What I Wish I Knew When I Started Photography

Each one of us has a unique journey with photography and not one of our paths is identical to another.  We all learn in different ways and at different paces.  Along the way there are many “aha” moments and I know that personally I often wish that I could have somehow known some of these things when I was just getting started.  I have a friend that dabbles in photography and we were having this discussion over the weekend.  I explained to her that in my personal journey there are five areas that I seek to improve, but it took me a long while to realize this.  Once I did, I was able to focus my time and efforts on each of these areas individually and in their own due course.  These areas or categories might be completely different for someone else, but I hope by sharing them with you today you might gain some insight into your own journey, and if you are frustrated with one aspect you can take up another and focus your energy elsewhere.

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1. Technique

Honing your technical skills and learning the ins and outs of your camera comes with time and practice.  Learning technique is paramount to ultimately being able to express your vision as an artist.  Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, focus points and so on.  They are all important to learn and even after you get to the point of being able to adjust your settings in the dark and more or less without thinking, there are still so many things to work on.  I often find myself focusing on controlling my breathing and bracing my body in order to achieve sharp focus.  These things take continued practice and even though I have the basics down, there is still plenty for me to learn.ciuanbeach ciuanruby

2. Light

Learning to spot beautiful light and learning to control and manipulate light is of extreme importance in my own personal journey.  At some point I learned to watch the way the light fell across my subject’s face and that I was especially keen on directional lighting and the beautiful contrast between light and dark that is it’s end result.  Conversely, I have friends who are fabulous photographers that utilize gorgeous backlighting during the golden hour.  Neither of our use of light is right or wrong, but it certainly shapes our images and the emotional impact that they have on our viewer.ciuanhector

3. Interaction with subject

Ansel Adams once said “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer”.  How true is that statement?  It takes a while to understand the subtleties of interaction and how they may cause your subject to react to a given situation.  Subject interaction including posing can really make or break the image.  It is probably where my own biggest weakness lies. ciuanflying ciuanwildhair

4. Processing

Processing is an art in and of itself and learning photoshop, lightroom or other image editing software takes time.  You have to learn both the tools and editing techniques offered in your programs as well as discover your personal preferences and how they shape the outcome of your image.  I have an appreciation for many editing styles from moody black and white to bright color popped to soft and hazy matte.  I think my appreciation for so many styles caused a lot of apprehension when it came to the direction my editing my would go.  Over time I began to discover what I truly loved and developed a processing style that matched my shooting style and use of light.ciuanconrad

5. Artistic Eye

Developing your artistic eye is a very interesting process.  Many of us are attracted to photography due to the artistic nature of the medium, but we start learning the “rules” and sometimes our images start to lack that unique artistic luster that drew us to a camera in the first place.  In my own experience, I got to a place where I knew the rules and I was ready to break them.  I was feeling like my images were boring and I wanted to feel something more when I looked at them.  I’m still in that place and I’ve come to realize that the process of developing your artistic eye and style will never stop.  You can go about feeding your artistic soul in many ways from perusing art galleries, spending time in nature, browsing other photographers’ work, reading books, listening to music or taking a class.  We are all inspired in different ways but the important thing is that you are seeking to develop this part of your photographic journey. ciuanlily ciuanhair

Elicia GravesElicia Graves – Guest Post
Elicia Graves is a Texas girl living in Berkeley, CA with her husband and two little girls. Her photography style is simple and earnest and she enjoys documenting her family in her free time. She tries to make it to the beach as often as possible, and is always on a mission to find the best ice cream in the Bay Area.
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  • liz
    August 16, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    this was really so helpful…love your images…thanks…

    • Elicia Graves - Contributor
      August 16, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Thank you so much Liz! <3

  • August 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    This is a great outline! I feel like I will never be done learning or improving when it comes to photography, but I love the journey :)

    • Elicia Graves - Contributor
      August 16, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      I do too Tara! It is an amazing, frustrating, wonderful journey!

  • August 16, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    loved it! thank you! i stole the quote!!

    • Elicia Graves - Contributor
      August 16, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Thanks Bonny! <3

  • August 16, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    This is really a great list of what any photographer should continue to work on to hone their craft and develop their skills. I don’t think we actually can appreciate all these things in the beginning, rather we learn how important they are as we continue on the path of learning. Photography is a multiple-faceted discipline and it’s why a camera doesn’t make the good photograph, just as a typewriter didn’t ‘write’ a good book. It’s a great acknowledgement of how just having a camera and being able to ‘take pictures’, doesn’t make a great photog. As long as we embrace the path of learning, we will grow and improve our art!
    PS. Your black and white images are lovely :)

    • Elicia Graves - Contributor
      August 16, 2013 at 7:54 PM

      Very wise words Katherine! And thank you for the compliment! <3

  • August 16, 2013 at 6:24 PM

    Such a wonderful list for someone who is VERY new to this whole photography thing. I eat up your posts like candy and I can’t get enough! Thanks very much. :)

    • Elicia Graves - Contributor
      August 16, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      Thank you Amanda! Enjoy your journey!

  • Carmela Gersbeck
    August 16, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    This is an excellent post. I never stop learning. I picked up a camera two years ago and I haven’t looked back. I read everything I can and look at others’ work, such as yours. Your style is beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

    • Elicia Graves - Contributor
      August 16, 2013 at 7:53 PM

      Thank you for your kind words Carmela! <3

  • August 19, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    What a great post. I love your take on finding light. LOVE that Ansel Adams quote. So good.
    Hope the end of your summer is going perfectly : ).

  • MaAkJr
    August 20, 2013 at 4:52 AM

    This entry is just what i needed to since i cant still attend any Photography workshop for now. You have explained things a way much simple and easy to understand. Thank you somuch, and I really mean it. Please dont ever stop sharin’. you’re such a blessing! <3

  • August 23, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Great tips and fabulous photos, thank you for sharing! Check out our blog for some tips and tricks, as well! http://fotostrap.com/blogs/news

  • Ken
    September 11, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    Wish I knew how to properly hold me camera to get tack sharp captures.

  • corinne mccombs
    September 26, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    loved reading this and looking at your beautiful images my friend <3

  • April 28, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Thanks for sharing with us Elicia! You are such a wealth of good info and beautiful images. <3

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