My top 9 photography tips (Part I)
October 30, 2015
For the past year (or so) I have been intensively researching the field of photography and trying to figure out how to 1) be better at it, and 2) make money doing it. What have I learned? That it can be utterly and completely overwhelming. From what equipment to use, to lighting, software, workflow, backup. There were certainly times when I thought I couldn’t possibly figure it all out. Well now I look back and think “wow I am so smart!”. OK actually I look back and think I have learned so much, but still have so much to learn.
As I started compiling all of my best tips, it became a really long list. So I’ll divide it into 2 blog posts, just so you don’t run out of steam. Here’s the first dose.
1. Creative Live Photography Classes
This website offers some amazing photography, marketing, business, Lightroom, Photoshop (I could go on) classes. They are free if you are available when they stream live, or you can purchase at a reasonable price and stream or download for watching anytime. A couple of my favorite instructors: Todd Porter and Diane Cu (food photography), Jared Platt and Matt Kloskowski (Lightroom and Photoshop), David Wells (personal projects), and Sue Bryce (portrait).
2. The DAM Book, Digital Asset Management for Photographers
Quite a mouthful of a title, but basically it’s a way to get your photos organized using Lightroom. I already had accumulated several thousand photos, and they were all over the place on my hard drive. Before I started taking more, I really needed a system so that I could keep track of what I had, and find what I needed when I needed it. I also needed to figure out how to back all of this up, if I was going to rely on it for a living. Peter Krogh offers a PDF book with imbedded videos and it is wonderful! It goes into detail on importing, organizing, and establishing a workflow to become and stay efficient. I refer back to it on a regular basis.
3. Sony Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera, a7II
When I started in the digital photography world, I used a Nikon 7000, then 7001. I enjoyed using the Nikon, but really wanted to move to a full-frame camera. So after hours (maybe weeks) of research I decided on the Sony a7II. Not only is it a full-frame camera, but it is also mirrorless. Now I know there are countless sites on photography equipment – reviews, opinions, gory descriptions of every component and function. I have read my share and it’s hard not to get caught up in the technology and equipment aspect of photography. But my true love is in the art and composition, so you won’t see a lot of equipment reviews here. And this one is nothing official – no standardized tests involved. But let me just say…I LOVE my Sony! Being mirrorless, I get a real time preview on my viewfinder as I adjust settings (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) – very helpful! Also the images (maybe due to this model’s image stabilization feature) have been so much sharper than what I was getting with my Nikon. AND it is smaller, lighter, and so much easier for me to lug around during my travels. Although not too equipment obsessed, I do have my eye on the newest Sony – the A7RII, I’ll admit it.
4. Great Escape Publishing
As I started down the road of getting organized, and learning how to take better photos, one thought that kept coming to mind is “I have to figure out how to get paid to do this!” And viola! Great Escape Publishing. I originally heard of GEP when a friend sent me a link and I signed up for their newsletter, and then the Breakfast Stock Club. They can be a little on the salesy side, but don’t let that dissuade you. This is an incredible group of people who do an outstanding job of teaching photographic technique, and how to actually get paid for doing it. I have now participated in several online classes, and went to an onsite workshop in Portland, Oregon. I really love this organization for their knowledge, customer service, and passion. Look them up!
Famous Portland landmark, shot during my GEP workshop held there
5. Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera, Bryan Peterson
I think one of the hardest things for me to completely grasp, was exposure and lighting. Not just grasp, at some point I did understand how aperture and shutter speed related to one another, but I needed it to become automatic – instinctual. I was still thinking way to hard about it all. And then I threw ISO into the mix…oh boy.
A few years ago I went on a trip to Peru, and then Japan and took hundreds of photos. I was so excited to see them when I got home, and then… so disappointed. So many were not sharply focused, and overexposed. What I discovered later, was that I tend to shoot in aperture priority mode, and then my shutter speed can be too slow. If the shutter speed is too slow, then the photo can end up blurry or soft – not sharply focused. That is when I knew I had to figure out manual mode...and metering.
Somewhere in my research I came across Bryan Peterson’s book and it is one of the best-written and understandable books on the subject. I started other books that brought me back to physics class, and I didn’t make it past the first chapter. Mr. Peterson dives into exposure, the photographic triangle (shutter speed, aperture and ISO), and lighting in situations from macro to landscape, in a way that is practical and makes sense. It’s one of those books, that as I describe it here, I’m thinking I should probably pick it up again for a refresher.