Friday, August 31

photography: what i've learned

much to my surprise, i've gotten a few dozen emails asking about my photography (what?!) and even for my advice. let me start by saying this: i am a complete amateur and i debated big time whether anything i had to say about it should be posted like this. everything i've learned, i've taught myself and here's the big kicker: i've only been doing it for a couple of months. however, there are some things i feel confident in sharing about what i've learned that work well for me and while i can't answer every question i get, i thought i'd share a couple things.

(one: know your camera)
i had no idea that buying a lens was going to hurl me into this world of photography and hook me like it did, but once i started i couldn't stop. however, i have never taken a class and i probably will sound like the biggest fool in the world but when i purchased my pricey 50mm lens, i still didn't really know how to use my SLR. shameful, i know. once i got going, i had to learn fast. i googled everything and learned my camera inside and out. i'm still learning, but i can say affirmatively that i know what every single button on my camera does. you don't need a class to get into photography and that thought was only reinforced when i had coffee with a friend who is a successful (and brilliant) photographer who told me he'd never taken one either. use your resources! i spent hours and hours on the internet learning about my camera.

(two: know your subjects & 
what they want)
before i took my sister's senior pictures, i asked another one of my favorite photographers for her best piece of advice and it was rather simple: the better you know your client, the better the pictures will turn out. also, the more comfortable they are with you, the better the pictures will turn out. i think it's safe to say that i know my sister better than anyone in the world so taking hers felt easy and natural. however, once i started taking pictures of people i'd never met before or only kind of knew, i made sure i talked to them before hand and kept the conversation as casual and easy as possible. also, because a lot of my paid gigs this summer were my first, i knew i needed to produce pictures that they loved before anything else. sure, i had to like them and they had to fit my style, but in getting good words out there and referrals, i made sure i knew what every person wanted. i asked a couple of people i worked with to create pinterest boards of ideas. i wouldn't recommend this all the time because they then tend to compare your pictures with another photographer's work, but it helped me figure out what aesthetic they were going for and how we could collaborate to use their inspiration but still keep it "ours". i also had them make a list of outfits, locations, and/or props/setups they wanted to use. the creative aspect of taking pictures was the most fun for me and i had a blast working with clients to create a "unique" set of portraits. i depend largely on word of mouth to get clients and making sure they love them is pivotal to getting future references.

(three: wear comfortable clothing)
this is only a small thing, but it makes the biggest difference in the WORLD. the first time i went out on an official 'shoot', i wore a short dress without spandex, sandals, and i didn't have any pockets. i ended up with bloody toes from the gravel and sticks i walked on and inappropriately flashing, well, everyone. i now know to always wear shorts that move, close toed shoes and/or boots, and to bring some sort of bag or item of clothing with multiple pockets. i hate my camera bag and don't actually use it when i'm out, but instead i just take a medium sized cross-body purse to store my lens cap, notebook, and spare memory cards.

(four: keep a journal)
one of the first things i did once people started asking me to take their portraits was buying a notebook. my little pink moleskin is my baby. i record ideas that pop into my head, i take notes about how different shoots went and what angles/light was most flattering for someone, directing subjects and how to best get them to do what you want, and record every location i go to, every date of every shoot, and every useful piece of information for later. i actually have no idea of journal keeping for photography is "normal" but it was immensely helpful for me! plus, i like having a photography bank of all my favorite places to shoot at and to know when the light was best at that particular place.

(five: do your research)
once a client knew what they wanted and i had an idea of what we were going to do, i spent anywhere from an hour to two hours researching for their shoots. this included writing down poses and different shots i wanted to take, deciding which outfits they wanted to wear would look best where, and made a schedule. being prepared goes above and beyond once you're with a client and they're asking you, "what do i do with my hands? how do i stand?". i got better as time went on but prior to doing research, it was kind of a mess and wasn't very efficient whatsoever.

(six: have fun and just go with it)
i'm sure all of the above sounds like i'm either ADD or OCD, but either way, as much planning and organizing i do going into shoots, sometimes our ideas just flat out don't work or we get to our location too late/too early and we have to improvise. i've learned that sometimes just going with what's there and in front of me works just as well and some of my favorite shots have been from these catastrophic moments where it's cloudy outside when it was sunny earlier or a girl's dress strap broke and now has to wear something completely different. honestly, being prepared is key, but being excited and having fun during is just as important because if you're not excited, the pictures will show it. my worst shots have been taken when i was disappointed or fed up with a shoot going wrong and i've had to learn to yank my brain out of that dark corner and just improvise. thus, why i sometimes tell people to "go twirl in that field! lay down in the grass! lean against a wall!". if it works, it works. 

(seven: charge when you're approached)
it's kind of a weird thing when t he pictures you've taken of people who are your friends/little sister's friends that paid you to take them show up on facebook and the works and soon other people are asking you to take them... but not necessarily for money. my parents got on me about these "free-bee" shoots when people approached me to go have a "photoshoot yay!". my deal now is that if i ask someone directly to take pictures of them, i won't charge, but if someone approaches me and asks, i tell them simply to pay what they can afford or to take me out to coffee. planned client shoots are different, but casual "for no good reason" shoots still take time and many hours editing so i've had to figure out that i can't just let those slide completely. it's awkward and terrible and i hate this side of the business, but it's important, too.

i hope *some* of this was helpful. honestly, i'm no pro and i'm really just starting, but if you enjoy it, don't let inexperience set you back. go big and try new things. i've only posted a couple pictures here and there, but i plan to make one post of all my favorite shots and update semi-regularly!

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Hannah said...

These are great tips! It seems as though you are picking up on photography fast and becoming quite knowledgeable. :)

Anonymous said...

What lens are you using? Also do you edit on photoshop or lightroom or something else? TELL ME! TELL ME! TELL ME!

Beautifully Pure said...

What a great post! You're so talented. <3

I'm currently saving up for a wide angle lens. I cannot wait to get it!

Laura said...

Great post! I'm taking my first photography class and I'm loving it so much so far! I can't wait to keep taking more and more pictures. :)