I have SWORN to you all I will be answering more photography questions in 2016!
These questinos are so thoughtful and well written, thank you so much for taking the time to contact me and ask about these really important aspects of photography. I am so excited to share what I have learned and hear what you guys are learning!
So let's start with these AWESOME ten questions
Submitted by Kristie @kristie_c16 via Twitter!
1. Do you actually use the manual setting on a camera or do you just use auto? If you do use manual do you have trouble setting the f-stops and such, or have you figured ... pretty well with practice?
This is a great question! I shoot strictly on Manual but so many photographers shoot on AV which is not a "cheat" at all. AV is a semi-automatic setting on the camera which means "Aperture Priority" it allows you to change the aperture but automatically adjusts the shutter speed to your desired exposure.
I actually had a really hard time grasping the whole idea of F-stops, ISO, and Aperture... I have been doing photography on manual so long that I really know everything by touch and by sight. I can see a glass sitting on a table with natural light coming through a window and I don't think: "oh that's F3.5 ISO 200 aperture 400." I think right scroll right bottom scroll left and watch the meter inside of my viewfinder, its kind of like a musician that can hear music and just play it, its been over 10 years of just experimentation so I really just let my fingers find the settings faster than my brain can process it all out which allows me to shoot super fast but not always as precise which means more work later in post production. I want to work on letting my eyes and hands still do the work for me but take the extra second to make sure- do these settings make sense? Is the ISO too high for this situation? And that will ultimately save me time because the images will come out of camera much more polished.
This is how I think about these 3 elements in my weird visual mind:
ISO: The darker the room or the setting you are in the higher it should be, but the higher you go the more grainy your image will be so try to stay as low as possible. (It is the equivalent of your film speed.)
Aperture (F-Stop) : Its just like your beautiful little eye. The wider its opened the more light comes in, the smaller it closes down the less light it lets in. The lower your F-stop the more shallow your depth of field, meaning, whatever you are focusing on is sharper and the more blurry or (bokeh) your background will be.
(shallow depth of field)
Shutter Speed: Controls how much time the shutter is open. Leaving the shutter open for longer periods of time creates motion blur. So if you are shooting something like sports, something fast paced you would want to have a faster shutter to capture the action. If you are shooting something like the night sky or water flowing in a stream you would want to let the shutter stay open for longer to create a blurred motion effect or allow the light of the stars to reach your camera.
The combination of these things three things create your exposure. There is no right or wrong, sometimes you will create an over exposed photo or an under exposed one, maybe its just right. Its all a matter of preference
Don't let all the numbers and combos confuse you or intimidate you. I learn best by hands on using the camera and seeing ok, if I put the ISO down lower the image is darker, teach yourself by your own sight and your own hands. I promise it will pay off no matter what your learning style.
I get this question ALL. THE. TIME. and I wish I was as amazing at gear-nerding as my fiance Michael! He always knows the best new camera on the market, the best bang for your buck, and what really works. So I will ask us both to answer this one:
It depends on your price range and how seriously you plan on taking photography. If you know you are going to be turning your hobby into a career or have enough secure clients to get a return on your investment the Canon 60 D is a great choice. I really versatile beautiful starter lens would be the Canon 18-135. If you are not quite sure yet I would go with the Canon Rebel bundle pack which is a great bang for your buck. As always, we both recommend renting gear before you buy it to try it out for yourself and see how it feels! You can even try Canon vs. Nikon for yourself by renting two different kits.
3. What are the elements that make you pull out your camera or phone and take a picture?
This is a tough one, I feel like everything makes me pull out my camera or phone its a compulsion at this point! I would say
#1 Beautiful light, no matter the subject if the light is beautiful I need to catch it.
#2 Documentation, how cool is it that we can document our lives and events so easily? I grew up when all of this just started to be accessible so I feel really lucky to be hyper aware of how cool this is... it didn't always exist and wasn't always so easy only a few years ago...
#3 Images I see in my minds eye long before I ever create them. I plan shoots and find the right location, model, wardrobe, props, to create a vision I see in my mind... I did't always and don't always do this but I am leaning more and more into very planned-out shoots to create exactly what I see.
