There’s something so interesting to me about a photo.
I guess it’s the way you can capture a split second of time and preserve it. It’s the way you can look back at that moment and relive a memory. For me, it’s also so amazing how a photo can bring out the beauty in someone. I’m fascinated by people’s faces. I love how I can take a photo of a person I have looked at a million times before, but when I see him or her in a photo on my computer screen, I suddenly see so much beauty I might not have taken the time to notice before.
I love it when I look at a photo and it makes me laugh out loud. Just the look of pure joy on someone’s face is so contagious. It’s so fun to be able to preserve that moment. I love seeing someone’s personality shine through in a photo.
I’m sure you’ve noticed already, but I have become a little obsessed with photography the past couple of years. I think it’s because it’s such a challenge. It’s a mix of so many things that have to happen all at once. It’s relational. It’s technical. It’s artistic. It’s creative. And it’s always a surprise.
You can plan for a lot of things, but you don’t know if a child will be happy or sad, grumpy or energetic. You don’t know if the sun is going to suddenly peek through the clouds. Taking a great photo often depends on getting just the right angle at just the right light at just the right camera settings at just the right moment.
So, I’ve been practicing.
I spent the summer basically shooting faces. I just wanted to focus on faces until I could feel confident that I could capture a great portrait. I took hundreds of photos of my kids. I begged my husband to pose, just to give me a new face to consider on the other side of the lens. I would photograph random, unsuspecting children who came over for play dates. I loved seeing their eyes light up when I got the angle just right.
After that, I started challenging myself to use nothing but my 50 mm lens. Honestly, I can’t even tell you what “50 mm lens” means. But I can tell you a few things about it. When I take a photo with that lens, it seems to angle inward so that it creates an incredible depth of field. Instead of the photo angling outward and giving me a larger area to frame my subject, the lens causes the photo to span a longer depth. I’ve been told that the result is more like what you see with the natural eye, so it’s more pleasing to look at.
It’s also much harder to shoot with that lens because I can’t adjust the distance. My zoom is nothing but my feet. Shooting with that lens can drive me crazy. I can’t fit everyone in the photo. Or it’s too blurry. But when I get everything just right, the result is better than anything I can shoot with my “kit” lens that came with the camera.
Next, my awesome friend, Beth, who is equally obsessed with photography, took a photo class. I’m not sure how long the class lasted. But in five minutes, she gave me a lesson that changed my relationship with my camera. I finally learned how to move my camera off of the auto settings. I started learning how to adjust my camera manually to create an awesome blurry background or take advantage of that depth of field.
At first, I so badly wanted to switch back to those auto modes. The portrait setting. The macro. The sports setting. But I forced myself to keep the camera on manual — despite hundreds of horrible photos — until I could figure out what I was doing wrong.
That’s when I started studying. I read photography blogs to learn secrets about lighting. I studied poses. I read tips on getting kids to laugh and play and genuinely have fun. I took hundreds and hundreds of photos of my own kids, begging them to let me try out some of the techniques I had learned. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I paid them in Hershey bars or cold cash to get them to pose for me. I know people think I have an unnatural obsession with my children. But they don’t realize that I’m practicing. I’m working on the technical part. The posing part. Playing with the lighting.
I started really playing with my editing software. I realized how I could take a good photo and make it better by cropping and adjusting the color. I realized I could take a bad photo and make it good my removing shadows or adjusting the exposure.
I kept thinking how great it would be if I just had someone to photograph other than those same four faces. That’s when a friend asked me if I would photograph her kids. Oh, my. I was so excited and so scared. Would I really be able to get someone ELSE’S kids to smile when they weren’t being bribed with candy and money? Would I be able to remember how to change all of my camera settings fast enough to shoot four moving targets? What if the light wasn’t just perfect? Or I couldn’t get the right angle? Or someone was crying, and I couldn’t get them to stop?
I could barely sleep the night before I was so nervous. But the photo shoot turned out to be a lot of fun! My obsession was growing. Several more people asked me to take their photos. I love doing it because it gives me a feeling of satisfaction that I have helped another family preserve that year, that day, that moment of their lives. I want them to be able to look back at a photo and remember what their kids were like at that time. I want to be able to give them a photo that reflects their child’s personality. I want to help them see their own beauty.
A friend of mine was asking me the other day how I could possibly have time to shoot so many photographs? I guess it’s like training for a marathon or going to the gym. I want to improve myself. I want to see if I can do a better job than I did last time. It gives my creative brain an outlet, while challenging my technical side.
So, when I look back at 2012, I will definitely remember it was the year that I became obsessed with practicing my photography. I wouldn’t really say I’m a “photographer” just yet. But I do appreciate all of the beautiful people who have let me shoot their photos recently. I appreciate everyone who has let me use their face to practice on. Oh, and my kids thank you, too! 🙂
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