Roughly one year ago I took the plunge and bought myself a DSLR. I had always enjoyed taking photos, but never really taken it too seriously. After being pushed by my friend Lee, and positively reinforced by Laura, I ordered my Canon Rebel Xti. When I first started I had no idea what aperture was, when the best times of day were to shoot, and generally how to operate an SLR camera. So I got a bunch of books on the subject, and started to experiment.
My first couple weeks with the camera I shot all the time. Like non stop. I would go out on my lunch breaks, before and after work and shoot. It was a learning experience to say the least, but I was loving it. The more I read, and the more I shot, the better I got a feel for how the camera worked. At that time I also started to get into Flickr a lot more. I found Flickr to be extremely helpful as I was able to find photos that I liked, and try to examine how they were created, and what made them great.
So I continued to shoot and experiment. Learning as I went. Initially I didn’t quite fully comprehend a lot of what the books talked about, but as time went on it really began to sink it. Like how important the light plays in photography, or what makes a good composition. While photography is not a science, there is science and psychology behind a lot of the principals, and it is important to understand them, to be able to take a good shot.
I think when things started to sink in, and I really started to get it was when I visited Laura in London. It was a wonderful trip, one in which I was able to take a few photos (probably not as many as I should have) that I could start to apply the techniques I was learning. My first ever photo “Explored” on Flickr was of Laura’s shoes. At the time I didn’t even know what explore was.
As the summer progressed I experimented more, and continued to grow. I started to play with filters, shoot macro shots, and play around more with HDR images.
Come fall I think I started to put all the things I had learned together. A trip to visit my friends Joe and Kasie in Ventura, California really topped things off. During my week there I was able to get out and shoot daily, and feel extremely positively about the images I shot during my week.
Now I am by no means close to being a good photographer, but I think I now have the basics down. There is still a lot to learn and improve on, and so much more to explore. This is by far the most exciting hobby I have found, and am forever grateful to both Lee and Laura for pushing me in the right direction.
So last but not least a few tips for anyone else starting off in photography.
Know Your Light – Learn when the light is harsh and when it is soft. See the effects each has on shadows, and contrast. Go and shoot during the golden hours (before and after sunrise and sunset) and then go shoot the same things during midday and see how each type of light affects your image. Understanding lighting is probably the most important thing you need to learn.
Focus on your Composition – If learning the affects of light is the most important thing, then learning about composition is probably the second most important thing. Learn the rule of thirds. Then break it. Then go back to it. While it is not a hard set rule it does hold weight. Play around with placing objects in different locations in a shot, and see which ones you like best.
Simplicity is King – It is really easy to want to put lots of ‘things’ into a photo. Generally these types of shots just look cluttered. Try and simplify things, and see the result. Focus on what you want to say in your photo.
Explore – Go out and explore. Take lots of shots. Like seriously, take loads of shots. With digital now you can! You don’t have to share them all (most people say to only share your best shots anyway), but the more you shoot, the more you will learn. Find shots you really like on Flickr (or any other photo site) and try to decompose how they made the shot. Read blogs, books etc, and most of all have fun.
Looking forward there is still so much for me to learn. Some key areas I really want to focus on in 2009 are:
Taking more photos of people: Most of what I have shot so far is typically landscapes. I really would like to get a lot better at taking photos of people (either staged or candid).
Learn to Off Camera Light: I have just gotten into off camera lighting, and would really like to explore it more. In 2009 I plan to fully scour the strobist blog and learn the ropes of off camera lighting.
Utilize my Filters Better: I am still learning the ropes of the effects filters play on an image. I want to become more confident using them, and be able to choose the right filter for the right occasion.
Feel More Confident Behind the Lens: While I have come a long way since I started, I still have a ways to go. I think with continuing to learn, and continuing to shoot though this should fall in place.