a free guide to learning photography!
I just love hearing from people about their interest in learning photography,
and so I wanted to provide this guide to share tips and thoughts gathered from my own
photography experience as you embark on this amazing journey!
Here we go!
I've always had an interest in photography but it wasn't until my children were born when I really felt motivated to buy a DSLR camera to try and take professional looking pictures to beautifully document the story of their childhood (such a common story in the mama photography community)! Of course, what I really wanted to achieve was that beautiful blurry background that seemed to set professional pictures apart from standard iPhone pictures. With that in mind, I purchased an entry level camera in 2015 - a Canon Rebel t5. I began with simply playing around with it, shooting mostly in auto mode, but quickly realized there was much more involved to actually capturing the professional looking pictures I thought the camera would produce automatically. Determined to achieve that professional look, I started watching some beginner tutorials on Youtube to figure out how to get the blurry background (also known as bokah) and was introduced to the exposure triangle - shutter speed, aperture, and ISO - which was one of the biggest ah-ha moments in my photography journey! Here are some of my favorite first pictures taken with my Canon Rebel.
In the weeks and months that followed, I practiced with my camera every single day and the more I learned the more I was hooked! I truly fell in love with photography and it became something bigger than just wanting to document my kids' lives - it was a new outlet for me and a way to embrace a creative side of me I never knew I had! It was something that gave me a new purpose and a passion that was just for me - and one that would ultimately lead me to starting a small business and meeting amazing families to capture their love and connection, which gives me the utmost fulfillment. Photography is amazing and powerful in that way.
STEP 2: LEARN HOW TO SHOOT IN MANUAL MODE
The next step big step in my photograph journey was taking a formal class to learn how to shoot exclusively in manual mode. Whether you just want to be a happy hobbyist and take pictures of your own family and kids or if you have dreams to start a small business - setting a strong foundation by learning manual mode is undoubtedly a must! Manual mode is where the magic happens (auto mode on a fancy camera will not get you the results you want). These classes will cover everything from the exposure triangle, including aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, as well as metering, white balance, and focusing (I recommend back button focusing). The good news is, there are a ton of free, amazing resources out there to help supplement your learning, but taking a manual mode class is essential. Here are some I recommend:
I took the Clickin Moms Mastering Manual Mode Study Along and loved it - very thorough and effective. I have heard really great things about Click it Up a Notch and Live Snap Love. I think you'll succeed from any of these! Unraveled Academy is amazing for continuing education, though I'm not sure how thorough their Photography 101 class is compared to the others. After you are comfortable with manual mode, I couldn't recommend Unraveled enough for continuing education!
Throughout your education and beyond there are SO many free resources out there to help supplement your learning or get a deeper understanding on a specific topic. For instance, if a course covers lens focal lengths and the differences between them, you can reinforce your understanding by doing a quick search on Pinterest or Youtube and find a wealth of knowledge! When in doubt, Google your question and about 99% of the time you'll find the answer on the trusty world wide web :)
Other amazing resources are Facebook Groups! Depending on where you're at on your journey or what you need help with, a quick search for a Facebook Group could be of great value! Example: Photography Improvement Group. Once you join you can search within a group to find past discussions of questions that have already been answered (e.g., which camera should I buy? canon vs. nikon? how to edit a certain style?) or you can post a specific question and usually get some helpful guidance. Groups can also be helpful by providing constructive criticism on your pictures upon your request.
STEP 3: LEARN HOW TO EDIT YOUR PICTURES
The other essential part of modern-day photography is the editing process. Adobe Lightroom is the most widely used software program in the photography community. You can buy Lightroom for $150 or purchase a monthly subscription for $10/mo (which is what I do because it includes Photoshop too)! Here is an example of before and after an edit:
Learning Lightroom is another essential step in the education process. It takes a flat, dull picture and gives it a professional finish. It can also save pictures that are not exposed correctly, fix minor blemishes, and remove unwanted items from and image, and allow you to play with different creative cropping.
In the beginning, I learned everything about Lightroom on Youtube. From beginner to advanced tools, you can find video examples of people editing pictures, showing how to upload and export photos, use intermediate tools like brushes, the tone curve, etc. Over time and after lots of practice and trial and error I've just refined the way I like to edit and the style I love. There are lots of different editing styles you can achieve in Lightroom (e.g., to emulate film, light and airy look, etc.), and after you are comfortable editing in Lightroom, many people like to buy presets to achieve a consistent look. Examples of presets are Mastin Labs, VSCO, and Pretty Presets. Presets are usually not a one-click miracle, and will take some time to adjust and tweak a photo to get it the way you look, but presets can be helpful to speed up workflow.
