design matters | learning to shoot manual

Prior to the summer of 2011, I took all of our pictures using a little Canon Elph and my old iPhone. The photos weren't spectacular or abundant in number. I never really did anything with them - didn't print them, didn't make photobooks, didn't scrapbook. Like, ever.

Then, we had a baby.

We bought a Nikon DSLR. I discovered Project Life. I took more photos, printed photos and designed photobooks. I blogged here and there. I took more photos. And I did it all on using one of our camera's automatic settings.

You photo buffs will probably cringe when you read that, but here's the thing: I know almost nothing about photography.

I know what I like. And because I do graphic design and read other people's blogs who know something about photography, I know a little bit about composition and stuff. But being able to process a photo in Photoshop doesn't mean I know anything about actually taking a high quality photograph.

When my husband proposed getting a new lens for our DSLR (or even upgrading the body), I was super excited. But what was the point if I didn't even know how to shoot beyond the automatic settings with our current, rather entry-level DSLR? 

I decided it was time to learn a little something about photography, so I started looking out for e-courses related to learning how to shoot manual. I heard Amber Housley mention

Nicole's Classes on an episode of The Lively Show, so I checked it out. "Nicole" is professional photographer Nicole Gerulat. She has a website that offers a bunch of classes on creative topics. The Photo 101 course appealed to me, so I ran it by Nick and he agreed I should sign up. It's a little pricey, but after the first lesson, I was shooting in manual mode. Prior to the class, I knew that aperture was something, and shutter speed was important, but I'd never learned exactly what each did or meant. After getting through the first week's videos and content, I was adjusting both to get equivalent exposure on shots. I was playing around with the ISO on my camera. I was out in the backyard shooting our sprinklers. And frankly, I think Nick was a little jealous :)

My point in sharing all this is that if you're wanting to learn something about something, then learn it! Don't wait for the information to hit you over the head. Don't wait for there to be a perfect time. I have a 2-month old and a toddler in swim lessons everyday and work and friends and a house to take care of. I share this not because I'm so busy (I'm not!) but because it kind of dawned on me that if I wanted to be better at photography, I'd have to learn something about it. And that wasn't going to happen by just taking more pictures without adding to my knowledge base.

So now I'm in the second week of the class. I can't offer a full review yet, but I can say that I'm really enjoying it. I'm shooting exclusively in the manual mode on my camera. It takes me a bit longer to set up a shot and my photos aren't all that great, but I'm already seeing the benefit of taking my time and being patient with the process. It's changing the way I take pictures, and I'm only a week-and-a-half in. Bottom line: if you're interested in learning something new, then put yourself out there, save your pennies and go for it!

Oh, and p.s. the photo in this blog post it taken with my iPhone. Don't judge :)

Have you recently decided to learn something new? What was it and how'd you do it?