Photography has been such a huge part of both my life and my blog, so I thought I'd share a bit of my journey, as well as some tips and lessons I learned along the way. I went from shooting with a point and shoot in thrown together setups in my living room, to making over $1,000 this summer from photo jobs - and I didn't spend all of that on clothes!
I first got into photography for Etsy sales. I only had a basic point and shoot, and no knowledge of the technical aspects of photography. I've always been into art though, and I think some aspect of that showed with my macro shots.
The Takeaway: Start with whatever is most comfortable to you, and find your strengths and weaknesses this way. Also, natural light is the best and easiest for beginners.
I upgraded to a Canon 60D paired with an 18-200mm kit lens, which I used up until the summer of 2015 actually. I was more comfortable taking pictures in public/not alone at home, and my subject matter broadened as well.
The Takeaway: For your first camera body, an investment is worth it. You'll likely upgrade lens more often than bodies, and I've found having a crop sensor is not a huge deal for me. I have much more experience on the Canon side, so I'd recommend the Rebel series if you're a little iffy. The 60D is a great mid range camera, and the next step up would be the Mark series.
This was the summer I launched into portraiture, and took photos of all my friends. I always make a bucket list at the beginning of each summer, and one of my goals that year was to do a shoot every week. It was difficult (and awkward) at times, but I made it, and I really saw development within those 2 months.
The Takeaway: Take a ton of pictures! While cliché and easier said than done, it's near impossible to improve by solely reading tutorials and looking at others' photos.
This was our first big vacation with the DSLR, and I was so pumped and excited to use it. I think I ended up with 2000+ shots, and at least a dozen strong shots. Hawaii is so picturesque and lends itself easily to a newbie who just wants to shoot everything. If only I had gotten some outfit photos there - all the islands are amazing.
The Takeaway: Be patient with finding the perfect moment. I hovered around this area for a good few minutes, waiting for the dog to run across the path of the sun. I have an edited version where the man in the background isn't there, but can't seem to find it.
If you've ever glanced at my photography Instagram, you've likely seen a million photos from this shoot. I still consider it one of my most successful ones ever, and I'm very proud of this photo. We found a secluded cave in Santa Cruz, and retook this multiple times for the perfect pose. I can say without a doubt that it was worth it.
The Takeaway: When shooting silhouettes, it's a compromise. You have to decide whether you want the background to be darker/more accurate to life, or more detail in the silhouette. In this case, I chose the former, as I prefer the sunset and ocean hues to the details of the model's clothes and such.
The California Academy of Sciences is always a great place for photography. I enjoy seeing all the different species, and the architecture is very photogenic as well.
The Takeaway: Sometimes blurriness is better than being in focus. There are certain photos where focus is vital (traditional portraits mainly), but it's arguable that all other genres can be paired with a little blurriness.
When leaving for school in the winter, I'd frequently notice how soft and ethereal the light was. I tend to prefer cloudy days for photos, so this was out of my normal comfort zone, and I'm in love with how the pictures turned out. We shot at sunrise (~8 am), and it has an effect of being hard to place, if that makes any sense.
The Takeaway: Watch out for unique lighting, places, or people during your morning commute. We're often so engrossed in our phones, we don't look up and miss interesting occurrences in our daily lives.
This was the first time I shot with a professional model. This was for a class I was taking, so I didn't hire her personally, but I thoroughly enjoyed the shoot, and it was a different experience from shooting with friends. Obviously, as a model she knew her poses well, and it was a breeze to direct her.
The Takeaway: If portraiture is something that interests you, shooting with a professional model is something I would recommend at least once. While it's beneficial to practice directing those with no experience in modeling, it's easier to focus more on the photographic elements with a pro. Craigslist is a boon when you're on a budget!
Up until this time, my niche was solidly within portraiture and travel photos. Architecture and sculpture is a great way to ease into the more abstract side of photography, and it focuses heavily on composition. While you may want to stick with portraiture, it's still useful practice for developing your eye and style.
The Takeaway: Try things outside of your typical style. You may find you enjoy different types of photography as well, and if nothing else, it can help with creative ruts.
I used to play the violin growing up, and it wasn't by choice, so the violin was not exactly an object I was happy to see. However, there's no denying the artistic beauty, and it makes for an eye-catching, large wall canvas. Anyone want to buy this print? (;
The Takeaway: Use everyday objects and practice taking pictures of them in a different light. Better yet, take pictures of things you hate or strongly dislike.
