The Adventure Starts Here: My Photography Process | Noah in May - The Picture Perfect Project

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Photography Process | Noah in May - The Picture Perfect Project

One of my goals for 2016, was to take a photo of Noah each month.  While I take lots of iPhone photos, I wanted to take the time to use my DSLR and get at least one photo of him each month that shows his personality, his interests, and reflects the current season.  I hope that at the end of the year I will have an amazing collection of photos that represents our year.   So when I saw Stephanie post about The Picture Perfect Project I knew I wanted to participate! So far this year, I've also used this link up as sort of a monthly update of what Noah's up to by sharing some current Noah-isms.  And while I still plan to do that in the future, I figured I would switch it up this month.  Especially since I just shared a 3 1/2 year update last week ;)

So this month, I'm still sharing some photos that I took of Noah, but I'm adding all the technical information as well.  I know that when I first started shooting in manual that I was interested in the settings other photographers used.  I also want to share with you my photography process, from the camera I use, to some tips while shooting, to how I edit the photos and prepare for the blog.  

28mm | ISO 250 | f/5 | 1/125

My equipment:
Let's start with the basics.  I shoot with a Nikon D5500.  I know that many people swear by Canon, but I learned on a Nikon and figure there's no point relearning with a Canon since I'm really happy with my Nikon.  As for lenses, I feel that kit lenses just aren't gonna give you the photos that you imagined when buying a DSLR.  My suggestion is to buy the "body only" and then get one or two prime lenses.  We have three lenses, two that I use all the time and love.

1.  Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8.  (for Canon)  This is the lens that is on my camera the majority of the time.  I love the zoom capability and the fact that it's a prime lens (meaning you can get that beautiful blurry background no matter how zoomed in you are).  I went with the Tamron instead of the Nikon because zoom prime lenses can be super pricey (for example)!   While my Nikon 35mm is a little better in low lighting, the convenience of the zoom is just paramount for me.  I can take this with me for the day and know that it will suit 99% of my needs.   

2.  Nikon 35mm f/1.8G.  (Canon equivalent)  I love this lens... it was the first lens I got other than the kit lens my camera came with.  I know everyone raves about the nifty fifty, but I'm loyal to my 35mm.  I shoot with a crop sensor so in reality it's like shooting with a 50mm on a full sensor camera.  But not only that, it helps when I'm shooting indoors since our rooms are not especially large.  I often feel like I can't get back far enough to shoot with anything larger than 35mm!  I especially love this in the winter when shooting indoors and need the bigger aperture for low lighting.  

3.  Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G. I also have a larger zoom lens that we honestly only use when going to outdoor sporting events.  It's not a prime lens so I don't love it indoors and we really only need the extra zoom when sitting in the stands.  When we were getting our first DSLR, Chris was very excited to get a telephoto lens.  Then we found out how pricey they were and we settled on this lens.  Chris has used this lens more than I have.  

Filter - simply to protect my lens from the elements.  This is the one I have on my Tamron lens, but make sure to check your specific lens so that you buy the correct size.  I have a different filter for my 35mm lens.  
Bag - I have two bags from JoTotes.  I love that they look like regular leather bags but have nice padded sections on the inside for your camera and a few lenses.  
Camera strap - I chose to upgrade my camera strap to a pretty one I found on Etsy.  While I didn't plan this, it's kind of cool that the other side is brown, so when Chris is using it he just flips it over so he's not carrying around a "girly" camera strap.  I've had this strap for 3 years and it's holding up great!  RhyahPapaya has so many cute options!
Remote - This is an absolute life saver if you want to take outfit photos or family pictures and not have to run back and forth constantly! I personally set my camera to the 2s delay, which means I hit the button on the remote and in 2 seconds the photo is taken.  It gives me time to hide the remote or even throw it out of the frame.  Noah loves being in charge of the remote when doing family photos lol!  
Tripod - I inherited a Bogen tripod from my parents and I'm so glad I did.  I had no clue that it was so expensive to buy a sturdy tripod!  I use it almost every holiday for family photos as well as for my outfit posts.  The tripod with the remote has really come in handy!

35mm | ISO 100 | f/4 | 1/125

How I shoot:
I shoot in manual and in the last year started to shoot in RAW.  I took a few online classes with Candice Stringham (through Jessica Sprague) to learn how to shoot in manual, but it doesn't look like they offer the same class anymore.  As for shooting in RAW, it will only really be a benefit if you plan to do some post editing.  The reason I love shooting in RAW is that if you mess up the exposure or have tricky lighting, you have more control fixing it when editing than if you shot in JPEG.

Other than learning all the buttons and settings to your camera, my suggestion is to just keep practicing.  Take photos from different angles and just photograph everything.  It will take time to develop your style (I feel like I'm still developing mine) and time to get the hang of it all.  Especially when taking photos of children, you could take 100 photos and only end up with a few keepers.  I also highly recommend using the rapid fire option on your camera (whether on your DSLR or camera phone!) when photographing kids!  And if you are still developing your own photography style, it helps to look for inspiration from other photographers.  Spend some time looking on Pinterest and Instagram and decide what it is you like about certain photos.  It's not a good idea to directly copy, but it can't hurt to decide if you like light and bright photos or ones with more shadows and mood to them.  If you like more posed shots or something more candid.  You can also get some inspiration for new poses and angles.  Since you aren't paying for film these days, there's no harm in overshooting!  

