I've never taken a photography class and the very little I know has been learned through trial and a whole lot of errors! And also (nearly) daily using my camera. I am about the least qualified person on the subject, but for the ladies who have asked over the last years and then again here for a post on photography, this is for you :)
1. My Camera & Lens: Canon 5d Mark III & Sigma 50mm 1.2 lens. Every photo prior to two months ago was taken with my Nikon d90 & 50mm 1.8 lens. There are a lot of differences between Nikon and Canon and most days I'm still trying to figure out how to really work the 5d! To answer your unasked question, yes, I had to save for a few years but it already has been absolutely worth it!
A good piece of advice I received when Cam and I were getting ready to buy the d90 was that you don't need a camera that is considered "professional" to take good photos; you just need to get to know your DSLR inside and out and push it as far as it'll take you... then if you want to upgrade, upgrade. I think the best way to get to know your camera is to shoot as often as possible and in manual:
2. Shooting in manual requires a balance between the aperture (f/stop), ISO and shutter speed. All three of these control how much light is brought in to your camera. When I first started and had absolutely no idea what those three things meant, I found the blog Click It Up A Notch and specifically this helpful page.
I think everyone has a preference with how they like to adjust the aperture, ISO and shutter speed and it always helps me when I actually get to see what each were set to in someone else's photo.
3. The three things I love to take photos of the most are travel (seeing another culture and land through the lens is so much fun to me!), John Shea + Cam and food photography. I shoot in manual and always in natural light... I don't ever use a flash. I know a lot of people who do and take lovely photos, but that's my preference! The best times of the day are when the light is softest: early in the morning and especially in the late afternoon/early evening and during golden hour before sunset. I try to avoid the middle of the day when the sun is high and creates a harsh light, or try to find a shady spot.
4. Shooting Indoors: Unless it's at a time of day when there's tons of sunlight streaming in, you'll want to have a lens with a low f/stop (aperture) that goes to 1.8 or lower. I had the 50mm 1.8 Prime lens (meaning the lens is fixed -- you cannot zoom in or out -- you have to literally move your feet closer or further away from the object you're focused on) that cost no more than $100. It was a wonderful lens to learn manual with and every photo on my blog prior to September was taken with it:
Unedited little darling!
(all taken with Nikon d90 & 50mm 1.8 lens)
5. Food Photography: Natural light! I almost always take photos of my recipes outside. When inside, I use our beautiful farm table that is right next to a large window. I pull the white cotton curtain closed to act as a buffer for the bright light and to allow me to set my aperture lower. If you're taking photos of food, your children or whatever your subject is, it's best to have a window or some source of natural light nearby. When I first started photographing and sharing recipes on my blog, I read From Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin, and would recommend it!
6. Editing: I have Lightroom but mostly just quickly use Photoshop Elements. I like to keep my photos as natural as possible, so all the editing I ever do is slightly raise the brightness and contrast with a little sharpening and saturation or vibrance when it's needed. There are a lot of great filters and editing presets out there (if I used one it'd be VSCO!) and I see a lot of photographers doing amazing things with them. I love Shannon's photography and editing! My personal preference for my own photos is the less editing the better. I like fresh, crisp and natural. Haha, or atleast that's what I try to go for! If I don't take a photo that seems to fit that, and needs a lot of editing, I tend to just delete it. Here is an example of straight from camera and then edited:
Straight from my camera, taken outside in the shade (f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/250 s)
Edited: I raised the brightness +10, the contrast +6, the sharpness to 75 and the saturation +7 in Photoshop Elements.
7. Storing Photos & Shooting in Raw: I upload all of my photos directly to an external hard drive and no longer to my computer or into Lightroom. I shoot in raw so each photo is HUGE and before I knew it, after the first year and a half in Okinawa, taking photos every single day, my poor computer was running so incredibly slow, driving Cam insane. He spent hours transferring the obscene amount of photos from my computer to a hard drive and I made a promise to him that I would do the same from then on out.
8. Sizing Down: I size down all of my photos that I put on the blog to 640 pixels wide. I do that to match the maximum width of my post column, and also to act as a kind of copyright or determent to stealing since they're very low-pixel quality.
I hope something in this post was helpful :) Any questions??! Any tips you've learned you'd like to share!?