Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Your Camera Takes Nice Pictures

Lately I've been getting an unprecedented number of emails (more than 5! can you believe it?!) asking me some photography questions, namely what kind of camera/lens I use for my pictures. The easy answer to that question is a Canon Digital Rebel (XTi) and the 50mm 1.8 lens. But y'all know by now that I don't usually ever give the easy answer and leave it at that. So let's take a quick look at my photographic journey (y'all also probably know by now that "quick" is a relative term).

I've owned and been using my Rebel for about 3 years now (I'm not sure that's the exact length of time, but I try and convince Adam on a daily basis that the minutiae of details aren't really that important to the story, so we're just going to forge ahead). However, it has really only been in the last year or so that I've really come to enjoy photography and actually use the capabilities of my camera. Before that, I loved having an expensive, big camera that I could put on "auto," and then point and shoot and take pretty good pictures. But the truth is that maybe 1 in 25 pictures would come out well.

For example, my friends, here's a picture I took with my same camera just over a year ago. Blech. Out of focus AND the flash was on. Double-whammy people. And not in a good way like the double cheeseburger.
Here, on the other hand, are 2 pictures I took last week for my sister and her fiance.

Both of the above shots were taken in full manual mode, meaning I made all the adjustments and the camera did not make any decisions for me. Which is good because, let's be honest, I don't like anyone telling me what to do.

So how did I get to the point of getting more beautiful pictures using the exact same camera and equipment? Simply put, I learned my camera inside and out. I discovered what ISO, aperture and shutter speed mean and how they work together to create your image. I figured out how to adjust everything on my camera, and how to turn OFF that darn flash. And then I discovered how to use Photoshop to enhance my pictures, rather than to try and "fix" them.

I realize that most of you who have asked me would like to actually learn these things for yourself rather than just listen to me brag about how smart I am for figuring it all out. But I also realize that me writing a tutorial might be somewhat of an exercise in futility. Or at the very least that it might cause me to develop carpal tunnel and y'all to doze off quickly from all the rambling and over-explaining.

However, I would be more than happy to point y'all in the direction of some really good places to start learning about your camera and how to take better pictures. For me, most of my journey took place through and as a result of a website called I Heart Faces. And it just so happens that they have some fantastic tutorials on getting to know your camera. The book Understanding Exposure also helped me really get the whole triangle of ISO, aperature, and shutter speed. It's one of those things that once it clicks, seems like the most natural thing in the world. For realz.

And if y'all have any more specific questions about the whole thing, I can attempt to ramble an explanation that makes some sense. But I'm not making any promises people.

35 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, it's just what I needed to read. Last night I tried registering for an online digital photog class and well, it sold out in a matter of seconds and I was devastated (Yes, a silly thing to be devastated about). I will definitely check out the site and book you suggested. The thought of going totally manual scares me greatly but it's my goal to be able to do that. I'd say you've mastered manual mode quite nicely your pictures are looking great!

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  2. Love your engagement photos! I am another i heart faces gal and I feel just the same way. I have a Rebel XT and 50mm 1.8, so similar to you. I had a film rebel before that and always used the silly green square! I'm so happy to know more about my camera and photography, but it is addicting and now I'm hoping for better equipment and lenses. Are you the same way?? I always enjoy reading your blog. Have a good weekend!

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  3. I mean...have a good week (it is only Tuesday after all)!! Now, where is my coffee?

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  4. Thanks for posting these links, Becca! I just got a Nikon D80 last week and can't wait to get to know that baby inside and out. That's so cool you taught yourself...gives me hope! (Says the girl who keeps calling her camera a Nokia. Perhaps that's because I desperatley need a new phone as well?)

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  5. You're really talented! Love the info and absolutely ADORE your header!

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  6. This was the sweetest post to come across Becca...thank you so much for this! It makes our hearts feel so full to know that our website seems to be helping others in their photography journey.

    *sniff* :)

    -Angie & Amy
    co-founders of I Heart Faces

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  7. Love this post!!!

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  8. Thank you! This is precisely what I need to read to maximize the quality of my photos!

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  9. Thank you for sharing your journey. I'm at the very beginning of my photographic journey, and it's encouraging to see that if I stick it out, there IS success at the end of the road. I'm so glad I found your blog through IHF. I'm now a follower!

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  10. you take fab photos! I always have to chuckle when someone I know upgrades their camera with the expectation that it's going to magically make sure they don't cut off heads and blow out 1/2 their pictures.

    I cant wait to upgrade to a DSLR, I want to have more control over my image quality

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  11. Excellent post! I used to try and explain that its the eye, not the machine...but I gave up.

    Now when people ask me, I tell them I have a Magic D80, it only takes good pictures...not all D80's do, you have to have a magic one...Oh, and some Ninja Picture Takin' Skillz don't hurt either ;)

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  12. great post and wow, i love what your camera did with that photo in the sun :)

    i try to encourage people to learn their camera all the time. even a point and shoot can take an excellent photo if you know what to do with it.