How I edit:
So once you've taken all your photos, it's time to edit your photos.  For a while I was just using iPhoto to edit my photos.  Not sure how, but you can load RAW images into iPhoto/Photos.  I'm assuming they are converting the image because while you can do some simple edits in the program, you don't necessarily have to.  I'm assuming they are converting the photo for you, because technically RAW photos need to be processed before they are usable.  I wasn't really happy with my editing after iPhoto changed to Photos, so I decided to make the jump to Lightroom.  I started using Adobe Lightroom at the beginning of this year (2016) and I'm such a huge fan.  I watched a few YouTube videos to get the hang of it, but it really is pretty easy.  I don't do anything crazy or fancy though, I know there's so much more I could do if I took the time to learn!  I watched Anthony Morganti's Learn Lightroom 6 series of videos to learn some basic skills (Here's the link to the first video).  I fix the exposure if necessary and set the white balance.  Then I adjust the highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks.  I also increase the clarity, add some sharpness and noise reduction and add a tone curve.  I also like the look  of a subtle vignette.  These are all things I learned by watching the YouTube videos.

Once I have edited my photos, I save them into Photos so that they sync easily onto my phone.  I also back them up to my hard drive and Dropbox (you can never be too safe!).  For the photos that I post to the blog, I then resize them in Photoshop Elements.  I looked up the dimensions of my blog and figured that resizing my photos to 700 pixels wide works best.  This way I can upload the photos at "original size" rather than letting blogger resize my photos for me and losing some of the quality.  

62mm | ISO 100 | f/3.5 | 1/250 

This next photo is a perfect example why editing your photos is an amazing step!  Noah was inside the play structure climbing the ladder, and it was so much darker than where we just were.  In a perfect world I could have played around with my settings and metered for this new darker spot.  But as we all know, kids move fast and don't want to wait for you to fiddle with settings.  So instead, I did the best I could, and then adjusted the exposure, shadows, and highlights when editing in Lightroom.  Without editing this photo would have been useless!    

28mm | ISO 100 | f/3.5 | 1/250 

In addition to photographing Noah, I also have fun taking photos of the flowers, trees, and bushes around our house.  I love seeing everything in different stages of blooming.  From my peony that is just starting to bud, all the way to this super vibrant pink bush!  I really enjoyed experimenting with angles and focal points.  If you want to start shooting with a higher aperture/f stop (lower number, more blur), I suggest practicing on things that don't move.  Plants are perfect for this because you can really play around with it by moving your focal point to different flowers and seeing which part(s) will come out in focus versus blurry.  

36mm | ISO 100 | f/4 | 1/200
75mm | ISO 100 | f/3.5 | 1/250
75mm | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/100
52mm | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/100

I am by no means an expert at photography... far from it actually!  I feel like I'm constantly learning new things and just getting by through trial and error.  But if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.  I'd also love to hear tips that you guys have learned while on your photography journey! 

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  1. These are great tips, Meghan! I'm doing my research into DSLR cameras and will need to know lenses and such. I am such a fan of editing now! This year has been great for finding my editing style because I never had one before, ha! The first picture of Noah is just stunning.

  2. I love the pictures! I love that you shoot with a Nikon. Most people I know have a Canon but I've been using a Nikon DSLR for over 8 years!

  3. Great pictures of Noah! I'm amazed how different the one of him climbing the ladder is after editing. I need to try that program because I get so many dark ones like that and just delete them.

  4. I loved reading the tips- I have heard a lot about lightroom..will have to do a trial for it. Great post!

  5. I love this!! I need to start editing my pics.. I know they can be so much better with if would shoot in manual. I am trying to learn it :)
    Chelsea @

  6. I really want a better camera! I've been saving up for one, plus one lens. Great post!

  7. Lots of great tips! I just started to resize my pictures, too. I'm loving that my vertical ones are as wide as my post!

  8. This is a great post. I got a Nikon for Christmas and am just starting to figure it out. I'll have to save this for future reference.

  9. You are a wealth of knowledge! I need to start resizing my photos for Blogger.
    And you captured some amazing shots. I'm s big fan of your superman!

  10. I love my Nikon, too! Also, shooting in RAW is a lifesaver!

  11. Your pictures are always so beautiful! Thanks for including so many amazing tips!

  12. Your photos are always so great so I love that you shared some of your secrets with us. Thank you! I really want to try shooting in RAW sometime. Maybe the next time I take the girls to try and get some good photos.

  13. All of your photos are gorgeous! I totally agree that editing makes a huge difference. I usually use the program that's on my Macbook or PicMonkey!
    Evelina @ Fortunate House

  14. These photos are GREAT! And these tips are SO helpful! While I don't have a camera of my own yet, I am definitely book marking this post for later! I like that you explained things simply enough where a beginner can understand :)

  15. Beautiful photos and great info. I wish I had a better camera now that I'm trying to figure out manual a bit more. And I agree with the kids move too fast to play with your settings all the time so you do the best you can with limited amount of time, thank goodness for editing!

  16. You've given me so much food for thought. My ultimate goal would be too be "good enough" to take photos of Connor each birthday and then of us for our Christmas card but that would involve a tripod and I need to slowly move in that direction.

  17. Yes!!! Love this post. I am always curious what other people use (equipment), how they shoot and how they edit. Your photos are always great!!!


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