Last year, one of my big goals was to learn to shoot in manual mode. I signed up for a class, learned how to actually use my DSLR, and called it a success. It’s been one of the more satisfying goals I’ve achieved in the past few years, and the benefits–more confidence, better pictures, preserved memories, a nicer-looking blog–are obvious.
Blog posts are seasonal, and my attention has been drawn lately to posts I wrote in spring 2013, and 2012, and (heaven help us) 2011. And oh my, the difference in the photographs is incredible. I’m definitely still learning how to use my camera: I feel clumsy when I’m trying to quickly adjust my camera settings, and I fear I’ll never understand white balance.
But looking back at the photos I took just one year ago, it’s clear my skills have improved 1000% percent.
If you have a DSLR but don’t know how to use it, I highly recommend the Shoot Fly Shoot video training class I used. I purchased Photography 101 and Photography 102 (because I’m a sucker for a package deal) but honestly, Photography 102 is still over my head. If you’re new to manual mode, 101 (with about 3 total hours of video lessons) is a great place to start.
If you want to improve your photography skills, I’d really encourage you to take the leap today. I wish I’d done it sooner. (Get 30% off with the code SFS30.)
If online video classes aren’t your thing (or you’d rather spend $2 instead of $50) then I recommend Courtney Westlake’s ebook The Spaghetti Shots: how to take better photos of your kids during everyday life. This short guide by Courtney Westlake explains the basics of manual mode–ISO, aperture, shutter speed–that are covered in the SFS course. She also goes into focus, white balance, equipment, editing, and tips for photographing kids.
I love Courtney’s philosophy: don’t try to capture “perfect” photos of your kids, capture the moments that capture what your life is really like–even if (or especially if) that looks like spaghetti all over their faces.
The Spaghetti Shots is on sale TODAY for $1.99 at Amazon. Tomorrow it’s back to the regular price of $4.99.
I just got The Unforgettable Photograph: 228 Ideas, Tips, and Secrets for Taking the Best Pictures of Your Life by George Lange and I’m completely smitten. This book assumes you can shoot in manual mode. Trusting you have (a tiny bit of) technical expertise, Lange teaches you how to improve your eye for a good photo. He aims to capture moments, not just subjects.
Many of Lange’s suggestions are applicable to those of you using point-and-shoot or iPhone cameras, but you’ll be able to apply much more if you know how to shoot in manual mode.
This is a modest-sized paperback, but it’s packed full of gorgeous, unusual, and surprising photos, making it bona fide coffee table material. (The Unforgettable Photograph is available as an ebook, but trust me when I say you’d much rather have the paper version.)
Do you have any favorite photography tips, tools, or resources? Share them in comments!
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