Three things I wish I knew before I started taking photos

So my photography journey has definitely been a wild one. From oversaturated photos with bad lighting to photos with NO CONTRAST AT ALL – rest assured the world has seen it all sis. While I definitely think that practice is key to nailing that perfect photo, it’s not the only part of this story. To me, the most important things are:

  1. Read the manual
  2. Shoot with meaning
  3. Save yourself time

If you want to start taking killer photos starting today, keep on reading!

Read the manual

Some things before I dive in: technique and help.

Don’t get me wrong, technique is valuable. If you know what good lighting is, if you know your angles, and know how to edit you’ve got half the battle done. That all comes with time and lots of patience. While it’s easy to look at others and compare yourself to them, remind yourself that they didn’t just pick things up overnight. Look at what they’re doing and find ways to make it your own.

Another thing I’ll say is don’t be afraid to ask for help. I used to be scared or shy to ask others for editing help, or even tips on what to do next. I literally spent a whole year and a half figuring things out on my own, when others could’ve helped my stubborn ass understand things quicker. With that said, here are some of the things I’ve learned over my two and a half year photography journey.

I’ve been taking photos on my little iPod I got for Christmas around 2014, so when I finally got my Canon T6i around late November of 2017 ( Black Friday come 👏🏼 through 👏🏼 ), I was so excited to start. This resulted in photos with bad lighting, no idea what shutter speed was and losing ~1,000 photos because I thought “format card” was like a software update for my SD card?

Like I said, it’s been a journey.

There were too many buttons and I was overwhelmed by the many settings to bother looking up Youtube videos or articles on how to optimize my camera use. As a result, a lot of my photos look a lot like this:

Yessss GAWD we’re digging through the archives. White dresses and messy lion’s mane bobs were kind of my thing for a while. I thought these were SO DOPE at the time, so much so that my obsession with self-portraits is still going strong.

However, this brings me to my first point: read the manual. Nowadays, you don’t even have to read the actual manual, just make sure you absorb as much information as possible. Go on Youtube, ask your friends or read blogs such as this one ✨ Anyone can go out there with zero previous knowledge of how a camera works and start taking photos, but in reality, it took me over two years for them to look like this:

See the tasteful saturation? The Gaussian blur?? The deliberate color scheme??? This all came through endless Youtube videos, mild to severe carpal tunnel from scrolling through Instagram, and the courage to ask my friends, “how do you do that?” I cannot emphasize this enough, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Use all the tools available to you, especially the internet!

Some helpful things:

Aim to keep your ISO pretty low, preferably in the 100-200 range, to keep the maximum quality. Anything lower starts to look grainy, unless you’re going for that look. HOWEVER, I do prefer retaining that sharpness then manipulating the grain (and how much I want) in post. Also, beware of composition. Make sure your photos aren’t crooked, and if they are don’t be afraid to crop. In fact, I encourage you to crop at least once. Play around with this feature.

Shoot with meaning

Let me tell you a secret: the moment I started thinking of my photos as a way to show who I am is the moment I started taking better photos. I used to take photos without intention, namely because I just wanted to get my feet wet. As a result, you see a lot of my photos with ~*ugh*~ potential. If anyone ever tells you that you have potential, what they’re really saying is, “something is going over your head, but you’ll figure it out eventually and no, we won’t help you find it.” It’s like losing your glasses and realizing they’ve been on top of your head this entire time.

To illustrate what I’m saying, take this photo for example:

See what I mean?

Not only is my technique absolute crap – the picture is wonky and I didn’t crop it – I had a concept that I just didn’t execute well. I had this idea of what photography was: super creative, super professional, super edgy. So tell me why I dug through all the feathers my peacock dropped and became a whole ass DIY bird.

Now take for example this photo:

I always come back to this. I think it’s where I officially started to become a better photographer.

I didn’t take this because it was particularly creative, or even the most exciting photo. I took this because I wanted to capture a moment in time.

Even if I wasn’t looking at it, I can tell you exactly what I was wearing and why I took that photo. I know the story behind it, and how I felt when I took it.

Isn't capturing a meaningful moment what photography is all about?

Save yourself time

Be conscious of your shot. If it’s just you doing the styling, set design, shooting, editing, etc. then you have to be mindful of all the little things that are gonna make or break your shot.

Sis… if you needed a sign to start learning how to use Photoshop, this is it. I had to be okay with knowing that my necklace wasn’t on straight, or that my bra strap was showing, or that I left my hair tie on my wrist:

Photography is all about details, like a pointillism painting. If you’re mindful of things from the beginning, you’ll make editing as painless as possible. A helpful way to do this is to set yourself a list. My Virgo moon loves nothing more than a perfectly organized list with color-coded headers and deadline reminders, but even if you wrote it on toilet paper from the club, make sure to include essential reminders.

I personally remind myself to keep my hair ties and bra straps from showing. I keep my necklaces on straight and make sure I’m wearing earrings. I either iron my clothes beforehand or make sure they’re not visibly wrinkled. Camera wise, I make sure I’m shooting in RAW, that there’s enough space on my SD card, and that I’m in focus. Always double check how you’re photos are looking in between shots. It’s so annoying and time-consuming, but it’ll save you so much time in post production.

Now, listen. Aquarius’ are often neglected in the zodiac, so if you don’t know anything about us, know that we are s-t-u-b-b-o-r-n. Not in an annoying Taurus way, but enough so that basic tomfoolery like knowing how to white balance a photo took me two years to fix. Pleeeeease don’t be like me. Absorb as much info as you possibly can, attach meaning to every photo you take and don’t shoot yourself in the foot by overlooking details.

Also, if you haven’t started taking photos, but are very interested: this is your sign sis 💖 Most people aren’t afraid of failure, but rather of success. It takes hard work to realize your dreams, but you can’t get there if you haven’t taken the first step!

You got this!

P.S. if anyone’s got a photography blog, drop your @ down below! Let’s inspire each other fam ✨

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