the lens options are.
Blogging and the attempt to capture subtle detail brought photography to a whole new place. I’d had a lot of experience with Photoshop, but eventually grew impatient with having to do so much editing. I finally realized (ta da!) that exposure was my chief problem, and while I knew, in theory, that adjusting the ISO, aperture and shutter speed were the keys to success, I had no idea how to make those adjustments and had no rules of thumb to follow. For three years I lived in a place with plenty of opportunities to use beautiful, natural light and then when I moved back to the mid-atlantic with a cloudy, yucky winter… I was frustrated.
I tried a few e-book things. None of them were all that helpful to me. And then one day I saw a Groupon for a seminar. I was hoping it wasn’t one of those things where I’d be one of a dozen people in a conference room because I don’t enjoy being on the spot, I just wanted to be able to watch and learn in a format where I could ask questions if I wanted to. (How did I graduate with an art degree and not take a photography class? I think it was that the classes conflicted with another specialty area. I’ve kicked myself repeatedly over this.)
The seminar, who is not compensating me in any way for this blog post and has no idea who I am, was with the McKay Photography Academy. I know that there are others out there– this just happens to be the one that was in the right place at the right time for me. I registered myself and a friend and we went on our way. They travel all over the US, but this one was at the University of Maryland University College.
Holy moly, I was not one of a dozen. There were actually probably several hundred of us in an auditorium. But I thought that was fantastic– because in a room that large and dark we were all able to sit back and use our cameras during the presentation. They encouraged us to use the camera during the presentation. That was the best! I was listening and trying things out and improving as I sat there. I was so inspired by the seminar and was ready to run out and try more. They had multiple photographers available to answer questions during the two breaks, which I thought was great even though I didn’t have any. I’m hoping there’ll be another Groupon for the intermediate class that they’re doing later this year.
|I was ridiculously proud of this image when I took it. You can tell (mostly) what’s going on! The room was soooo dark. The people are David (L) and Ally (R). They teach the photography seminars and there’s another instructor that teaches Photoshop.|
|Also quite proud of this photo I took in a bar during the dinner break. It was crazy dark there, too. Didn’t really expect to ever have a reason to post bar photography on crafterhours. First time for everything?|
I tell you all of this because there is soooo much discussion of photography on blogs. We’ve gotta talk about it and celebrate it because in many cases the photos are the blog. Adrianna and I have both evolved as photographers since our blog’s beginnings. And not without a lot of work trying to figure out what we were doing wrong. (Step 1: Avoid the on-camera flash at nearly all costs.)
Relatedly, in case you’re wondering what we use, we both have Nikons. When we’re shooting crafty stuff we most often use a Nikon 50mm lens with a 1.8 f-stop. Adrianna had one first and then I had to be just like her. It’s awesome because it lets lots of light into the camera and that’s what’s required to take photos inside of a dark-ish house. There’s one like it on the Stuff We Use page if you have no idea what I’m talking about. You can find a similar lens for Canon pretty easily.
As far as editing, I most often use the software that comes with Macs– iPhoto. If I feel the need to get fancy or I’m photographing people in shots that may end up in frames someday, I’m editing occasionally with Picnik and most often with Photoshop, using Pioneer Woman (free and a great place to start!) or Paint the Moon (worth the investment!) actions.
So as a result of 1) having a good camera 2) being interested and 3) having learned a bunch, I was able to shoot my brother and his fiancee recently. We’d done a session 18 months ago that turned out beautifully, but was more a result of fantastic weather and lighting and cute subjects. Despite the fact that it was a cold, cloudy December day, we still ran like crazy people around the Nation’s Capital for four hours and got some shots that we were all happy with. More on that shortly…