4 Year DSLR Anniversary!

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Ladybugsteph's picture
Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2977
4 Year DSLR Anniversary!

This September marks 4 years with my beloved Rebel XTi. I thought I'd make an anniversary post with my progress. I always find these inspiring. I know I still have a long way to go, but I can?t believe the progress I've made. And specifically in the past 6 months to a year. You may want to pull up a chair and grab a drink. It's going to be a long one!

My progress was super slow. I'll admit that. I guess I always thought I was putting in the effort, but I really wasn't. I was stubborn. I stayed in the semi-automatic modes for the longest time and couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting any better.

To start out, though, I'd like to go back to the beginning of my obsession passion. I remember taking this picture of Bailey with my little point and shoot when he was a puppy, and loving it. I tried so hard to recreate it, and failed every time. Looking at it now, I realize what made me love it so much (the lighting), and could probably recreate it in an instant. Funny how that is, huh?

I took a crap ton of pictures of the dog before kids. I never really paid much attention to what made a good photograph, and about the only thing I ever learned was that I much preferred taking pictures of him outdoors. Again, looking back on it, I realize that it was the flash that I hated.

Then, Carson came along in 2007. That's when I really wanted to learn photography. I tried to do what I could with my point and shoot. I failed miserably at first!

By September 2008, I was starting to sort of get the hang of things, thanks to pg.org?s wonderful photographers. I wasn't an avid poster, but I did at least lurk and try things out. The results weren't too bad, for using a point and shoot.

Not long after those were taken, I finally got my Rebel XTi that I had been begging for since Carson was born! The very next day, I took it out to the pumpkin patch. I immediately fell in love with this one.

I put my camera on shutter priority. You know, you have to have at least a SS of 1/125 with kids. The rest of the settings don't matter, right? Wink Occasionally, I'd get lucky:

But most of the time, I had underexposed photos:

Oh, and taking photos indoors? Not possible.

I got pregnant with Jackson, and I pretty much stopped trying. I would occasionally try to get some photos, but mostly, they were just snaps.

When Jackson came along, I purchased a speedlite. I was convinced that this was going to be the answer to my prayers, and I'd be able to get great shots of Jackson in the hospital. (That most definitely wasn't the case, but they were at least better than what I got with Carson) I tried and tried with indoor pictures until it was nice enough to make it outside again.

Now, this was finally the point where I decided it was time to switch to manual. So, we're up to around May 2010. I think that one of the reasons I never wanted to switch, was because I was afraid that I'd screw up, and miss something good. Oh, little did I know that I was missing MORE by staying in the auto modes. Yes, there was a learning curve, but I'm glad I finally switched.

Giving manual a try:

Now, one thing that I neglected when figuring out Manual mode was the light meter. When I started paying attention to that, I had my Ah-Ha moment.

That summer I created the best photos I had ever taken. I finally was able to get what I had been striving to get since Carson was born.

So, the winter 2010/2011, I made it my mission to learn to take photos indoors. Sometimes I'd use my speedlite, other times I'd just crank up the ISO and pray there wasn't much noise Wink

I also started my 52 week project January of 2011. If you're stuck in a rut, I strongly encourage you to start at least a photo a week project. I watched myself grow by leaps and bounds.

Even though exposure was getting better...

I still made mistakes. It's important not to get yourself down about mistakes that you'll inevitably make.

Then we make it up to April 2011. This photo right here is one that I probably learned the most from. First of all, I realized that most of what I was shooting in the back yard was backlighting, and I learned that I needed to turn my camera over to spot metering in order to compensate for the brightness behind my subject. I owe so much to the ladies here on pg.org for that bit of advice.

Spring of 2011, I offered myself up for some free sessions with my friends. My kids were getting really annoyed with me and my camera, so I decided I needed new subjects.

Another lesson learned: Dappled light.

May 2011, I went out during Golden Hour for the first time, and fell in love.

But I learned that my PP skills needed some MAJOR work. I decided it was time to make the switch over to RAW.

I STILL struggle with the color on this one, as I keep revisiting it over and over...and over...

Still doing small sessions for friends, and wondering what in the world I'm doing wrong.

I'm in the shade...Why doesn't it look amazing?? Deep shade, a Rebel XTi, and a kit lens don't mix very well.

