February 7, 2012

lessons learned

Remember how I just got through telling you that my youngest was a very annoying reluctant model?

We've talked about this before, but it never ceases to amaze me. Add a girl to the mix, and everything changes.

Aren't they adorable?

As I've been cleaning up my computer hard drive and transferring photos off my laptop, I've come across many pics from the beginning of my photography journey. It's made me think about some of the things I've learned about photographing people over the last couple years.

Some things sunk in pretty quick. Others, not so much.

I know that quite a few of you are new owners of your first big girl camera, so I thought I'd share a few of the lessons I've learned along the way. I'm going to assume that many of you are just like me.....easily befuddled by anything even remotely technical.

Learned Lesson Number One:

Probably the most important thing that I learned right off the bat is to manually use my camera's focal points to focus on my subject's eyes. Now, I always use manual selection to choose my focal point....I never let my camera choose it for me. Every one of the photographers that I admired back when I was desperate for tips stressed just how important it is to have the eyes tack sharp, and if your subject is positioned at an angle, focus on the eye closest to you.

So, that was my number one concern when I set out to take a portrait. I learned to change my focal points without looking at my camera, and soon, I was able to to do it without even thinking about it.

That brought me to my next, somewhat quickly learned lesson.

Learned Lesson Number Two:

If your shutter speed is too slow, that tack sharp eye won't be tack sharp.

I know. Duh.

I had and still have many, many duh moments.

When I was learning to use my camera in manual mode, there were so many things to think about and keep track of. My shutter speed was often too slow for hand holding my camera, and my pictures were blurry. Not blurry enough to see on the back of my camera, but when I'd transfer them to my computer, I was very bummed. Those eyes I'd so carefully focused on were not sharp at all, and I couldn't figure out why. I finally thought to check my file information and realized my slow shutter speed was the culprit.

So, these days, the first thing I do in any location is set my aperture and ISO to ensure that my shutter speed is fast enough to handle any slight movement made by either me or my subject.

For some of you, this is probably a given. For me, it was not. Nothing was a given when I was starting out. Except maybe taking off my lens cap. Of all the variables that come along with manual photography, I at least had that one down from the start.

For me, it's easy to focus more on what I don't know. I still have so much to learn. I can visit the blogs of amazing photographers and quickly feel that I will never get to where I want to be.

So, while it's always good to be looking for that next skill to conquer, that next amazing technique to master, don't forget to occasionally take a look back and see how far you've come.

Have a fabulous Tuesday!


  1. Teresa
    I am still in the 'babe' stage of photography.
    Thanks for the pointers! I have had a lot of trouble with the shutter speed. It makes sense!

  2. I don't have a big girl camera yet, but when I do I love reading posts like this. Nothing will be obvious to me except like you said taking off the lens cap! Those are ADORABLE pics by the way. Gorgeous models!

  3. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G . . . and I will save your "Lessons" for when I get my "Big Girl Camera!"

    Best of your message,
    "Don't forget to occasionally look back, and see how far you've come."
    Applies to photography and more . . .

    BIRTHDAY, wishing you a HAPPY . . .

  4. What's this Happy Birthday? Is that an inside joke or is it really your birthday and you are trying to pretend it ain't so by giving us photography tips? Annnyway, before I saw that, the reason I commented was to tell you, 'THANK YOU' for all your photography advice. I just got my first DSLR Canon T2i for xmas and yes, I've had fantasies of getting on one knee and asking it to marry me. BUT I am going to have to take classes and I CANNOT WAIT. I know there are many good photography blogs out there, but truly I've learned more and been more inspired by yours than any other, hence the Thank you. :)
    p.s. Please, please, please tell me if you painted the lids on those glass canisters you are always showing and please, please tell me what you used, spray paint? craft paint? I need to know woman!

  5. Happy Birthday?!?

    So cute. Thanks for the tips, as always.

  6. I hadn't finished reading my camera manual before I went to my first photography class and I was absolutely amazed when they showed me how to move my focal points. Before that I was cussing at my camera a lot for picking weird things to focus on (like the thing closest to the lens). That was probably about the best thing I learned that day. I think your photography tips posts are awesome. And love the bright red against the snow.

  7. Your pictures are just beautiful! I definitely plan to get a fancy camera one day, but until then I'll just be filling the void by looking at other people's pictures on blogs!


  8. Thanks for the camera tips. Yes, VERY adorable subjects. And I thought you were going to say the first thing you learned about photographing people (ie your own children) is to keep your temper! LOL! My son can send my frustration level through the roof when he's in the "annyoing model" mood.:)

  9. Hi Teresa.. if it is your birthday.. *H*A*P*P*Y* * *B*I*R*T*H*D*A*Y*!*!*!*

    Thanks for the tips.. I definitely need them as I just got my first "big girl camera".. a Nikon D5100. Here's the funny part.. I got the lens ON.. but I can't get it OFF.. to try out the longer zoom one! Oy. Love your boy, his girl and the snow.. gorgeous.
    ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  10. I'm still back at 'take lens cap off.' Some day there will a Big Girl camera in my life. It's on The List. :-)

  11. young love ~sigh~

    Is today really your birthday??
    If so, I'm glad I stopped by...
    Happy Birthday dear Teresa!!

  12. Great photos!! you are a very talented photographer. : ) have a great day!!

  13. LOL!! They are adorable. That's the secret to great photos of our sons...a cute girl :) And Happy Birthday....????? xoxo Debbie

  14. thank you for the tips! can you tell me what shutter speed is most likely too low for hand holding your camera? i tend to set the speed slow to let in more light when indoors. maybe i should try a higher speed, large aperture opening, and higher ISO to reduce blue???

  15. I love red and tartan and snow. Love these pictures. Makes me smile and wish for 1, snow and 2, a better camera! Thanks for sharing tips. I so enjoy takng pictures but never seem to always hit those home runs like you show us. Beautiful.

  16. I had my days all mixed up! That thing I said yesterday was meant for today!!! :)

  17. first: Happy Birthday!?!

    second: you talkin' to me??? ;) eyes, shutter speed, this is good stuff ~ had to read twice just to insure i "got it." also, my camera has image stabilizer, which i leave on at all times & the battery seems to do just fine, would love to hear your thoughts on this?
    thanks for all the camera info i NEED it!

  18. love, love, love the pictures!! :) and the photography help! :)

  19. Love, love, love, all your pictures! You got me hooked on your blog a way long time ago when you did the pictures of the (then) fiances standing in each others hands.

    I sure would love some camera advice... I will hopefully be going to a flower show soon that is held in a huge warehouse kind of place. The lighting is terrible for cameras, at least I think so. If I use a flash, the picture washes out. If I don't use a flash, the picture is too dark. Can you give me some suggestions? Thanks!


  20. Thanks for the tips. Eye to eye contact from camera to subject a great way to focus. Learning from our mistakes or bad photos is learning that sticks for me. The glow of youth you sure captured in that first image.

  21. thank you for this reminder on perspective. i look at your photos and think, one day. i look at pictures i took seven months ago and cringe. i look at pictures i took today and see some progress. and for that, i smile. : )

  22. I always appreciate your photography tips T! And all I have to is look at Maddie's senior pics to know you have that eye thing down!

  23. It is likely that I look at your photos with the same awe and wonder and desire for better as you do on your favorite photographer's blogs. I'm a newbie at shooting in manual. Always inspired to keep working at it when I see your photos!!!

  24. Does she have a website for her photography?