First let me say I don’t consider myself a professional photographer. Although last time I looked, you didn’t need a degree to consider yourself a professional. You just need the passion, and a few skills. So what makes someone a professional? I’m not sure! But I’ve heard it’s when you’ve been paid for your photography … and we have been paid for our photography, so look at it how you want. I know one thing. It’s just fun!
I have always loved taking photos, but it really all began when our youngest daughter came home from school on her last day of her junior year in hight school. With her she brought a flyer showing the packages of senior pictures we could schedule over the summer. My mouth dropped open at the prices, and I decided at that point, as much as I loved photography, and dabbled in it a bit, with a little research and self teaching, I could take my own senior pictures of her. Senior pictures were more for parents than kids I think. Plus, since “mom” was taking them, I would get more of her personality in the pictures. Our youngest daughter is witty and silly and I wanted that to come out in her pictures too. I wanted to capture her passions as well. She loves reading and music, so I wanted to incorporate that in her senior pictures. I invested in a “portrait” lens (not expensive at all) and took 2 classes at my local camera shop. I also watched several online videos and played with my camera settings while in the living room, out in my yard, in the shade and in the sun. I spent about 3 or 4 months playing in the manual mode of my camera settings. Taking pictures, figuring out what I did wrong or why certain settings didn’t come out good. I then “scheduled” several dates with our daughter. Teenagers are busy ya know! I also did 3 or 4 different photo shoots with her during different times of the year, in different locations. We were quite happy with the results. And we saved over $1,000 in “professional” senior picture packages.
Tip #1 – Lighting / Time of Day / Golden Hour
What is Golden Hour? In photography, the golden hour is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset
I’d say this has been my biggest obstacle. Only because as a full time traveler, we are usually stopped for the day by the time the sun starts to set. Plus, being at the end of the day (especially in the summer when the sun might not set until after 7pm) some places are closed. So when you aren’t able to be out at the golden hour time set your camera on a darker setting. You can always lighten your pictures in editing (even if editing is just on your phone). But if it’s washed out, you will have a harder time making it look not washed out.
Tip #2 – The Rules of Third
They say (whoever “they” are) it’s more pleasing to the eye to offset your main subject in a photo and break your photo up into 3 imaginary sections.
The best and most pleasing to the eye photos are taken with the rule of thirds in mind. When you’re framing up your photo, don’t put your main subject in the middle. Most cameras will have a grid you can actually use which will not show up in your photo. Even the iPhone has a grid you use while taking photos.
Tip #3 – Portrait photography – Always focus on the eyes
If you’re taking portraits, make sure you’re always using the focal point on the eye(s). It will always make your portrait come out much better. I have seen some amazing portrait photography where the subjects chin or hat is clearly focused but the eyes are blurry. It’s always more pleasing if you make sure you focus on the eye.
Tip #4 – Experiment with shutter speed
This is my favorite things to do. Want to get that soft water look of a waterfall? Slow down your shutter speed. What does that mean? Your shutter speed allows you to leave your shutter open longer. So when you’re wanting to get that soft water flowing look, or a fun light painting picture with friends, you will need to leave your shutter open longer. 5-10 seconds. But this will require a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, you won’t regret buying one. You can also use a fence, a counter or some other secure place if you’re in a pinch. If you are going to hold your camera, you will end up with a blurry picture, and you won’t be as happy with the results.
Tip #5 – Practice – It’s not film anymore!
Challenge yourself to take pictures every single day. It costs you nothing these days with digital and you don’t have to save the pictures. It’s what helped me really learn my camera. The last thing you want (and truthfully sometimes I still struggle with it) is to be at a beautiful area you want some pictures of, and you can’t remember how to get the best picture for the area you’re in. Turn on the sink in the kitchen and practice your “falling water” shutter speed pictures. Try several settings and see how you like it. I spent many weeks taking crazy, off the wall pictures with different settings, inside and outside, to just learn what my camera would do. Don’t be afraid! You don’t have to pay for more film and you will learn by taking terrible, washed out or completely black photos.
Tip #6 – Take Lots of Pictures!
Take 100 pictures! Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But what I’ve learned more than anything is that if I take 100 pictures, maybe 20 will come out just how I wanted them to. Sometimes if I’m really playing with my settings, only 2 or 3 will be useable. Use different angles, and different settings, and if you take enough, you’ll have more than a couple pictures to choose from. Don’t be afraid to take lots of pictures. Not all your pictures will turn out. In fact, if half the pictures you take turn out how you imagined, you’ll be lucky.
Just have fun!! There are no rules!