4. Do you search for things that would make a good photo or do you let things come to you?
I do a little of both! I try to use all of my contacts no matter what city I am shooting in but often am just inspired by a face I see at a coffee shop and give the person my card (I feel SO creepy but most people are just flattered not creeped out) some of these interactions have lead to my best subject matter and even some fantastic friends! Don't be afraid to find beauty wherever and in whoever you come across!
5. How and when did you discover you loved photography and did you have your own camera at the time?
I have talked about this a few times but my family is very artistic and super encouraging to trying all forms of art. I was taught to love acrylic painting as my grandmother is a painter (oil) and I have been painting from a young age and still do.
When I was in boarding school I couldn't take art as an underclassmen so photography was the only elective that fit in my schedule. I had always loved playing around with my Dad's cameras so I took a 3 month class with a professor who ended up being an amazing mentor and lifelong friend.
6. Do you prefer Nikon or Canon and is there a specific reason why?
I learned photography on film, in the darkroom when I was 14. It was really important for me to learn it by touch and an amazing experience I highly recommend if you have access! I then I switched over to digital with my first DSLR being a Nikon. I shot Nikon for many years and switched over to Canon 3 years ago.
Once I felt really comfortable and confident that I did not want to go back to Nikon after a year or so I upgraded to my current camera: The Canon 5D MarkIII with a 18-105. In the last year I have upgraded my lenses to a 50mm f1.4 and a 24-70 f2.8. I also always rent a 70-200 f2.8 for shooting weddings and travel, Lumoid.com sponsors all of my rentals.
I found that Canon was just more user intuitive, really the Mac of the camera world. I also worked for two amazing celebrity photographers who both used the set up I have, so I watched and learned from them using this gear which definitely impacted my choice.
I know a lot of people (including Mike) who started out on a Canon Rebel and were really happy with this choice. I have never personally used one but trust Mike's judgment and think they are a great deal especially when bought in a bundle. I would start with basics like this before investing in super expensive equipment.
I would RENT before I bought anything. You can even rent to own and pay off your lens as if you are just renting it over time. I really like to try everything I am going to spend my hard earned dollars on so I know how it feels and how it shoots. Rentals are only about $10- $15 a day so its really worth knowing what you are investing in.
You don't need to necessarily study photography to become a photographer or work in the industry. Studying marketing was key to my success and I STRONGLY recommend getting a base in the subject wether its in school or online- it is key to your success as a photographer, an artist, or really useful in communications on any level.
As far as the photography industry, no matter if you studied it or not I found the most important thing to getting started to be my portfolio. A portfolio is very different depending on what you are submitting to or using it for. On a basic level its really 10-20 of your absolute best work. In the beginning I showed a lot of diversity in my work, my best portrait, landscape, still life ect. This evolved as I started to hone in on my niche in the market. I now have several different portfolios: my wedding portfolio, senior portfolio, black and white fine art, and my color portfolio, each serves a different purpose for booking certain parts of the markets I work in.
The second most important thing was to have a really clean, easy to navigate website and set of business cards. You never know who you are going to meet and when you will meet them. ALWAYS have a card on you and an active well-maintained up to date website with you work and a little bit about yourself. It will book you more work than all the submissions in the world! Make SURE your social media is tied to your website and vice versa. After you are set up with your portfolio (s), your website, cards, and social media make sure everything is consistent and you are ready to move forward booking your own clients.
Applying for jobs in the industry is like many things in life, all about who you know. Everyone on a certain level is just about the same on a skill level, if you know how to use your camera, edit, and display your work properly you are on your way but so is everyone else... what makes you different? Why should this person care about your perspective? You need to answer that for yourself and be prepared to answer it in every interview you go into.
My first internship was with a fine art/ family photographer where I grew up outside Philadelphia. I did everything from errands to editing, creating backdrops to cleaning up sets, working with lighting equipment to making babies laugh! It was all about creating lasting relationships with clients, making them feel comfortable, directing them, and reading people. During this internship and every job I have had in photography, I needed to be prepared to do every single job..... I learned that even if you don't know what you are doing, ask informed questions, use GOOGLE, be able to figure it out and fast, there is a great deal of "fake it till you make it"no matter what your position.
