If you ask a photographer how she learned how to take great photos, you are going to hear the same things over and over, “Learn to shoot in manual, and practice,practice, practice!” Of course finding useful, reliable information is also key to learning how to get the most out of your camera! :) But! You can read all day long, and until you put the information you have accumulated into motion, you aren’t going to learn a thing! As a busy mom of 3 kids, I found it hard to set aside a designated “me” time to work on just my photography skills. Eventually, I realized that I could make some “down”-ish time work for me. I hope I can help you discover a moment or two that will help you reach your goals as a photographer.
First things first.
Don’t wait until special occasions and holidays to start practicing.
Some people learn faster than others (I think I’m one of the slooooower ones when it comes to the artsy stuff!) and learning to shoot in manual isn’t something that will happen overnight. Be patient, and seriously it will just “click” one day and everything you have read will start making sense. It takes time and patience in order to learn how to get the most out of your camera and newfound skills.
Secondly, do practice during settings in which you are not afraid to miss “the moment”. Over the last few years, I have gotten in the most practice time by acting as an observer with my kids. Because I wasn’t worried about missing anything important like birthdays, and holidays, or first steps, I was able to practice getting good exposure, getting good focus, and learning which settings worked best for different situations. All without stressing to get “the shot”. And guess what! I captured a LOT of moments and expressions that are invaluable to me! And it never would have happened had I not been practicing at an “off” time. When you finally decide to make the switch to 100% manual, you’ll never look back! You’ll be ready to get “the moment” and will have waaaay better pictures than you would have ever captured using Auto Exposure.
Practice on inanimate objects! One thing that photography has taught me is that beauty is everywhere. I love macro. And I often find myself taking pictures of plants, food, and anything that I think might look more interesting close up. I know my children aren’t always cooperative and sometimes aren’t even bribable. For portrait photography, dolls and stuffed animals are great for practicing exposure, focus, and depth of field.
Lastly, take your camera with you everywhere and don’t be afraid to use it! You’ll have down time and photo ops in unexpected places, but will miss the opportunity if you don’t have your camera with you. Have I felt silly breaking out the camera in Target or Kroger or the park? Ummm, yes, but only if I’m busted! But, I also have sweet memories captured forever that, otherwise, I wouldn’t have.
In case you are having trouble imagining any “extra” time in your hectic life, think of these examples as opportunities to practice:
1. Watching the kids playing in their rooms or playroom.
2. Chatting with your kids while they are eating meals.
3. Kids watching television or sleeping (they don’t tend to wiggle as much)
4. Kids playing outdoors (riding bikes, swinging, on scooters, playsets)
5. Bath time.
I hope this helps someone! Thanks for reading! And thanks again Courtney for having faith in me :)
How do you find the time to practice? What do you practice on?