4 Things That Changed My Photography For The Better | Atlanta Portrait Photographer

Every photographer has a handful of defining moments along their creative journey that made all the difference in their craft. For some, it might include a specific piece of equipment they bought that helped them to push their creativity. For others, it might include a class they signed up for that opened their eyes to the possibilities of their art.

For me specifically there have been 4 moments along my journey thus far that I can say have attributed the most to my growth as a photographer:

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1. Learning how to shoot in manual mode

When I bought my first DSLR, I automatically thought that it was all I needed to produce beautiful photographs. My first time using it was during a family event and I was SO excited about my brand new equipment. I just knew the photos were going to be spectacular because all I needed was that DSLR and since I had checked that off of the list then I was good to go.

So imagine my surprise when I reviewed the pictures and they really weren't anything above ordinary. I was so disappointed and confused. But I also began to realize that it wasn't just about the equipment I was using and started to research more about improving my photography.

That's when I discovered the magic of manual mode and made the switch from auto. Learning about the exposure triangle and how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO all play a role was the first giant leap in my photography. Did my photography make a 180 overnight? Absolutely not. But I began to have more control over the outcome of my photographs and I could begin to make choices with more intention, which opened up my creativity.

Do I think it's absolutely necessary to learn manual mode? No. To be completely transparent, you can still use a camera without ever switching out of auto mode, and I'm not here to shame anyone for their photography choices. However, I do think everyone should at least strive to learn manual mode, even if they ultimately decide they prefer something else. Having complete control over your settings from the moment you begin shooting makes so much of a difference when it comes time to edit your photos.

 Before learning to shoot in manual mode

Before learning to shoot in manual mode

 After learning how to shoot in manual mode

After learning how to shoot in manual mode

2. Purchasing a 50mm lens

After learning manual mode, upgrading from a kit lens to a 50mm 1.8 lens probably made the greatest difference in my photography. Kit lenses are notorious for not being the best quality glass. Although my 18-55mm lens was perfect to begin the learning process, purchasing the 50mm was a pertinent step in my journey.

The 50mm not only elevated the quality of my photographs (hello, beautiful bokeh! Nice to actually meet you!) but it also pushed me creatively, as many prime lenses tend to do. With a zoom lens it's easy to stand in one place and still feel like you're getting a variety of photographs by zooming in and out with your lens. However, with a prime lens it's not so easy to do that. If you stand in the same position while shooting, you're getting no variety. None. You have to actually physically move your feet and change your positions and perspectives in order to achieve maximum variety within your gallery. 

I bought my 50mm 1.8 lens (which is already cheap brand new to begin with) refurbished for about $100. It's called the nifty fifty and it certainly earns it's name. I use it for 98% of my shoots and I honestly can't see myself getting rid of this lens any time soon. 

 Shooting with an Canon 18-55 mm kit lens

Shooting with an Canon 18-55 mm kit lens

 Shooting with a Canon 50mm 1.8

Shooting with a Canon 50mm 1.8

3. Joining Clickin Moms

If you follow me on instagram then you've probably heard me talk about Clickin Moms (CM) before. About three years ago, not shortly after I purchased my first DSLR, I found the website Click It Up A Notch. It was an awesome resource of photography information, and eventually led me to discover Clickin Moms. At first I perused the CM blog, soaking up all the free education I could. But eventually I decided to bite the bullet and buy a membership. And I'm SO glad I did.

I always encourage people to take advantage of the NUMEROUS avenues where people share tips and tricks for free. Seriously, just attend one of my live session on instagram and you'll hear me refer to how I'm a proud graduate of Youtube University and Google State College. But I also like to remind people that you can only go so far for free. Eventually you will have to invest in yourself if you take your craft seriously. 

At first I was hesitant to join CM because DUH! I'm not a mom and I wasn't sure it was the right space for me. But now I'm definitely glad I pushed past those doubts and decided to join the forum. I can easily say being surrounded by such a supportive system full of crazy talented (mostly) women photographers was a huge influence on my work and a large part of the growth in my work.

 Before joining Clickin Moms

Before joining Clickin Moms

 After joining Clickin Moms

After joining Clickin Moms

4. Taking The Mindful Approach class

I've taken a few photography classes, and I can easily say each one was helpful along my journey for whatever point I was at at the time.  If I had to put all of the classes I've taken on a scale, The Mindful Approach (TMA) would definitely be the farthest to the right. 

First and foremost, TMA is not a class for beginners just starting to learn how to use their equipment. It's also not really geared towards photographers still focused on learning compositional techniques and how to incorporate them into their work. It's more so for photogs looking to push themselves creatively by incorporating all aspects of photography into their work simultaneously in order to maximize their photos' impact. 

TMA taught me to really think before shooting. It taught me about color theory and its importance, light, advanced composition, and how the three intertwine to results in beautiful imagery. Truthfully, the only regret I have about taking the class is that I didn't sign up for full participation; although I still learned ALOT from the class materials that were jam packed with information without being overwhelming. Seriously, this class was everything. Everything. And I'd take it again in a heartbeat. 

 One of my favorite images taken during The Mindful Approach

One of my favorite images taken during The Mindful Approach

 One of my favorite images taken during The Mindful Approach

One of my favorite images taken during The Mindful Approach

Every opportunity that has come along in my journey has been a learning experience for me, but I can honestly say these 4 moments have had the greatest impact in growing in my craft.

What have been big turning points in your creative journey? Was it a new piece of equipment or a new editing technique you learned? Was it a class you signed up for or a new genre you discovered? Let me know in the comments below! 

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