This one’s a long post – but it’s been an educational year!
1. Shoot Manual.
I’ll be really honest – I only started using manual mode this year. And that was only after I was SURE aperture priority was the best thing ever and so much easier! At the time I thought – auto mode has always been a no-go for me, but cameras are so smart these days! I’m just starting out and I’m a slow shooter so why not use a priority mode and save myself the time and trouble? So I let the camera decide shutter speed and ISO for me, and that worked, for a bit. Don’t get me wrong – DO utilize priority modes when you are starting out! They are great stepping stones to transition to manual and they taught me so much about what shutter speed and aperture really mean! But eventually – I outgrew the camera making choices for me.
The beauty, and the great challenge of manual mode is you have complete control of your camera. It will only do what YOU tell it to and there is so much fear that comes with that! And, so much more practice required to master it! Have I mastered it? No. I still bumble through setting up my camera and shoot images that are overexposed or blurry but am I getting better? Absolutely.
At some point in your photography journey – you will outgrow Auto or Priority modes, and that will be an amazing step! Don’t be afraid! Turn that dial to “M” and keep on shooting.
2. ISO is not scary – it’s your friend.
So here’s what happened (without giving too much detail) that resulted in me completely understanding ISO as a critical part of manual mode:
I was shooting in aperture priority and losing light outdoors. All my images were coming out blurry and for some reason – I completely forgot about ISO and unfortunately, because I didn’t really understand it, I had set it to 100 instead of Auto. That leads to the first thing I learned: if you use a priority mode, set the ISO to Auto so that your camera can adjust it. Anyway, I did what I could – mainly used a flash when I didn’t want or have to but some of the images were far from my best, and I knew it.
Then, one day while Alex and I are out shooting – she says something about it being too dark, she’s going to bump up the ISO. WHAT!?! Wait. I KNOW that. But WHY am I NOT using it?!? The answer to that question is just that I knew what it was but I hadn’t implemented it into my shooting yet – I just forgot about it! Once I started using it, I was ready to fully transition to manual mode and I have never looked back.
Essentially, I think of ISO as a safety net. If you’re shooting handheld in low light and you aren’t able to get proper exposure or sharpness with the shutter and aperture settings you want – ISO will save you! Bump that up and your other settings can stay where you want them! Obviously you want to keep the ISO as low as possible – but DON’T be afraid to use it!
3. Lighting is (pretty much) everything.
There’s a time of day we photographers love called “the golden hour.” Just before dusk or after dawn, this time of day produces the most beautiful light and it makes every image POP. Learning about what time of day to shoot and why has been a big milestone for me this year. Additionally, learning how to shoot outside of this ideal time frame has been a challenge that I have been working on and I plan on creating a post later dedicated to this! But for now – most of my favorite images from this year (next post!) utilize beautiful lighting!
I could go on and on but I will save more on this for another post – for now, here are two images I think demonstrate different types of light pretty well. This shoot started with overcast skies and turn into gorgeous lighting as the sunset. I love both these images, thanks to the Coleman sisters for being gorgeous and providing the perfect example for this post!
The left image was overcast, which actually is great for photographers because it provides even lighting! While it’s nice – it’s almost dull compared to the glow the sun creates in the image on the right! But both are pretty and it’s obvious from these two images the difference lighting makes! I am anxious to practice more with lighting and love the added challenge it presents!
4. White Balance is actually really important.
This. Is. Huge. Like huge huge. And I didn’t even know it! White balance is essentially your camera adjusting to different types of light. White can look different, bluer or yellower for example, in different lighting which results in the entire image being slightly off. So, adjusting the white balance for the light you are in is critical to getting crisp whites and true skin tones.
In a moment of true honesty – I have just begun to understand white balance and the impact it has on my images. And let me tell you – it is really a struggle for me! So far, I have recognized the need to get white balance right in camera and that the camera’s presets work ok. But, I would really like to shoot in Kelvin and fully understand what that means! But for now – an example (thanks Beth Cooper):
THIS is the impact white balance has. The left image is using the “auto” feature on my camera and the right image is one I edited afterwords. Notice how BLUE that left image is? Well, that is what I posted to my blog over a year ago and it took me awhile to SEE how it was wrong. But I’m getting there! The best advice I can give is to play with the white balance until you see the truest colors. Other than that – the first step to solving a problem is recognizing it, so I guess I am half way there!
5. It is really hard to be a photographer.
I give MAD props to every successful photographer out there! It is WORK. So many things are flying through my head with every shot! Is the light right? Is the pose good? Is it flattering? Did she just blink? Aperture, exposure, depth of field, focal point, distractions, shutter speed, ISO, white balance…. AHHHHHHH. And that’s just the shooting!!
Being a photographer is TIME. The first time I spent HOURS editing images from a session I realized exactly why photogs charge what they do. It’s the price of their time. And not just for editing and shooting and packaging and blogging, it’s the YEARS of practice and classes and FAILING it took to hone their craft! In my first year, I have done a lot of those things and yet, the more I learn, the more I recognize new improvements I can make to my images. And that’s what you pay a photographer for – all those years they’ve spent improving their craft. So, when I see photographers who charge $7,000 for a wedding – I GET IT.
So, if there is one thing I want everyone to take away from this is that when you pay for a session, it’s not just those two hours of shooting. You are getting so much more. You are getting hours of editing and packaging, time spent traveling, access to expensive equipment and YEARS of experience. And, at the end of the day – you are getting that photographer’s time. Time away from their families. Consider what that time is worth, consider what that experience is worth, consider what all those years of classes and practice and failures are worth.
Don’t get me wrong – my love for photography has grown exponentially in the past year. And I LOVE spending time and energy on my clients. But I wrote this down because I have encountered people who devalue this profession, and I have decided to stick up for it and all my fellow photographers out there. In an age of iPhones and easy access to DSLR’s, I argue that quality images from a quality photographer are worth every penny. Support those entrepreneurs! We have all worked HARD to earn your business.
Thanks for reading – sorry this was so lengthy! Stay tuned for the next post in the series!