At this point, I was trying to pose the kids more often. Before, I'd just let them do their own thing, then get them to look my way. But looking back, I realize I probably should have been working on my focus!

The first of my more "themed" shoots. I had this vision in my head of the kids in overalls, no shirts, standing in front or in a corn field. It took a lot of convincing to get my hubby to help me, but I got to see my vision!

I knew that when he fell asleep on my lap, that I HAD to transfer him to the swing and snap a few.

Another "vision" I had:

So, as you can tell, I started thinking more creatively around this time. This was summer 2011. It wasn't just about getting correct exposure anymore. I started craving more than just a glance at the camera.

So, another learning experience. Took the kids and my camera out, and did some backlighting. Haze. Don't like it. Realized that I liked filtered backlighting like I was getting in my back yard. Learned not to stand in the sun, and to purchase a lens hood.

So for my birthday in September 2011, I got the 50mm 1.4 lens as a present from my husband. Oh, bless him! What a difference! Here's the first real shoot with that lens, and also the first time doing a morning Golden Hour.

I was in bokeh heaven!

But with that open AP came focus issues.

Also, around this time, I joined one of the CC groups over at ILP. I can't tell you how much I learned in a few short weeks. I may not have shown them in practice, but the knowledge was at least there by CCing and getting feedback on my own work.

Now is the time where I started working on lighting. This was October 2011. The light indoors was more controlled, and since I was able to control my exposure inside, I started there. I wasn't worrying at backgrounds. I just wanted directional light.

I was also trying to get myself out of the shade so I wouldn't limit myself. I remember being frustrated about how these turned out.

I joined another CC group at ILP in November. It was actually with maricopamom3. This group focused on self improvement. The first assignment was a self portrait. I realized that I needed a tripod. I had a heck of a time setting this up!

After a year of my weekly photo project, I felt like I really grew, and learned so much. It wasn't just about taking a picture anymore. It was about getting creative and reading the light.

This year, I'm working on a photo a day project. I've actually been keeping up with it. It has made me realize that I need to take those snaps too. Not just trying to get the "perfect" photo every time. Sometimes all you need is the memory.

I'll just leave you with some progress from this past year. Maybe just an occasional comment or two Wink

My Ah-Ha moment with lighting outdoors.

I hope you enjoyed! I encourage all of you to write up an anniversary post! I LOVE reading them!

TracyF's picture
Last seen: 12 hours 20 min ago
Joined: 08/14/06
Posts: 2557

Really inspiring, Steph, and great to see your journey.

I remember when I first came to this board, you were someone I looked up to, but whose work seemed "accessible" to me, in the sense that I felt I could "attain" your level if I worked at it -- it was much better than anything I took, but still felt possible, like you were a really good aspiring photographer, where I was just a desperate wannabe. Now, your work has improved so dramatically that you seem like a true pro and far beyond just "aspiring"... You are the REAL DEAL! Smile Your work is so good it doesn't feel very "attainable" to me anymore... but reading your journey and seeing the photos inspires me to keep trying.

Muddee's picture
Last seen: 1 year 10 months ago
Joined: 03/13/08
Posts: 2119

I love seeing peoples progress, and you've come so far, thanks for sharing everything with us.

Ladybugsteph's picture
Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2977

Thank you for the kind comments! It's definitely been a slow journey, but it's something that I absolutely love doing.

AmberBella's picture
Last seen: 3 years 2 months ago
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

Awesome progress Steph!

KatieWillis's picture
Last seen: 2 years 7 months ago
Joined: 07/01/07
Posts: 1441

I've had my dslr for 4 years as well. I haven't made as much progress though Smile You've done fantastic and are an inspiration!

shadow_grey's picture
Last seen: 1 year 6 months ago
Joined: 05/03/12
Posts: 581

You're progress is fantastic Steph, and well earned too. You put in the time and effort to learn and you can see the results. This years stuff is fantastic

sadieruth's picture
Last seen: 17 hours 20 min ago
Joined: 06/09/05
Posts: 6267

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Seriously- you have progressed by leaps and bounds! Great job! Now that I am thinking about it, in April (I think) I will celebrate my 4 yr DSLR anniversary, but I am wayyyyy behind you!