12 Inches Behind the Lens: So you bought a fancy camera, now what?


WARNING: Terrible pictures are posted below.

When I first started this blog I didn’t want it to just be another photog showing off pictures and trying to get clients to hire me, (note there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it just wasn’t what I wanted).  I wanted to share my journey of all the things I was learning about in regards to how to capture really great photos that I would be proud to display on my walls, and in my digital scrapbooking pages. I learn best by putting what I am learning into simpler terms and I wanted this blog to be a reflection of that. Well, life happened and I ended up getting away from that and it is something that I recently have decided to start blogging about again.

Ansel Adams once said, ““The single most important component of a camera is the 12 inches behind it.”

How true that is! To prove it, I handed my camera to my husband (who knows very little about photography) and asked him to take a photo of me (while leaving it on manual everything – focus included) this is the image he captured:

KLM_blurryThat’s a pretty nice photo of me huh 🙂

To most people photography is a simple concept – you point the camera at the object you want to capture and press the shutter button then you get a picture. Clearly, as you can see in the above photo that is not always the case.

True photography that evokes emotion in a viewer is so much more than that. That is the type of photography most of us want to capture. I know I want to capture my life’s moments in a way that causes those who view it to feel what I felt in the moment, to react to it, either in a positive or negative way doesn’t matter, because not all of life’s moments are warm and fuzzy. I’m no where close to where I want to be as an artist but I am a lot further today than I was 2 years ago and in five years I will be a lot closer to that goal than I am today.

My photography journey began like most people. I had a simple digital camera – a pentax point and shoot that did o.k. at taking pictures. But after printing my first digital scrapbook album and really seeing how low the quality of my images were I decided to upgrade my camera to a little more professional and fancier camera. So I bought a Canon Rebel T3i.

The Rebel series from Canon is great for novices to learn photography with, it doesn’t have too many bells and whistles but definitely gives you the quality of professional quality prints – once you learn how to use it that is! Which brings us to what I am talking about today!

You decide to buy a fancy camera – one that has the capability to shoot in manual mode and is fully customizable – (note I do not know anything about Nikon or Sony cameras but this information applies to you as well)

You are excited! You are going to rock at this! You open the box and then what? Here are my top 5 tips for what you need to do after opening that awesome box!KLM_Top5Things

1.  READ YOUR OWNERS MANUAL! I mean it. Literally. I know it isn’t the hottest book in the world to read BUT if you want to rock that camera read the manual. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  Why? Because absolutely no two camera’s are alike and no matter how many photography classes you take or books you read NONE of them will tell you how to accomplish anything specific to your camera because their information is produced for the masses and it is impossible for any instructor to know where every button, option, and feature is on your camera. So let me say it again – READ YOUR CAMERA MANUAL.

2. before turning your camera on set realistic expectations for yourself. If you bought the camera thinking you were going to open a business tomorrow and start selling your photography then I suggest you rethink that. Unless you have owned or rented other DSLR cameras that allow you to shoot in Raw and Manual and know exactly how to achieve perfect focus and exposure then I highly recommend you give yourself a good couple of months to really learn your camera before you open up shop. I’m not saying this to discourage you – but rather to encourage you! By giving yourself time to learn your camera and understand how to consistently produce quality images you will have far more success as a professional photographer than one who throws the camera in auto and crosses their fingers and clicks a button hoping they nailed the focus, hoping the shutter speed was fast enough, hoping there was just the right amount of blur and hoping the lighting was right. This will only come through time and practice. Clients will remember the bad photos you took and if you don’t know what makes a bad photo don’t sell your photography! Now portfolio building is different but still hold off on that until you know how to use your camera and an editing program. just keep it real with yourself and take your time, how much time really depends on how much time you are willing to practice.

Because you will:

Take Awkward Flashy Photos


Completely miss focus


Take Underexposed grainy photos that no amount of Photoshopping will fix.KLM_UnderexposedYou will also take some seriously overexposed photos that Photoshop cannot rescueKLM_OverexposedYou will take photos of smurfs – okay not really smurfs but they will be as blue as a smurf!KLM_BlueYou will even take blurry and really yellow photosKLM_YellowBut that is OKAY! Because the only way to learn is to try and practice because eventually you will capture a picture that is close to perfect because you meant to – not by accident!KLM_nataliepinkflower

(Note – every one of these images are straight out of camera from the first month I purchased my camera – over 2 yrs ago)

3. After you have read your manual and set realistic expectations for yourself the best thing to do is just PRACTICE. Practice every day, try new things. Take it a day at a time. Play with the shooting modes, play with your settings and write everything down (what your settings were, the time of day, your white balance, how close you were to the subject, everything). Why do that? Because no matter how many books you read, or how many videos you watch or classes you take nothing teaches you more than real life application and trial and error.

4. Take a Beginner Photography Class. This is especially important if you need to get good fast! I was fortunate to be able to take Candice Stringhams Oh Shoot Photography Course and her Portraiture course within a month of buying my camera. Unfortunately, she is in a transitional phase where she is not teaching right now. However, there are a ton of great websites with amazing beginner classes – I recommend RocktheShot, and ClickinMoms I have taken photography classes from both of these sites and they are fantastic.

5. Learn how to use your editing software! Photoshop is not the easiest software to use, but once you know how to use it your photography will be so much better! HOWEVER, do not think that Photoshop can make a bad photo good! Photoshop should not be a crutch where you do not learn how to get your photos right in camera because Photoshop can fix it – this is not true. If you miss your focus no amount of sharpening will bring that image back into focus! If you blow your highlights (overexpose them) no amount of adjusting will bring them back and vice versa. Photoshop and Lightroom are amazing tools to help you ENHANCE your photos so take the time to learn them and you will be so glad you did.

Obviously there are so many more things you can do after buying your first DSLR aka fancy camera but those are my top five tips! What are your top five tips? I want to know!

If you found these tips to be helpful please share them with your friends! And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and connect with me!

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *