my photography journey

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!


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Thank you so much for reading. I hope you know how much it means to share a little piece of my heart with you today.

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  1. says

    Hey Molly! Love that you’re striving to be a better photographer. I am too! No DSLR yet, but it’s high on the wish list. You’re from the KC area, right? UMKC offers something called Communiversity, adult education classes taught by volunteers on a variety of subjects. I noticed there is a photography class! Could be so fun, right? Best of luck as you grow in photography! Love your blog!
    Sarah recently things i’ve read: week of 2.20.12

    • Molly says

      Thanks, Sarah! I will definitely check out those classes! I find I learn better when there is someone in front of me telling me what to do, haha!

  2. says

    Oh lady, it is not just you! I’ve read all the stuff (I actually own that exact book!) a zillion times and the numbers STILL won’t click. The only thing I finally figured out was the light meter, which means about 1/3 of my photos on manual are OK, as opposed to 1/300th. I think the photos of your kids are always GORGEOUS, so obviously you’re doing really well!
    Suzanne recently posted..Pink for Happiness

  3. says

    No, it is not just you–I used to be the TA for photography in college, and I still have a hard time explaining out the theories behind aperture, etc.

    Understanding Exposure is a GREAT book that seriously helps.

    Also, I’ve totally been jonesing to do some more photography on my blog lately and have been thinking about doing something like the “12 Weeks to Better Photography” thing like I hosted awhile ago, but I’m still brainstorming about that!
    Meredith @ La Buena Vida recently posted..Beautiful Things

    • Molly says

      I remember that! I participated for like the first three weeks and then I gave up! If you do it again I’ll participate! I need to stick with it!

  4. says

    I can totally identify with that burning desire for photography! I bought my expensive camera right after Noah was born and had NO clue what to do with it. At all. I spent my “me time” at Barnes & Noble propped up with photography books and a notebook, trying to learn.

    Have you checked out the series I’ve got going on right now called “Move to Manual?” I’m going over, step by step, the basics of composition, exposure, and using your camera in manual mode. I think you’d like it. I’m also (secretly…haven’t even announced it yet) writing an E-Book that’s a bit more detailed and expanded and “down to earth” for moms with cameras. Not a lot of technical terms. I’d love to have you check out the series and let me know what you think! The book is going to be released mid-March! :)
    Courtney Kirkland recently posted..Understanding Aperture & Depth of Field

  5. says

    You go girl! I recommend that Peterson book to everyone who asks—it’s a great help. And I can’t believe you weren’t looking at the numbers in your view finder, silly girl. Keep up the great work and love your subjects you have there:)
    julia recently posted..26 weeks: lady cucumber

  6. says

    I have a really nice camera but absolutely no idea how to use it. I’d love to take it off of the automatic setting and really get involved in photography, but the numbers and the words just don’t click. Maybe I’ll look into that book, I’ve heard great things about it!
    Kimberly recently posted..Our Useless Talent

  7. says

    It is so, so, SO easy to get overwhelmed. I’m there right now. I desperately need to get moving on learning my camera (AND PHOTOSHOP, GAH), but it absolutely is overwhelming! And sometimes it feels a little too much like math, with all these weird numbers… lol. But little by little, things are starting to sink in and I’m “getting it,” so my advice would be to just KEEP TRYING and DON’T get discouraged! ;)
    Jenni recently posted..Sneak peek of our shoot! (Brittney Squire Photography)

  8. says

    That forum you recommended in your article, “Clickn Moms” is filled with some super photos that can give you ideas for your own masterpiece.

    That Canon 50mm 1.4 is super bright for indoor photography, and even though it is a 50mm, you can still get some great Bokeh to further control the focus.

    I am glad I found your site, and I am excited to explore it and find more photos you’ve taken with this equipment.

    Rooms101 recently posted..$59 Pigeon Forge, TN | 3 Days In Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort | | Last Minute Vacation Package | $25 Dining Card | 1 Bedroom Suite

  9. says

    I feel the exact same way. And that lens is on my wish list. As is that book now, too! :) Do you like the clickin mom’s site? I signed up for a free week but never really used it. I think when my next grad school class is over, i may try it again…

    • Molly says

      I don’t have much time to get on the forum’s website. But they do have an iphone app so I have been using that on my phone when I can. I have already learned a lot just by going to the app every once in awhile!

  10. says

    Molly, I can related to EVERYTHING you said about wanting to be a better photographer! Except, I haven’t managed to read a book about exposure. I DID buy the field guide for my camera two years ago, but haven’t managed to get through that yet. Still shooting on auto and wishing I knew more. Maybe a class will help?
    Ellie {Musing Momma} recently posted..Reaching my reluctant reader

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