STEP 4: PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE + CONTINUING EDUCATION
Like anything else in life, nothing can replace the benefits of practice. Learning photography is definitely a process and takes time. Be patient with yourself, give yourself grace, but pick the camera up every day or as much as you can to practice! I guarantee you that if you stick with it, you can achieve professional looking pictures - it just takes time and practice!
Here is a quick peek at my client work evolution from January 2016 to December 2017.
As you master one area in photography, say manual mode, there is always a next thing to learn - whether it be editing, learning about light, learning about composition, etc. For continuing education I recommend Clickin Moms Breakouts and checking out Live Snap Love's free blog tutorials.
It may seem like a lot, and it is definitely a commitment, but believe me - if I can do it, you can too! With photography, the learning opportunities are endless - I'm still learning so much every day - and that's one of the things I love about it!
TIMELINE FOR LEARNING PHOTOGRAPHY
1. Buy an entry level camera! The Nikon D3300 and Canon T6 compared side by side here are both great options and include the standard 18-55mm kit lens! If you don't get a bundle including a UV filter - I always recommend getting one as it not serves as a filter it will also protect your lens.
2. Learn how to shoot in manual mode (see class options above).
3. Get editing software like Lightroom (see above).
4. Practice and continue your education! Learn about light - quality of light, types of light, how to read the light, learn about Back Button Focus, learn about photography composition! Clickin Moms has amazing breakout classes and Live Snap Love has great free educational blogs to continue your education after learning manual mode.
5. Get a new lens! The kit lens that comes with your entry level camera is fine to learn on, but you'll quickly realize you want and need something with a lower/wider aperture (to get better bokah and ability to work better in lower light). People often recommend the 50mm f/1.8 lens, the "nifty fifty," because it's a great value for the price, BUT I found that the 50mm focal length on a cropped sensor (which is what entry level cameras have) was too narrow for shooting indoors (it's about the equivalent of an 85mm lens and difficult to shoot indoors - just too narrow). See a comparison of focal lengths here and more about crop factor here. With all that in mind, I'd recommend the 35mm f/1.8 instead, it's not much more expensive, but will be about the equivalent of a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor, and will still be a great lens if/when you upgrade to a full frame camera! For reference, about 75% of the pictures I take are taken at a 24mm or 35mm focal length and 25% at 50mm or 70mm.
6. Upgrade to a full frame camera! When your entry level DSLR is limiting you, whether it be ISO restrictions in low light or lower resolution from a cropped sensor, it may be time to upgrade! Do your research, go to a camera store and talk to someone about your photography needs and wants and hear what they suggest. See and hold the cameras to get a feel for them. (They were bigger/heavier than I thought - especially compared to my entry level camera)! Use sites like Camera Decision to compare camera bodies and lenses side by side.
I upgraded to a Nikon D750 and a Sigma Art 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and that is all I use! I'm a camera gear minimalist and couldn't be happier with the results I get with this combination of camera body and lens! Many photographers love prime (non-zoom) lenses because they have lower/wider apertures and tend to be sharper, but I love the focal length versatility of my zoom, especially when photographing young children! I also have a compact mirrorless camera, a Sony rx100 iv, that I take with me everywhere - great for travel or day in the life projects where I don't want to carry my big camera around!
JEANNA RICE PHOTOGRAPHY RESOURCES + Q&A SESSIONS
If you'd like to follow along my photography journey, you can look back at my Photography Pinterest Board and see my own learning path - and I'm still pinning! My Pinterest Board includes things like exposure guide, projects to spark creativity, catch lights, editing, raw files, composition, and depth of field. Start from the bottom and work your way up to go in chronological order!
Wherever you are in your journey, I'm happy to be a resource for you! If you can't find answers to your questions online or other resources, feel free to send me a message and I'm happy to help guide you in the right direction!
If you or a group of friends (like PEPS) are interested having a detailed Q&A photography discussion with me, send me a message! I do recommend learning manual mode first from one of the classes I suggested, as it would be nearly impossible to properly learn manual mode in a one hour class - it would just be too much information for it to really stick. The courses I suggest are great because they teach you one element at a time and with each element you pick up your camera to practice and apply what you just learned before moving on to the step - this is the best way to learn manual mode. After you learn manual mode, that's where I can help! Manual mode is only the beginning and opens up your journey to endless possibilities - and questions! I love the variety of questions that arise after learning manual mode. Photography is one of those things, the more you learn the more you realize you didn't know, but the good news is that if you know manual mode, you have the proper foundation to quickly build upon your existing knowledge base.
I offer indoor or outdoor private Q&A sessions for you or a group.
We can meet with our cameras indoors with pen + paper or walk outdoors and ask + answer questions while we shoot together!
Send me a message below for pricing and details.
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Thanks for reading! I hope you start this amazing journey - and please, stick with it!
I promise, it will be so worth it!
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