The second internship I had was at a magazine in the photo department. I learned so much about the backend of photography in publication gathering all the stock images, organizing files, and doing the production logistics for shoots, making call sheets, coordinating everything from hair and makeup to rentals and booking. It was hugely valuable in learning everything I needed to know about producing my own shoots and content today! It also taught be the value of organization, correct labeling, and answering your email IMMEDIATELY.
After I graduated college I worked for two fantastic photographers in the industry, I will save these stories for another post as there are a LOT of details I want to share about assisting as opposed to interning.
Apply for everything, internships, galleries, magazines, websites, blogs, the more facets of this industry you can experience first hand the more you will learn and it will help you figure out where you fit on this huge spectrum of photography. You can't land that internship unless you apply, always follow up, people get busy. I would not have gotten that magazine job unless I had called, talked to the editor, reminded her who I was, and secured my position. Don'e be afraid, the worst they can say is no and that just means there is something better coming your way.
Support and go to local art events, galleries, art walks, ect. It starts locally. Watch and learn from others in your field, see what you like and don't like about what they are doing.
I think the most important thing to remember is yourself in that moment. No one else will ever see exactly what you are seeing in this exact moment in time from your eyes. And just now, that moment is gone and will never happen again. Remember your SELF and your perspective over any rule or any setting. Even if you are just shooting with your iphone, a point and shoot, or on Auto, it doesn't matter, your perspective and your unique moment in time that will never happen again is what matters. Don't forget to enjoy that moment not only behind the lens but from every angle with all of your senses.
9. What do you personally do when you want to take a picture of something but there is too much happening in the background, taking the focus away from the subject matter?
As an artist, I feel rules are meant to be broken. I don't just stay in the rule of thirds or look for leading lines like many suggest, that is a sure way to create a great picture, but I want to create something more than just a great image. I want to pinch a moment in time and pull it out of existence. The visual i always have is Dumbledore pulling the memories out of Harry's ear in a squiggly little line of bright light. Everything is a distortion and I think photography has evolved from a way to show my point of view and find my place in social situations to something much more existential.
10. What are the downsides of photography as a career?
This is a great question to end on. I am always ranting and raving on how amazing it is to be a photographer for a living, to get to do what you love every day... but there are downsides. As I've talked about many times before, the financial strain and instability can be daunting and very difficult at times, that is the number one stressor for me.
Something I don't talk about much is the emotional side of being a photographer as not only a professional and to pay for my life but as a person. I DEFINE myself as an artist, specifically as a photographer not as WHO I do but WHO I am. This can pose some pretty difficult problems, if I am not booking work I start questioning myself not only as a professional but as a person... Am I not good enough? Does my work suck? Is this person way better than me? Am I even good or is it just my connections with well known people? Is it because I've gained weight? Is it how I look? I go into a spiral of self-doubt over the most minor things like a client with mine working with someone else, I take it SO personally and automatically jump to conclusions. Usually the real answer is very simple and innocent- not personal at all but it doesn't mean I don't list every doubt and flaw I find in myself over and over in my head.
The pressure to work with other photographers, vendors, and people in the field and outside the field can often also be a difficult social balance making me feel super isolated. When you push creative boundaries and push yourself to be a better artist, take risks, and challenge your own work it makes others nervous, insecure, and they can lash out at you. I've lost countless friends and mentors this way which is really really sad on a personal level and hurts my heart so much. I have to tell myself they were never your friend in the first place but I don't really believe that to be true. I think I was truly friends with so many I have lost but the complications that come with being an extremely competitive and emotional industry can destroy relationships just as fast as it can create strong lasting ones. It is something to be aware of.
Know if this is happening to you right now, you are not alone. Try to see the situation from every angle, put yourself in their shoes, how would you feel? How could your actions, your posts, your life be seen from their eyes? Social media is amazing but really clouds and distorts reality. Could that have something to do with it? Explore more options... Easier said than done my friends.