Building Confidence

Three years ago, I bought my first DSLR camera, a Nikon D60. We had a massive yard sale and I earned enough to pay cash. It’s been a love/hate relationship ever since. When I got a good picture I got an awesome picture. But when I didn’t get a good picture I got a horrible picture. And I never knew what I was going to get.

When I first got the camera a friend told me to read the manual, cover to cover. I tried, but not being versed in photo-jargon, it might as well have been written in Greek, so I quit. Another friend taught be about aperture and light and that made a huge difference in my end results. I learned about white balance to eliminate the weird yellow hue I kept getting and I learned about using filters in Photoshop. I was able to more consistently get a good shot, especially outside. And the ones that didn’t turn out great I could usually edit to make them look better. Inside, however, I still felt lost.

This summer I decided I was fed up with getting so-so pictures and checked out three books from our local library and added them to my Summer Reading List. Then, my brother-in-law approached me about needing to buy a DSLR for a class he’s taking this fall and would I be interested in selling mine and upgrading? Because I still felt clueless about so many things, I only wanted to take a small step up in cameras to one that had an internal motor that would work with my 50 mm lens, as the D60 did not have that capability. So, I stepped up to the D80 and added its manual to my reading list.

After reading the manual (all the way through this time!) and those three books, I feel so much more confident about my picture taking. I’m excited to start shooting again and to purposely try some low-light, indoor photography. I finally figured out how to shoot in manual mode and am learning when shutter speed should take priority over aperture and vise-versa.

The first book I read was Digital SLR Cameras and Photography for Dummies by David Busch. I’m not a fan of the For Dummies books, but when you’re feeling like one they do seem to help a lot! 😉 I’ll be honest….it was boring and very textbook-like (with some humor thrown in), but it was helpful and I took away some good information.

The second book was Understanding Composition by Steve Mulligan. This book was a big improvement over the first one as far as readability. It was interesting and helpful, but I most enjoyed looking at the pictures the author had of Kansas. He has some great shots of the Konza Prairie and other places I’ve never seen in my home state.

The last book was Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. This was, by far, my favorite and understandably so since getting the correct exposure has been my problem all along. I’m really excited to try some of the exercises he put in the book and this is the book that honestly gave me the courage to try shooting in manual mode.

**Update: I typed this a couple of weeks ago and it’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. In that time, I’ve had the privilege of shooting some candids for a friend’s high school reunion, which gave me an excellent opportunity to work on those low-light indoor elements. As I work through the pictures I can see that I still have a lot to learn, but I can also see the benefits of the time I took to learn more about my camera and how to make it do what I want it to do.

They're even excited for me! 😉

What about you?  What’s something you would like to take time to learn more about today, this week?  Go for it!  You’ll be glad you did!

~ Sara


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