I want to be good at taking pictures. Not good enough. I want to be really good.
This desire is not new to me. I took a photography 101 course my first semester of college (that’s 1997, for any curious georges out there). I bought an expensive camera. This was before anyone was really using digital so yes, I learned the old-fashioned way: how to develop film. I was terrible at it. I always had the creative eye but not enough know-how and follow-through to learn how to correctly develop film. I kept dropping important stuff in the dark room. You were more likely to find me on the floor, feeling around with my hands, than you were to find me coming out with a fantastic photo.
I sold my expensive camera after dropping out of the course. But the embers of photography were still warm. And when I had Landon they were ignited and burned bright with envy at those who took wonderful photos of their children.
Finally, I received a Canon Rebel for Christmas in 2008. While my photos were better than a point and shoot, I still shot primarily in the auto function. We lived in a house with no natural light and the flash popped up almost every time I went to take a photo. I’m not a fan of flash photography at all. I am a fan of unposed, natural light photography. But I didn’t know how to achieve the results I was looking for. See below for Landon at five months.
Last summer I finally upgraded from the kit lens to a 50 mm 1.4 lens and my photography instantly improved. There was, of course, a big learning curve. I was so uneducated about lenses that I had no idea my new lens was not a zoom lens. No, for this lens I am the zoom, moving back and forth to achieve the composition I want. It took awhile for me to get used to it. But my photos are definitely much more crisp than they ever were with my kit lens. Not to mention our new house has ample sunlight flowing in through its many windows.
Now more than ever, my goal to take amazing photos is alive and well. I took a course with a local photographer and was pleasantly surprised to find that I knew more than any other student in the class. I also had the best lens, which made me feel good. But I’m still a total amateur and I’m insanely jealous of those whose photographic skills come naturally.
You see, I’ve been playing “Get Lucky” with my camera. I’ve been shooting in manual mode for nearly six months but I still had no clue what I was doing. I’m really frustrated with picking out the two or three photos that turned out “okay” and deleting the rest of the bunch. I want to know what I’m doing. I want to know what the numbers mean and how to manipulate them so I know the end result will be a beautiful photo!
That’s where this book, understanding exposure, comes in.
I’ve already read and re-read about the photographic triangle. Am I just dense or is this tough stuff? I’m sorry but I still just DO NOT get it. Why do the high numbers mean low and the low numbers mean high? Who came up with that? Because it’s ridiculous and confusing. I’m so jealous of people who just “get it” and take amazing photos. Will it ever become second nature to me?
What the book has managed to teach me is that I can figure out if my exposure is correct by looking through my viewfinder. I’ve had my camera for THREE years, people. And I’ve never looked at the numbers in my viewfinder ::headdesk::
Looking at my viewfinder is already helping me learn about underexposure and overexposure. Surely this will sink in eventually.
I don’t practice enough. I know that. I’m at work during the week and my camera doesn’t come with me. The sun sets by the time dinner is on the table. I’m not sure what other time I can practice than on the weekends, which I don’t feel is enough to get me to the next level.
Another thing I did is join Clickin’ Moms, a forum for moms who like to take photos. You don’t have to be a pro (thank goodness). I am a photography enthusiast and I’m still learning a lot from the questions and tutorials that are posted. They have an iphone app, which is how I’m reading the forums.
One thing I know for sure is that my photography has greatly improved. In the summer you will often find me rolling around in the grass to get a good shot of my kids playing. Get on their level? I’m down with that.
If you scroll back through earlier years of my blog you will see that my photos look terrible. So I feel good about what I’m posting now. But I know I can do better. I can BE better. I want to understand my camera so badly. I have promised myself that at the end of this year, when our debt is gone and I’ve mastered the photographic triangle, I can upgrade my camera body! Oh, what a happy time that will be. I hope you’ll follow along on my quest to take better photos!