Say Cheese!

I am starting this off by saying, I am not a great photographer…not even a good photographer…in fact I don’t think I could even be a called a photographer at all. I am just a mom who is obsessed with my camera and determined to challenge myself to learn everything I can. So, sorry if you are a professional thinking I am going to “wow” you with my knowledge. Not so much. You may want to just leave now. However, many of you have contacted me regarding my camera so I thought why not just tell you about it.
Let’s start with the equipment.
 Taken with my iPhone – edited with the Instagram app
That’s my baby. Okay, well not my actual baby that I birthed, but I love this camera a whole lot. It is a Canon Rebel XTi. Josh bought it for me for our very first Christmas as newlyweds. We had a budget of $150  for our gifts to each other…he exceeded it…by a lot. He quickly learned what the word “budget” meant after that, but even though we probably had no money left for food after that purchase, I ended up with a great gift! Thankfully Josh worked for Best Buy at the time so that helped ease the pain of the cost as well. Oh young husbands…so naïve…haha.
As far as lenses go, I have the lens that came with the body, an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and my new one (my birthday present!) which is a 50mm 1.8. More on lenses later.
When it comes to photo editing, I am kind of weird. I actually do not own Photoshop…partially because of the cost…well okay, mostly because of the cost, but I have another reason as well. I actually am kind of a snob and feel like if you have to use a photo editing program to get a great photo, then  well, I personally think that doesn’t make you much of a photographer. Now, hear me out. I am not saying that photos don’t deserve a little touch-up. Absolutely they do! It is near impossible to get a perfect setting with the perfect scenery every single time. It’s not going to happen. Every photo I post on this blog has been “touched.” Some more than others. However, I rarely use any special effects (or in Photoshop terms “actions”) because I just prefer a natural photo. There are times that I feel those effects are great and I have certainly used them (see below), but as a general rule I only do a bit of touch-up and then let my photo speak for itself. If you happen to like to add effects and actions then by all means go for it! This is strictly my personal opinion and maybe one day it will change as it so often does. 

f/2.0, 1/160, ISO 100

So what do I use when a photo needs a little editing? My favorite free program, Picnik, which I have mentioned here a couple of times. You don’t have as much control as other programs, but hey it’s free and gets the job done. For a couple bucks you can upgrade to their premium service which I am sure I will do one of these days. My next step will in fact be Photoshop Elements…and I would LOVE to have Lightroom one of these days…

 f1.8, 1/2000, ISO 100
SOOC – Straight out of camera (image taken from camera, no editing)
Alright, time for some tips and tricks. First and foremost let’s go back to talking about lenses. I think the best thing you could do for yourself is to save some money by not buying the kit lens when you go to purchase your fancy schmancy new camera. Trust me, it won’t take you long to realize that your DSLR camera is not getting any better images than your old point and shoot. However, I have used my kit lens and it can take good photos in the right setting.
We interrupt this post….
I need to rant for a second. Please, for all things that are good, DO NOT purchase a camera because you believe you will suddenly have beautiful photos. Yes, a fancy camera will help, but by no means will it make your photos great. Seriously, stick with your point and shoot. When you are ready to invest in some good lenses AND actually learn about your camera (meaning no more automatic or flash being used, EVER) then by all means move up in the world and buy yourself a nice camera. Trust me, I have had this camera for over 3 years and I was very discouraged by the photos in the beginning because I wasn’t willing to push myself to learn about my camera. I just sat there using my flash and living in the “automatic” mode. A nice camera does not make a good photographer. Okay, enough ranting.
Honestly, I used my kit lens until last November. I was then introduced to my first fixed lens (basically means the lens doesn’t move, you have to move your body to the correct distance). I LOVE my 50mm. It has opened my eyes. The great thing about this lens? You can purchase it for under 100 bucks. My kind of lens! This lens works great in low light situations and is awesome for portrait photography. This is the only lens I have now, but my next purchase will definitely be a wide angle. I gotta keep saving my pennies…

f/1.8, 1/125, ISO 100
Alright, want to know the one thing that will change your photos forever? TURN OFF THE FLASH! I know it is scary, but just do it. A flash has NEVER flattered anyone. Unless you like the washed out look,  find your camera’s manual and find out how to stop using flash. Period.
f/5.6, 1/50, ISO 1600

There was with just a hint of daylight left so a very lowlight situation.
This is the reason for such a high f/stop. It gives the photo more “noise” (i.e. it has a grainy texture),
but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. 

Now that you aren’t using flash, you will need to learn about natural lighting. This is tough stuff in Oregon where our fall, winter, and apparently spring consists of gloomy gray and lots of rain. For me this means all photos are taken indoors because it’s not so nice to take a little baby outside in the cold rain. I think someone may rethink my ability to be a parent. So, the challenge is finding light in your house. There has got to be at least one place in your house that gets light. Yes, this one room will get boring after you photograph whoever or whatever in there a million and one times, but be creative. Bring in props, set up a backdrop, do whatever it takes to make it work. You don’t want direct sunlight. Trust me, you will learn quickly that dark shadows and giant light beams on faces or objects is just not attractive. 

Most of Eden’s photos are taken in here, it has soft lighting in the late afternoon
f/1.8, 1/1000, ISO 200

Our living room is another favorite location, however it gets direct sunlight
so often I close the curtains to filter the light which I did here

I mentioned moving out of automatic mode, but what mode do you use? Whatever you want! I have not moved into manual mode yet, but am really enjoying Av mode. It takes care of shutter speed while you handle ISO and the f-stop. I need to move on to learning more about shutter speed because I have run into a few situations where I wasn’t liking the cameras choice. There is always more to learn…
Now, I definitely have a wish list when it comes to photography. Unfortunately, I didn’t marry a sugar daddy so it looks like I will just have to save my pennies Josh’s pennies one by one until I can afford each item. That or remind Josh of this list when my half birthday comes around. 

These are a few of my favorite things. I wish for a tripod, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, Tamron 17-35 lens, Jo Totes (the gray is for my practical side, but for my stylish side I would also love a teal epiphanie bag). 

Since I am quite new in this hobby of mine I thought I would share a few great resources that I have come across for some extra reading:

Now don’t be shy….go get your camera and shoot somebody! With your camera people…I am not that violent. 

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