The best advice I've been given || dallas, tx engagement & wedding photographer

Friday, March 9, 2012

In February of 2009 I attended my first photography workshop.  It was a weeklong intense beginners photography course.  Going into it I knew virtually nothing.  I had been the owner of a Canon Rebel XTi for right at a year and was still shooting on the green box mode, because I had absolutely no idea what any of the other buttons meant.  I had two goals for the week: one, to learn how to shoot manual, and two, I hoped to come away with a sense of whether or not I had what it took to turn my little obsession with taking pictures into something profitable.  Because even in my very un-learned, I-don’t-really-have-a-clue-how-to-use-my-camera state of mind I knew that starting a photography business was the goal, but that I needed to be able to use my camera correctly and take good pictures first.

I remember being inspired by one of the instructors for the course.  He was young, only a couple of years older than me.  But the really amazing part was, that he’d been a student in the same class that I was going through, less than 2 years ago.  And now here he was a year and a half later teaching the course and running a portrait and wedding photography business…and his images were mind blowingly good.  I nervously approached him after one of the sessions and asked: “If you were to give a beginner one tip, or tell them one thing that they could do to see their photography skills grow and get better, what would it be?”   His answer came quickly and easily “Take lots of pictures.”  He continued saying “My first year of photography I took literally hundreds of pictures weekly, of anything and everything I could find to photograph.  And the more pictures I took, the harder I critiqued myself, and the better my pictures became.”

I left that week thinking that I may not have money to spend on all the greatest equipment, or to go to all the best workshops and conferences but goodness me I could certainly take hundreds of pictures every week!  And with every “shoot” or group of pictures I took I would look through and critique myself.  I would analyze what I liked and what I didn’t like about the pictures, what I would change if I could go back and re-do them, and then I’d apply what I’d learned to the next time I went out to take pictures.  I remember one time in particular I really wanted to figure out how to use sunshine in my pictures to make everything soft and warm looking.  I had seen other photographers doing it but I hadn’t yet figured out how to get sunflair in my pictures or how to use backlighting correctly.  I finally asked my sister if she would be willing to model for me for a couple of hours and I took her out one afternoon determined to figure it out.  And these pictures were the outcome.  Perfect?  No.  But I had finally started to understand it, and I was ecstatic with what I had gotten.

Girls write me all the time with questions, or I'll be talking to someone who's interested in photography, and invariably the question comes: "Do you have one tip or something I can do that would help me become a better photographer" And while there are definitely many ways I could answer that question I always answer with the same foundational answer, and that is: "Take lots of pictures."  It may seem lame, or cliche, or just way to easy... and it is if you just take the pictures, stick them on a hard drive somewhere and never look at them again.  So don't just take the pictures.  Take them in every kind of lighting in as many different settings or places as you can think of.  And then critique yourself and figure out what you did wrong and what you can improve on next time.  Also, having a place that you post the pictures online, either on Facebook or a blog is a good way to keep yourself accountable.  That way you have somewhere to post the pictures that you're taking all the time and it will push you to do your very best if you know other people will be looking at them as well :)

I came across this video a few weeks ago and was so excited to hear someone else voice the advice that I'd been given and that I'd been passing on to others for years... Watch it, and then go take some pictures :)

Happy Friday!
p.s. I just loooove the weekends. No work + two days with The Boy?  Yes please! :)

Much Love.
Jessica Shae
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  1. Thanks for the inspiration!! I think I am going outside to go take some pictures! :P

  2. That's a really cool video. I've reached a point in my photography that I want so badly to improve but I'm not sure how. y'know? Like my work isn't quite what I want it do be yet. Glad to have some advice on how to combat that. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing! I think I definitely should take more pictures. I finally learned how to use manual mode. It was a huge breakthrough! Now I just need to keep learning. ;)

  4. "Take lots of pictures." AMEN! I purchased my Nikon D3000 last June and since then have been snapping away. It truly has made a difference - just taking lots and lots of photos. Oh and googling helps a bunch too (boy our generation has come a long way...). I definitely want to attend photography classes as well. If I lived in Texas, I would go to one of yours!

    Happy photographing and happy Friday!

  5. seriously...great tips, Jessica!


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Jessica Shae