December 30, 2019
I’ve had the itch to learn photography for over a decade. Let’s be clear, I take photos of food pretty often on my phone, but that’s just for plain old fun. The type of photography I’m talking about is the real deal, the stuff you see in magazines, the stuff you pay people for when you need to look really good.
I love staring at stunning shots of majestic landscapes, serene and magical portraits of couples in orchards, and flipping through magazines filled with photos of vibrant displays of culture in places I’ve never been.
A photographer’s careful, or even spontaneous, composition combined with a keen eye for capturing the perfect moment has always so inspiring and captivating. It’s amazing! It is art!
But this is what people hire professionals to do, right?
I slowly discovered this is what I want to do for the places I visit and with the people important to me. I want to capture my own moments. I want to learn the same or similar techniques that inspire me.
The question is, where do I even start?
Perhaps the only thing holding me back was that the photography ecosystem seemed intimidating: expensive equipment (camera, lenses, accessories), expensive software, and lots of technical terminologies to learn. It pretty much stopped me in my tracks. It seemed like there was so much I didn’t know. Unknowns paralyze me.
Earlier this month, I took the first step forward to learn the basics of photography. I hoped it’d be a big enough spark to keep my motivation flowing.
What started all of this? Self-sufficiency! I usually travel with my boyfriend and he’s the one documenting on devices other than a smartphone. I was going to travel to Vancouver without him and wanted to be armed with something more than my phone: his Canon EOS R mirrorless digital camera.
A week before my trip, I sat down with my boyfriend to go through some photography terminology. Along with this, I signed up for an Airbnb experience with Anthony and practiced getting comfortable with the camera in the city.
There are three key elements in the triangle of exposure: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. Finding a balance in these will help determine the quality of your image capture.
These are some rules I learned from my session with Anthony. Some are simpler to remember than others, so I found it helpful to have this list readily available in case I need some ideas or inspiration.
LEADING LINES: guide the viewer’s eye through an image. It helps draw focal points.
SYMMETRY & PATTERNS: both natural and man-made can make for very eye-catching compositions.
DEPTH: include objects in the foreground, middle ground, and background.
FRAMES: isolate the main subject with a frame around the edge of your composition.
CROP: shoot or cut tight around the subject to eliminate background noise.
I need to remember #10. The reason why I was afraid of trying photography with cameras other than my phone was that I had no experience. I didn’t want to use something without knowing anything about it. It turns out you need to take photos and learn through trial and error to gain experience!
During my time shooting in the city, I learned of a neat challenge to help me focus on shooting quickly, rather than spending too much time and being stressed out about getting something done perfectly. Again, perfection comes to bite me in the butt!
I forgot the name of the challenge (maybe it was 2x20?), but these were the goals:
To get different compositions, you can shoot for scale (small/medium/large, up close, from afar), from different angles (top, level, below, side), abstractly (zoom in, capture the space around/between the subject), move several feet to the left/right, and etc. The idea is to keep moving and keep shooting.
When I did this challenge, some of the photos I found that looked the best were really surprising; they were of shots I would have never traditionally taken. This challenge helped me build new ideas and techniques I can reuse in future shots. It also forced me to get creative, which is nice especially if I find myself in a rut.
I’m happy I finally started to make myself feel comfortable with a camera. I have only started to take photos, learned the basics of composition and terminology, and have not yet started to seriously edit them with post-processing software. To be honest, I only have GIMP installed on my laptop! I will have to report back on my experience there!
My biggest lesson learned is to continue to shoot photos, even if the shot is awkward to get, I must be patient. I also need to keep my eyes open for opportunities (look up)! I’m excited to practice more and to continue to learn! There are so many types of shooting styles I want to do (like portraits), so I have a lot to look forward to.