This post has been three years in the making. That sounds dramatic, but since starting this blog I’ve received questions about photography. I can’t tell you how many “blog post idea” lists I have made with photography as a subject. Somehow I’ve never gotten around to it. I get questions quite frequently regarding what camera I use, where I learned to take pictures, and the like, but I’ve never compiled it all together in a neat little spot that I can send people to. It’s about time I did just that.
When Xander was born I started taking a lot more pictures. They were mostly on my phone, but all of a sudden I had something that I wanted to capture: to share with others and hold onto for memory’s sake. One Christmas I asked my sister-in-law (who was the family photographer – we all have that person, right?) if I could borrow her camera to get some shots of the tree I had decorated that year. I wanted pictures at night, and my phone wasn’t cutting it.
I set the Canon Rebel to automatic and snapped way. While I had it, I also took some shots of Xander. Because of some graphic design work I had done I had Photoshop on our desktop. Because I had become a blog reader I knew about the Pioneer Woman’s actions that’s rather obvious by that tree photo, yikes. I started playing around and was totally hooked.
That Christmas I asked for a Canon Rebel XSi. Nap times that used to be filled with reading about parties and lettering were now filled with photo tutorials and playing with my camera. I practiced on things around the house, but I really loved capturing my son. Over time I got some better lenses and upgraded to a full-frame camera. I’d been dreaming of blogging for several years at that point, but the photography piece was the thing that gave me a “no excuses” start to blogging.
Now that you know a bit about how I got my start, I want to share some of what I know. I have never taken a class, and I don’t claim to be a professional, but I think I’ve learned a good amount and want to share some of the resources I’ve used to hone the skills and some personal tips and tricks. I’ll start with some beginner information and then touch on how I shoot for the blog/interiors, along with how I edit.
FOR THE BEGINNERS: If you’re interested in learning photography but brand new to the art, this is what I would recommend.
I prefer Canon because it’s really user friendly and the lenses will fit all of the bodies not the case with Nikon. I would start out with a Rebel, but just purchase the body and skip the lens that is available with it – it’s no good. If you’re wanting to take pictures of people I would buy the 50mm 1.8 lens. This prime lens (one that cannot zoom in or out) is going to give you the best quality and softest images what you want with portraiture for the price.
Get yourself on Pinterest and search for photography tips here’s my photo board with some of the info I’ve found helpful. Spend hours upon hours taking it all in and then spend lots of time practicing what you’ve read. When I was learning I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on regarding how my camera worked and how to shoot manually. Words like aperture and ISO took a lot of reading and doing to finally sink in and become common knowledge, but once they did, things got a whole lot more fun. Some of the best, overall tutorials I remember were Kevin and Amanda’s, The Pioneer Woman‘s, and My 3 boybarians‘. You’ll need Photoshop and/or Lightroom. They used to cost an obscene amount of money for someone just wanting to learn a new hobby, but now you can get both for $9.99 a month – a much smaller investment.
WHAT I USE NOW: A few years in I upgraded to the Mark 5D ii and it makes such a difference. The quality in low lighting situations is so much better, and the full frame shots are awesome for interiors. I can push this camera so much more than I could the Rebel. I still have the 50mm lens and use that if I’m shooting my kids, but for my interior shots I use the Tamron 28-75mm 2.8. It was ranked one of the best versatile lenses for the price, and I have been really happy with it. Lenses are not cheap, but they are just as important to getting a quality shot. This one allows enough space to shoot fairly tight rooms and enough flexibility to chase kids around a party too.
Heads up. If you already shoot manually, feel free to keep reading. If not, the rest might be a whole lot of foreign language to you…
HOW I SHOOT INTERIORS: When I shoot interiors I get my big shots first. I start far out and then work into the details. Tripod, tripod, tripod. I want to be quick and lazy and just hand shoot everything, but when I do I almost always regret it. In order to get great, crisp, pulled back shots I crank my depth of field up to 32 and I set my ISO at 100. Then I set the shutter speed from there. I can’t tell you how many 30 second exposures I shoot hundreds. It means taking about an hour to shoot 30 or 40 images sometimes, but I never regret the shots. I’ve tried using lights to speed up the process, but I just don’t love working with them – the basement has been my first and only experience.
After I get my wide shots I move into vignettes, usually using the same method but sometimes taking the depth of field down to f/9 or 10. Now, details I will shoot handheld if the lighting is good, but I’m typically shooting those anywhere from f/3-5, so I don’t have to have my shutter speed so low. I never allow my shutter speed to go under 40 while holding the camera, so for these I will allow my ISO to go to 500-640. I prefer to stay under that though. Some of my very best photographer friends think I’m crazy for avoiding the ISO, but they are working with much more expensive lenses and cameras, and there is proof in the images.
Xander’s room has one north-facing window so the lighting can be tricky. Above is something I shot by hand in a hurry with a higher ISO I believe I was around 1250. As soon as I started editing this shoot I regretted not getting out the tripod.
And here is the same space using the tripod. Both of these images required me bringing up the shadows in editing quite a bit, but if you look closely I was able to push the second one more and it still remains crisp and clear. The tripod is worth the time.
EDITING INTERIOR SHOTS: I shoot everything RAW. This allows you to manipulate the image much more afterwards if necessary without loosing quality. I open everything in Camera Raw this is something that comes with Photoshop and do 90% of my editing there. I hear lightroom is the fastest, but this is how I learned and you know what they say about old habits… When you shoot RAW your camera is not touching the image at all. You get what you shoot. When you shoot jpeg your camera will add in some contrast and adjust the image to what it thinks might be pleasing. So it’s essential that you tweak RAW images. For my interior shots I’m usually bringing up the shadows, adding in contrast and a bit of clarity. Sometimes I’ll raise the lights and if the color is a bit off, this is where I play with the white balance.
From there I save the images as jpegs and open them up in Photoshop to do any minor adjustments, like editing out dog hair insert eye roll here, sizing for the blog, and adding my watermark. Thanks to one of Jen’s tips, I always “save for web” and that has made a big difference in the quality of my photos online. Speaking of Jen, her post is filled with a lot of things specific to blog photography and interior shots, and she is queen of using a light kit to photograph dark spaces. Be sure to check her whole post out, it’s filled with a lot of great things I didn’t touch on here.
There was no way to cover it all, so let me know in the comments below what I missed or what you would like to know more about!