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  13. Awesome post! I am new to photography. I used to like to take pics, but something clicked last November and I fell in love. I am saving up for a DSLR, but have a pretty sweet point and shoot right now (Canon XS20is) I am trying to take the plunge out of auto mode on that one too. Also I love I heart faces too!

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  14. Yay! I just got the same lens yesterday, its nice to see beautiful photographs taken with it :) What an inspiring post.

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  15. Great post! I am just starting to take my camera off of auto, and am beginning to use manual mode more often. It is AMAZING, how much difference it has made in my pictures! I am still not clear on all the detail about ISO and that, so I'm thinking I'll have to get the book you mentioned. It sound like a good one to read!

    And by the way, your pictures are awesome!!

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  16. i couldn't find an email address to email this to you, but your top rss link to subscribe links to this feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/AdInspiration when you click on it, which is not you.

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  17. Great Post! I'm just like you - got my TI 3+ yrs ago. Shot full Auto for a few years. Found Pioneer woman and I heart faces - read everything I could get my hands on about my camera and photoshop. Shot in AP and SP mode with RAW files for about the last year, and over the last 4mo or so have been strictly Manual with Raw files. LOVE it - HUGE difference in my images. I'm finding my camera a bit noisy though. Wish I could increase my ISO with less noise - do you feel that way about your camera as well, or is that just me? Anywhoo . . .I'll stop rambling - great post.

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  18. Great post Becca! Not only are you a great photographer, but you're a great writer too. I always enjoy your posts. :)

    ~Becca

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  19. Oh that makes sense! I am trying to invest in a camera, and it would make sense how to use one.
    As a student, it will definetly be second hand.
    Very informative post!

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  20. LOL! "Your camera takes nice pictures."

    I'm finally starting to understand manual and my pictures are getting better. Your pictures are totally inspiring! Thanks for all that you share!

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  21. Hi! Ooo yes, I love I Heart Faces. I actually do have a question for you. :) How do you get the sun flare that you have in the 2nd photo? I have the XSI and love my 50mm 1.8. I shoot in all manual too. My guess is that it has something to do with aperture? Am I right?

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  22. you're so awesome at life. for real. everything you do is gold.
    on a personal note, remember when jay used to have brown hair?!?!? weird! she was still cute as a button--just a brunette button!

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  23. Love this post! I get comments all the time about how my pics are so good because of my camera and the lens. NO! Absolutely not! The pics are good bc I know how to use my camera. Almost the same journey as you explained...but took me longer to get out of the auto comfort zone! Now I shoot and get paid for it!...and completely self taught!

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  24. Nice post! I came here via I heart Faces :) I post tutorials every once in a while and, thought i'd mention w/o putting in some spam like link -- so, just click my name if you want to visit. Thanks for posting this!! It's always good to read :)

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  25. And there we have it, the first STARRED Stanley Clan blog post in my reader, because I want a mack daddy camera and when I get it, I need to come back to those links you posted :)

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  26. Love this! I have loved seeing your photography improve over the past year. I feel lately that I haven't progressed at all because I haven't been using my camera. I look forward to the summer when I have more time. Your before & afters are definitely inspiring!

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  27. Thanks for sharing your journey and your knowledge. You are a great writer AND a great photographer!

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  28. OMGosh! What a difference a year has made for you! Good on your for studying and learning that camera in and out! Now I'm gonna go back and take a look at all my pics with the flash on to the one's I've been taking lately!

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  29. great info! i get some of the same questions. and it's amazing the improvement that occurs once you go manual!!

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  30. What is I Heart Faces? Tell me more!!! heh. right. I am right there with ya, down to the before and after pics. It is AMAZING what can be done with a good "nifty 50" lens and Photoshop (and a little "Amy, Angie and Drew" action along the way....). Great post, and hey.... the biggest bonus for ME at IHF is meeting wonderful friends like you!

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  31. I just got a DSLR for my birthday - about 2 weeks ago - and have already read part of the I Heart Faces tutorials. Thanks for the book recommendation. I have a little birthday money to spend on camera accessories, and thought a book or class might be the best place to begin!

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  32. Thanks for this...You are the 3rd or 4th or 5th person to recommend Understanding Exposure. I have Understanding Digital Photography, but I may have to get this one too. I have a canon rebel and am excited to get onto manual mode. I just figured out how to take photos in my diningroom in the evening without the flash and without the yellow haze. Although it wasn't really sharp in focus. One step at a time.

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  33. I have a Canon Rebel X Tli but I don't even know enough to tell you why that "l" makes my camera different from yours!

    I've been shooting on automatic. I need to take the time to learn how to really use my camera but I've been skeered. And not sure I had the time. Thanks for the nudges in the right direction.

    P.S. I Heart Faces hearts you!! How cool is that, sister?!

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  34. OK. I have the same lens (50mm/f1.8) and a Canon Rebel T1i so now I just need to learn how to use them better! I have been playing around with it and I am getting better but I am no where near as good as you!

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