I’m sure most of you will agree, no matter how talented you are as a photographer there is always room for growth. We are all on a journey, learning and improving as we go. I’ve always tried not to compare my growth to another. Life happens around us, especially as busy parents or professionals, and our photography skills evolve as we set time aside for it. I’ve found that my growth results when I challenge myself and set goals. When we shoot the same things, the same angles, in the same lighting, our photos will always look the same! When my photos start to get uninteresting to me I step back and evaluate what I am doing and what I would like to improve upon.
My journey with photography dates back to 2007 when I got my first DSLR camera, the Canon Rebel XTi. I asked for “a nice camera, the kind you can change out the lenses” for Christmas. My point and shoot was slow and I was frustrated with missing all the good moments. I really had no idea at the time how much I would come to love owning a good camera.
I shot in auto mode with my pop-up flash the first two years I owned it. I started noticing how much I loved natural light vs. the flashy photos with the harsh shadows behind my subjects. I would set up blankets for backdrops near my kitchen window and did little photo shoots with my kids. I would offer to take pictures of my friend’s kids when were out together. These images of my friend on the Puget Sound were one of the first I felt proud of. The close up of her baby is over-edited for my liking today.
During 2008 I was becoming aware of light, or lack thereof in my photos. Everything seemed dull and muted. Photoshop actions were becoming popular and I purchased a bunch thinking they could “rescue” my photos. The trends back then was to use a lot of Photoshopping. Skin softening, whitening of teeth and eyes, color saturation, harsh sharpening and adding vignette’s were some of the actions I used. And yes, I even did what we all laugh about now, selective coloring. I cringe when I see this image, but hey, it was the trend at the time!
And this is an example of how I used my Photoshop actions (don’t laugh…might hurt your eyes too). Crazy color saturation and funky coloring like the “lomo” effect was in. It’s just too much for me now. It’s not real to me. I would seriously spend close to an hour editing one image! And for some reason, I thought by tilting my camera my photos would look more “professional”. As if that was as creative as I could get with my angles
Fast forward to 2009. I decided I wanted more control over my images in camera so I took a Photography 101 class from a photographer who I admire greatly Nicole Hill Geralot. This is when everything suddenly clicked for me. I learned to shoot manually. I was liberated! I started accepting requests from family and friends to take their pictures. I was excited for the opportunities to practice and build my portfolio. I was also realizing I liked more of a timeless look with my photography. I didn’t want my images to date themselves five years down the road.
I shot tons of families and kids, a few newborns (challenging for me) and experimented with weddings. I’ve only shot about 6 weddings. I’m not sure how much I like weddings because they are stress-ful! But I always love the images when it’s over. In the future, I may do only one or two a year so that I enjoy it more.
I also got into designing Christmas cards, announcements, and wedding invitations in Photoshop. Almost everyone I shot needed announcements or Christmas cards, so I custom designed them to suit their pictures. I loved design, but it was a time killer so I decided to stop doing custom and purchased templates instead.
As I was doing sessions, I continued to read, watch tutorials and videos, take classes, and study the work of photographers whom I admired. I shadowed my old boss who was a Master Photographer and who has always inspired/encouraged me. I tried to pinpoint what that certain “something” was about their images that appealed to me. It was usually light. Although I have struggled finding my style over the years, I have always been drawn to good light. I studied all that I could about lighting and shooting in various lighting situations. I still have SO much more I need to learn.
One of the blogs I regularly read was called Shutter Sisters. I was inspired by the storytelling images of Tracey Clark and the other ladies on that blog. I took some classes there and decided to challenge myself further by starting a 365 project for 2010. I cannot recommend doing this enough! It pushes your creativity to the max and you gain many new skills as you strive to improve each day. I did this with the support of many other women who were doing it that year, including Courtney and Laurie from this blog, as well as friends and family who kept encouraging me to keep going. Through my 365 I learned to notice the little details of every day.
In 2011 I toned it down a bit to a photo a week. I thought more carefully about what I wanted to shoot as the photo for that week. Time-wise this was more do-able for me. It still kept me working towards a goal, and journaling my life on my blog.
Also during 2011 I was asked to take food photos for a friend of mine who was putting together a cookbook. She made these amazing dishes and brought them over to me to shoot. The best part was after I shot them, they were mine to eat! I took a class on tabletop photography where I learned some basics about shooting food and kept challenging myself. I discovered how much I loved it and I was grateful for the opportunity given me to have beautiful food to photograph all year long!
This year a magazine contacted me to shoot the winning recipes of a baking contest they had among their readers. I was so excited and grateful again for the wonderful opportunity! They were thrilled with the images and have asked me back again to shoot their next contest with appetizers. My dream has always been to do editorial work. I love the clean, fresh style of photography I see in magazines.
I had a baby in November of last year, which has slowed my progression in photography a bit. I have FOUR kiddos now, which means very little time for hobbies unfortunately. However, I have continued to shoot regularly as I don’t want to miss a thing with my last baby. My little guy is so used to the camera now. He immediately smiles when I pull it out! Since I am home more now, I have challenged myself this year to becoming better at lifestyle photography. I took a break from client work so that I could focus on my baby, my family, and the things I want to shoot.
I also bought some lights and experimented a bit this year with studio lighting. Didn’t love it (too posed/stiff for me) and it was a hassle taking the equipment up and down, since I don’t have a permanent place to leave it up. So I ended up selling it all and may try again in later years.
For now, I am finding joy again in photography, as the pressures of being in business are gone. Occasionally I accept invitations for client work depending on what I am juggling at the time. I recently sold all my Canon equipment and have switched over to Nikon. I was more curious than anything to see which I like better. So learning my camera again is my current challenge in photography! I am starting another 365 project in November (yeah! So excited!) so I can keep growing. I want to learn more about shooting in the shadows, creative composition and more lifestyle photography. So, as you can see, my journey has been a rollercoaster. I’ve been all over the map, but I wouldn’t take any of it back. That’s how we learn, right?