Updated: Dec 13, 2019
My initial foray into the world of digital photography began with a simple "point & shoot" My first "proper" DSLR opened the door allowing me to step into a world as of yet undiscovered. I love photographing people. For me people are the ultimate subject matter. When I started I took photographs of everything. Join me in this post as I take a wander down memory lane and revisit some of the genres that helped me to develop my love for photography. Along the way I will reveal my chosen equipment. I also reveal the upgrades I made.
Hard to believe these images were taken using a "kit" lens. (more on lenses later) To be fair I did do some extensive post production work on them.
New beginnings. I learned over time that photography is an art form. Looking back at the masters and indeed some of today's contemporary photographers I realise that through the lens you could achieve self expression. Photography is a journey that takes you into the unknown on a voyage of self discovery. Along the way like any new venture I had to endure the peaks and troughs. Never realising that the dismal failures and frustrations would be a trade off to the pleasures and sheer joys that awaited me. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing I bought my very first digital DSLR in 2006. I had previously purchased a couple of "point & shoots" but I was always dissapointed with the results. Canon were at the time running a very successful TV campaign for the "EOS400D" and I decided to bite the bullet and jump right in. Honestly I really had no idea what I had let myself in for. I was about to become embroiled in a world dominated by alien terminology such as F stops, ISO, focal planes, depth of field, composition, the rule of thirds and much much more. Hell I just wanted to take pictures!
Stage one full auto I will let you into a little secret, your shiny, expensive, new toy bristling with the latest state of the art technology. is actually . . . stupid. This device like many other devices will only do what you tell it to do. Living and working in a major city opens up all kinds of possibilities for the photographer. For someone just starting out there are so many amazing things to discover from behind the lens. I loved to wander for hours just shooting everything around me. This was an exciting time as I was just getting used to my shiny new toy. At this stage everything was just kept on "automatic". I let the camera make all the decisions. Hardly surprising as I had no real clue at this point what I was doing but It was so much fun. Stage two semi auto modes. Before long I wanted to try and achieve more than just "snapping away". The auto mode did a fairly decent job but I was restricted and felt it was time to up my game. Sadly most people remain in this stage. Treating the camera as a glorified "point & shoot and never really exploring the huge potential that lies just beneath. I enlisted the help of a friend who took me out to explore the city one Saturday afternoon. I had expressed an interest in getting that lovely dreamy out of focus background. First order of the day was to switch from auto to "AV". This is a "semi automatic" mode letting you take control of the aperture and the ISO, leaving the camera to choose the correct shutter speed. Every journey starts with a single step. We walked around Borough Market just off London Bridge there were lots of people shopping amongst the many stalls. This was an ideal environment to learn how to "isolate" a particular subject. We also looked at some compositional techniques. To do this I used a telephoto lens that lets you take photographs from a distance I was introduced to the concepts of "leading lines" "foreground interest" and basic "shapes". All these different elements combine to make an image more dynamic. This is more like it! I was taking my first tentative steps to becoming a better, more confident photographer. Before long I really started to explore composition. I learned how all the different elements worked together in determining the aesthetics of a well balanced photograph. I found that using "AV" helped me to understand how I could manipulate the settings to produce a desired result, something that automatic could never achieve. I never shot on auto again.
This mode is favoured by many top photographers and the results are nothing short of fantastic. It is the first stop by those wishing to take some control of the camera settings. Best resource ever and its free! You-Tube without a doubt is the greatest thing ever. It is my go to place when I want to learn how to do anything I have spent literally hours on it and learned quite a lot. This has not only inspired me but it has really elevated my photography. If you are stuck on auto and would like to start taking better photographs here is a short tutorial. Getting you started on "AV" mode here.
