Thursday, 20 June 2013

Tips for beginner photographers, part one: How to get started

I can hardly believe it's already been a year since I've been in business with j. noel photography, but it sure has. I actually had my very first paid session in May of last year, filed for my LLC in fall of last year, and have been learning lessons and having a blast as a new business owner ever since! :)

I believe in spreading the love, so I'm going to share some of my biggest lessons and tips with you over the course of a few posts. Obviously these tips are aimed towards beginner photographers, but feel free to chime in and comment if you're a seasoned pro that has some tips, too! We can all learn so much from each other.

Today's focus is the very basics of getting started, but in following posts I plan to share some knowledge on the business aspect of things and working with clients during sessions. Stay tuned for more!


1. Learn to shoot in manual... and then practice, A LOT. Once I fully understood my camera's capabilities and how to control its settings, a whole new world opened up to me and my photography improved by leaps and bounds. There were no longer any befuddling light situations or unnecessary hours spent editing photos that I could have gotten right SOOTC (straight out of the camera). 

I promise, if you aren't shooting in manual, your work is suffering!

A photographer friend recommended this amazing tutorial to me when I first got started last year, so I bought it (WELL WORTH the tiny investment), and after the few hours it took me to work through the thing, my world was turned upside down. I switched my camera to manual and never looked back!
Helpful hint: it WILL take you a while to get adjusted and start doing this second-nature. Practice, practice, practice, and after a little while you'll be changing settings in your sleep!)

2. Invest in the best possible equipment you can afford. Invest will be a key word in this particular part of your process as a beginner. It hurts, but it's necessary. I understand that not everyone can afford to shell out three grand for a top-of-the-line full-frame camera, but do research your options and go with the best you can afford, even if it pinches a little. Your lens is just as important, so don't forget to factor that in! Believe it or not, I currently own only ONE lens, the 50mm 1.4.  It's been running my business and blog the entire last year! It's really affordable (and the 1.8 is even more so, if you're on a very tight budget), and it produces amazing results and that beautiful depth of field (the blurry background!). Pop one of those babies on your camera, and your photos are already on their way to looking profesh! 

As far as editing equipment goes, don't mess around. Buy professional quality programs if you'd like to achieve professional quality results.  I sing Lightoom's praises all day long (it's very inexpensive at only about $100 to $150 depending what version you get - I use v.4), and it's super simple, super user friendly (WAY less confusing than Photoshop!), and super powerful. While I recommend having Photoshop on hand as well for skin edits and its other endless possibilities, it IS a pricey program and if it's out of the question, Photoshop Elements may be all you need to start. 
Helpful hint #1: This is a little sneaky, but maybe you can even find a student willing to purchase the programs for you with their discounts! We bought mine with my husband's law school student discounts, and it was a steal!
Helpful hint #2: Invest in this Lightroom tutorial. I don't know where I'd be right now if I didn't! It also comes with some really useful presets and, of course, tips you might never learn if you just play around with it yourself.

3. When it comes to editing, less is more. When I look back on my editing style one year or so ago, I recognize that I lacked confidence in my skills and somehow that translated into being really heavy-handed with the editing. It's kind of like that girl that plasters her face with makeup because it makes her feel more confident... because she doesn't recognize her own natural beauty. Funny enough, most photographers I talk to say this very same thing was the case when they first began, too! I know I, personally, relied a lot on actions and had no idea how to intuitively customize images myself, but over time, as I learned my editing programs better, I started to ease off actions entirely and just use my noggin when it came to making the adjustments a photo might need. My finished products improved tremendously because of it!

And that's all for now, folks. Stay tuned in the weeks to come for more handy photography tips for beginners, and if you have questions or comments, please sound off below!

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Disclaimer: I know I still have a looooong way to go in photography, and one year from now I'll probably look back on my work today and notice all the things I should have done differently, but for now, I'm proud of where I am and that's why I'm not ashamed to share what I've learned so far. Just wanted to put that out there! ;)

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