This was my first foray into the world of studio lighting and product style shots. While I still prefer natural lighting, I have to say experience with studio lighting is a must. It's different in the way that you can control everything, and minute details can make all the difference.
The Takeaway: Take a few objects (3-5) and arrange them in different ways. Try and see how many different photos you can come up with, and identify which photos you like best. Figure out why.
Psuedo black and white photography! I adore this photo as well, for its simplicity with shapes, while still being interesting to the eye. This was taken in the bay lands on an overcast day, giving the impression of a black and white world.
The Takeaway: Go out to a nature preserve or similar area. Look for patterns in nature, like the birds sitting together, and play around with presets and cropping.
In my opinion, Europe is much more photogenic than the U.S. There aren't too many buildings of this size with so many years of history, and all the details and craftsmanship that went into cathedrals is simply astounding. I created a simple, almost white sky to keep the focus solely on Notre Dame.
The Takeaway: Rent a wide angle lens for travel. It has more of a panoramic view, giving you the ability to take photos of cityscapes and tall buildings without having to back up and run into tourists. The lower the number in front of "mm", the wider the lens - this was shoot with a 16-35mm.
I've always been very wary of photographing strangers - I'm always nervous they'll notice me or it'll become awkward. This was too captivating of a shot not to take though, and the firefighters' attention was largely focused on the cyclists zooming past for the Tour de France.
The Takeaway: Take chances and photograph things that you may not be comfortable with. This could be strangers on the street, a friend you barely know who has amazing eyes, or possibly even yourself!
My first venture into studio photography on my own was for a dance shoot. I've always admired David Hofmann, better known as @sharkcookie, and thought many of his shots were recreatable - though on a lower level. We spent 6 hours in my garage, fiddling with lighting and redoing shots to get the perfect ones - both from a dance and a photography perspective.
The Takeaway: If you have any friends who dance, get them to do a shoot with you! Dancers are great photography material, and it's difficult to take a "bad" dance photo. If they're not sure what to do, have them perform a recent routine.
I've noticed I tend towards a "senior portrait" style - face clearly visible and subject large in the frame. This is different from what I typically take, and it has a strong basis in geometrical forms.
The Takeaway: Do the opposite of what you normally feel inclined to capture. If you shoot macro, try using a wide angle. If landscape is your thing, get some portraiture in!
My first shoot with a couple was a bit bumpy, and not without its challenges. It can be difficult to have natural, relaxed photos, and I'd recommend being prepared beforehand with photo ideas and ways to relax your subjects.
The Takeaway: Always prepare thoroughly for a shoot - both for yourself and your client. Have them send over a few photos of the style they're looking for, and make sure your cards are empty and battery full.
One of the easiest things to photograph are plants and flowers. They're already so beautiful, it's just a matter of finding an angle and frame. As someone who has amassed too many "standard" flower photos, I really enjoy this one for the spotlight effect of the lighting and dew drops.
The Takeaway: Work lighting to your advantage - draw attention to the focus, detract from messy backgrounds, or have it be the main subject.
Definitely one of my favorite shoots to date. I first got in touch with Jennifer from Art In Our Blood to ask about how she got into fashion. Half a year later, I asked if she was looking for anyone to take photos for her blog, and we ended up meeting in person for photos for my portfolio! It was so lovely to meet her and learn a bit more about being a fashion student.
The Takeaway: If you know of bloggers in your area, definitely get in touch! I think I can speak for most people when I say we're always in need of someone to take our outfit photos, and meeting bloggers is like instant friendship. That being said, if anyone is in the Bay Area, California, shoot me an email! (:
I've been on Instagram (as a photographer) for about 3 years now, and it can be difficult to see your follower count staying the same, while others shoot up almost immediately. Sometimes taking photos with the purpose of being featured on clothing stores can be beneficial - this photo was reposted on several of Brandy Melville's accounts!
The Takeaway: While numbers aren't everything, shooting for a specific audience in mind can boost your followers. Try and see the typical style the brand embodies, and grab some friends to take "blogger photos"!
This is definitely my heaviest text and photo post to date, but I hope it was interesting and informative. Going through and picking the photos for this post was a bit nostalgic, and I have to admit I sidetracked multiple times down memory lane.
As with most things, learning never ends! I'm hoping to assist with weddings more (being a primary shooter is way too intimidating), as well as work more with lighting for dance photography, and try some editorial shoots.
What was your favorite photo in this post? Do you have any tips on photography or staying creative? Lastly, my post idea bank is running a little low, is there anything you would like to see - "tutorial"/lifestyle or deeper/"musings"?