Frosty treat in Milton Keynes Back in 2012 I awoke one morning to the most amazing "hoar frost" I had ever seen. Working was impossible and as I had just bought a brand new 70/200 IS F4 (my very first professional lens). I went out to brave the cold to shoot some frames. I was not dissapointed. Freezing cold but so worth it. I spent a couple of years using "AV" mode and I was getting some nice results. I had by that time upgraded my camera to a Canon 600D and purchased a half decent lens to replace the kit version. Stage three - you are in the driving seat. After a while I realised I needed yet more control. I had been wary of venturing onto fully manual mode, but If I were to take the next step and enjoy having complete control, I needed to fully understand how this setting worked. To that end I booked a weekend course of landscape photography in beautiful Yorkshire. The brief was simple - help me to take full control of my cameras settings, and to fully embrace "manual mode". First order of the day switch from "AV" over to "Manual". We spent two glorious days trudging around the dales with camera's and tripods learning how to take amazing photographs. My instructor really helped to demystify the misconceptions about using the manual setting and made it very easy to understand. I really enjoyed myself that weekend, loved the experience and I made sure I fully understood the applications and how to manipulate my settings. There are many photographers on You-Tube with tutorials on how to use your camera. These guys cover all genres of photography. Sean Tucker is a london based photographer I believe this tutorial is probably the best there is on how to use "Manual" watch it here. Here are some images from that weekend in Yorkshire.
Camera bodies come and go but a lens is for life. When I got home I spent months getting used to using Manual Mode. It wasn't easy and I did have my fair share of setbacks, but perseverance did pay off in the end. It was around this point that I upgraded once again to a Canon 60D. The professional features of this camera really helped my photography. But as research showed it wasn't the camera body that really mattered. As I continued to improve and as a result of reading and listening to lots of information, I soon realised that lenses played a huge role in getting fantastic shots. If your a serious photographer then prime lenses are the way to go. Thanks to advice from other photographers I soon began taking an interest in "prime lenses". These lenses are "fixed" and have no "zoom" as a result they are far superior in quality, roughly half the price and more often than not they weigh considerably less. Often considered as "fast" lenses due to the wide apertures they are ideal for portraiture and a life saver when the light begins to fall. Perfect for weddings. I now have a total of just four lenses. These cover all the focal lengths I will ever need. I buy all my lenses second hand and I only buy "L" series. The quality is just fantastic. I have 35 mm -50 mm - 70/200 mm - 135 mm all Canon primes save for the 70/200 which is a telephoto. ETTR technique taking your exposures to the next level. Not one for standing still and getting complacent I am always on the lookout for new ways to improve. During my searches on You - Tube I came across a really valuable technique which transformed my photography, literally to another level. Up to this point I have completely relied on post processing to rescue a shot. However I came across this technique from an amazing landscape photographer, and very soon put it into practice. The results were much better exposures, cleaner images and less reliance on post production. Suffice to say that all digital photography is about collecting information and by pushing the histogram all the way over to the right of the screen you are getting your exposures spot on every time. This man is living the dream This subject is fairly complicated so I will let Dave Morrow explain it far better than I ever could. I have learned so much from watching Dave's free tutorials. They are packed full of valuable information and highly entertaining. I strongly suggest taking the time to sift through all the videos on his channel, this will really elevate your photography. This photographer takes amazing images, and leads an extraordinary lifestyle in pursuit of photography check out his tutorial on ETTR technique here
ETTR a wedding application
The image on the left is straight out of camera with no post processing, the image on the right is the final result. There are many genres of photography. However the basic principles that govern the technicalities apply right across the board. I was able to take the techniques I learned from a landscape photographer and adapt them to my wedding photography. Lots of people have the mantra that the technical aspects don't really matter, I tend to disagree. As a photographer your primary goal is to convey to the viewer what your photograph is about, most of the time this is fairly self evident and is down to good compositional skills. Learn how your camera works learn how to understand light, for light is our medium. If you did not invest the time in learning all the technical aspects of how your camera actually works and what is needed to produce a pleasing photograph, then you will struggle. Learn the technical aspects, learn how to manipulate the settings to create your photograph, this can only be done by failing! Go out take lots and lots of photographs, then look at them critically, then go out and take lots more, gradually you will improve. Conclusions Whatever genre of photography you choose the basic premise of capturing an exposure is always the same. Learn by your mistakes, learn by watching other peoples mistakes. Once you are proficient in how to operate your camera, then and only then can you concentrate on being creative, not having to worry if your settings are correct. Above all enjoy your new found pastime it is and will be very rewarding. Put in some effort and you will elevate from taking snaps to making photographs.