I’ve gotten more emails and comments in the past several weeks asking about what type of camera and lens I use that I thought I would just do a full post about my journey with photography… Sorry if this is incredibly boring for some of you – but hopefully it will be helpful for a lot of you!
First and foremost, I am no photographer. I am a girl that drools over the artistic talents of Garance Dore, Jamie Beck, Emily Weiss, Scott Schuman, Kelly Stuart, Danielle Moss, Deb Perelman, Tommy Ton, Scot and Kristi Redman, and so many others. My love of Pinterest isn’t about the products, recipes, or DIYs – but the endless amount of gorgeous photos… Whether an image is the work of street style, a fashion or food blogger, editorial, or brand based, I am so inspired by what can be captured through a lens.
I knew I could never achieve the same level of photos that filled our Pintrest boards and got posted to our own blog, but I had itch to at least try my novice hand at capturing my own images. Cameras and lenses are not cheap, not by a long shot, so I had to come up with my reasons for investing in one aside from “fulfilling an itch.” Reason No. 1: all of my favorite blogs are ones that have original photos as 95% of their content. I realized that I liked these blogs not just for the photography alone, but because the images invited readers into the writer’s personal. One of the mantras of the blog world is “content is king”… And what is more original than taking your own photos for your blog? Reason No. 2: taking photos is a life-long skill, something I wanted to develop now so that by the time I have children (so, so far away) I can take stunning images all the time, not just when I hire a professional. Reason No. 3: I want and need a challenging hobby. Simple as that… and I knew that my perfectionist personality would make me always want to work towards honing my skills with a camera.
Once I made the decision that a camera purchase was inevitable, I did a lot of research about what kind I should buy. Of course I knew I wanted a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex – fancy way of saying a non-film camera that unlike a point and shoot digital camera, uses a complex sensor and reflex mechanism to capture an image. Nikon and Canon are typically the brands that people chose between and they are so similar in terms of quality and features that most people pick based on personal preference. I dug around and found out what cameras a lot of my favorite bloggers were using, read a lot online, and tested both brands before I determined that I wanted to go with a Canon. After reading Deb’s post about her photography equipment, I decided that a Rebel would be the most economical starter camera for me to go with… So about a year and a half ago (July 2011 to be exact) I got the Canon Rebel T3i – the latest version of the Rebel that could take photos and video. Looking back, I probably would have been fine with the T2i, but I did like having the screen that could flip between being closed or open (it made me feel better about carrying around and throwing it in my handbags!).
If you do even the slightest bit of digging about photography, most everyone will advise that the quality of photos comes not just from the camera body, but also from the type of lens you use. Again, I did my research (Deb and Darby/Marla were great resources) and read over and over again that a 50mm lens was the best bang-for-the-buck option in the lens department when it comes to taking portraits. It’s a fixed lens, meaning it does not zoom in or out and you literally have to walk towards something to “zoom” – but it’s compact, light weight, and takes photos that are sharp and give those pretty bokeh (blurry) backgrounds depending on the aperture you set. Done and done, I bought the less expensive version of the 50mm, the 1.8.
Then I bought this book and took beginners full day class from The Spot Studio (you can read my post about my experience here). Those two learning exercises, combined with tons of internet reading gave me the confidence to start snapping pictures. Honestly, I was never 100% happy with my images, but I did love taking photos – I liked creating compositions and was amazed at the kind of shots the 1.8 lens was giving me. I got brave and started posting said photos to the blog… Why not? It was one of my reasons for buying the DSLR, wasn’t it?
Rewind about 5 months ago… My friend Fallon and I were having one of our regular g-chat sessions, and she told me that she was thinking about upgrading her camera equipment (we both had Rebels and 50mm lenses). I told her I didn’t think I needed to… That it would be an expensive decision that wouldn’t be noticeable. But, as usual, she convinced me and after more research I bought the Canon 60D body (thank you Competitive Cameras for your help!) and upgraded to the 50mm 1.4 lens (thank you Scot and Kristi for your guideance!). Honestly, I am so glad I made the upgrade – my photos are much clearer, with better color quality and the “faster” lens produced even prettier pictures than the 1.8 version. You guys may not have noticed a difference, but I was so happy with all the pictures I took at NYFW – and I credit the new goods for that.
So – equipment is important but educating myself on how to USE the equipment was huge (huge, huge, huge). My biggest recommendation is if you are thinking about getting a DSLR, research local camera courses or classes you can take so that you will be able to really learn how to use it… They are complex machines that gave give you incredible images if you know how to get from point A to point B. There’s no reason to set them to “Auto” when they are capable of SO much more!
My next recommendation: learn how to edit and invest in good editing software. It depends on who you ask, but Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom seem to be the most widely used programs for editing photos. I will be honest in telling you guys that up until about three months ago, I was using iPhoto for all my editing… The shame. So shamefaced. It was quick, and easy, and it did the job (sort of). But I would get frustrated that the results were still not great. So again, I did some research on quick Photoshop techniques for editing photos, and I grudgingly started editing my photos in Photoshop. And I LOVED the results! Yes, it took me some time to get used to and at first it took me a while, but now I can edit so much faster than I could in iPhoto and the pictures actually have the correct coloration, better contrast balance, and are much brighter and less “yellow.” I could do a whole post on my ghetto editing process but I would hate to dish out poor advice (I’m still learning!) and it would make this post three times longer… But just know that hardly anyone gets a perfect image straight out of camera (SOOC) – the composition may be beautiful but cropping and editing are what make them Pinterest-worthy
I hope that was helpful? I am always, always talking to my photog friends about their equipment, settings, editing, and tips & trips – and I am always trying to learn as much as possible when it comes to exposure and editing. It’s definitely been a challenging hobby but I’m so thankful that I made the investment… Last advice, don’t buy the camera “kit” (body + the lens it comes with) when you get a DSLR – just get the body you want and a great lens. You won’t ever want to use the kit lens once you see what a great lens can do
(Image via Andy Heart)