Two Years Behind the Camera

Thanks to the lovely app called TimeHop, I was reminded that this time two years ago I was making my way into the photography world. Although it had always been an interest of mine, I was ignorant in the fact that it took a lot of work and education to be a photographer. Some would disagree and say anyone with a camera is in fact, a photographer. That person was once me, I picked up my husbands camera without a lick of knowledge on how to use it and decided that I would take what interested me and work on creating a portfolio. 

I still remember the day I took Nicole out on the beach, a beach that is still a favorite of mine, in the middle of the morning when the sun was still pretty hot. My camera was in Auto, I had my saved Pinterest posts and I was ready to go. She was pregnant, and maternity sessions fascinated me(they still do), and I wanted to be able to help her capture and remember a a time in her life that she may never experience again(we never know how many kids we are going to have, so I always treat every maternity like its their last). 

I had no idea what I was doing that day, shooting in the middle of the morning, camera on auto, shadows all over the place, squinty eyes and skin beginning to turn red. My editing skills were just about the same as my camera skills, or better yet, a lack there of. I edited in Piscasa because I didn't have anything else on my laptop. Hue, Saturation, Contract.. whats that? I hadn't the slightest clue, but turned every dial until I produced an image that I thought was worthy. 

Thankfully my husbands grandma sent me Lightroom, so I could get familiar with that, but my camera skills were still little to none. I cant remember how many months that it took me to realize that I needed to learn what Manual was on my camera, but I do remember that I would have no clue about it until I saw other photographers talking about it so I figured it was important. The mistakes I made in manual were horrendous, and although I wont go into too much detail, there were many that my sessions were ruined. Overexposed, underexposed, noisy and manual was a concept that I took me a while to grasp. 

YouTube became my friend, and it helped me learn the basics of my camera. I would ask other photographers, but still felt like I was not worthy of any advise, so I tried to learn as much as I could on my own, ya know kind of prove myself. You see there are a lot of people that pick up their camera and say that they are a photographer, without any skills, and that was me. Some of those people though do not like to ask for help either, they are too hardheaded, or maybe too scared? Regardless, learning to ask for advise ended up being something that I still love doing to this day, and actually asked advise on an image this morning if I am being honest. 

Fast forward about 6 months from when I started, I was able to get a new camera, still a crop censored camera, but I bought it and it was mine. It was a Nikon D5200. I quickly began to see my skills improve over a short period of time, and that my friends is because I was determined to be something more than “a person with a nice camera”, because photography is SO much more than that. 

I was fortunate enough to have been in college at the time where photography and editing classes were offered. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. It was then that I was able to learn photoshop, how to change things about an image that I never thought I had the ability to do. I figured out what Hue, Saturation and contract was, and how to read a histogram. It was then that I learned more about the dynamics of what makes a good picture, composition, leading lines, rule of thirds. proper lighting and how to move your subjects around in natural lighting to get a desired look. I learned how to shoot images at night, how to capture motion, panning, and so much more! Without those classes I would not even know to look up those things to try and learn what they were. 

All during this time, I kept booking sessions. I guess people liked my work even though I was inconsistent I felt like. 

And finally after it all, after the ups and downs, making a lot of mistakes, like mistakes that could not be corrected mistakes, I have broken out of the mold and now call myself a photographer. I obtained a business license, created a website, updated my camera to a full frame Nikon D750 and just bought another new lens that I am excited about using. I overcame so much during the two years. I wanted to quit, I had people tell me my work was crap, talk behind my back, I had people look down on me, but I kept pushing through and learning. I have done all kinds of different sessions, but now that I am growing, I see which areas I feel I excel in and that would be, families, couples, children over 6 months, and maternity. I realize that as I grow, I don't need to say yes to every type of session that comes my way. Sure getting out of the comfort zone is great, but its also important to me to know my boundaries and to know which areas I am best at. The difference that I can see in my work is what keeps me pushing forward. The fact that I have grown so much and started off with little knowledge of this new world, still amazes me. I let my growth speak for itself, because the difference is absolutely amazing.

Now I am comfortable and CONFIDENT with my work, now I feel like I am consistent and can produce images that will be treasured by people. I feel like it is so important to have work that you feel confident in, and not overly confident where you think you know everything, but the right amount where you know that your worth. Knowing your worth as a photographer is such an important concept to grasp. In the beginning stages, we know were are still learning. Do we charge them? If so, what do we charge or do we do them for free? I started off after a few free sessions of $50 for every session. I figured the low price would bring them in so I could learn, and now as I am becoming more confident in my work I am learning the value of what my work is worth, and recognizing the time I put into it all. Confidence can go a long way, and it can show through each session you do. But its important to not be over confident in that you have a big head and think you are better than others, but confident enough to know your worth and to know that no matter where you're at with your photography, there is always something new to learn. 

My biggest advise to give to someone breaking out in the photography world is to:

EDUCATE YOURSELF:

YouTube and Creative Live both hold a bunch of knowledge that can be useful when starting out. Research everything that has to do with photography!

LEARN YOUR SETTINGS:

Do not assume the camera does all the work for you. Learn the exposure triangle and know why and how when you change your shutter speed, aperture and ISO and why they all affect one other in the image that it produces. Also, learn how to use your focus points. Again, AUTO is not the way to go.

LEARN LIGHTING:

Learn about natural lighting, speed lights, studio lights, metering and the Golden Hour. Even I still have a lot to learn with lighting.

INVEST AND KNOW WHEN TO INVEST:

Photography is not cheap, cameras, lenses and all of extra things that go along with it can add up and cost a pretty penny. The best thing I ever did was decide to invest in higher quality lenses that I could use on both a crop censor and a full frame camera. This takes us back up to educating yourself. And invest as you grow. Had I had all the equipment I did two years ago, I would have had such a hard time, and I would have been investing thousands with the chance I could fail as a beginner. So invest as you grow. 

ASK FOR HELP AND TAKE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM:

There is nothing wrong with asking for help, most people respect those that do because we all understand of being unsure about something, especially when it comes to our own work. If someone gives their advise, take it and learn from it. You are asking their help for a reason, and that reason is probably because you respect their work. If they tell you that you need to do something a bit different, do be discouraged in what you did, just know that as photographers we are always growing and learning. 

I am sure I am forgetting something as with only two years under my belt, still have a lot to learn myself. But if photography is something you're wanting to pursue, don't give up.