How Far I’ve Come

Woohoo! This is my 2nd blog post in a row! Go me! Now to just keep that momentum going!

Ok, so today’s post is about just how far I’ve come as a photographer. I started getting serious about photography in November of 2007 with my little point and shoot camera. Nothing like a Canon PowerShot to scream “I’M A PRO!”, right? Ha! Well, anyways, I started photographing the normal things that beginners do: train tracks, flowers, trees, myself. It was awesome… or so I thought. Soon after, my parents gifted me with my first DSLR, a Canon EOS 30D whom I named Maurice. Many of you have met Maurice since I was using him from 2008-2013, and now he is my backup camera should anything happen to my beloved 7D, Hermanni. With the 30D, I thought I was the Cat’s Pajamas. I was definitely a pro now because I had a camera that looked professional. And man, could I rock the automatic settings! I seriously thought that since I was using manual focus that I knew how to work manual mode. True story. I’m so embarrassed. Oh, and the pop up flash? Who needs an external? I’ve got one that’s built in! Yup. I thought all the other photographers were silly and wasting money by buying all these different lenses with different or fixed focal lengths. Why would you want five or six different lenses when you can have just one with all the focal lengths built in? My 28-135 f/4-5.6 was all that I needed. Guys, this was seriously my thought process and reasoning. And my editing? Wooooooooo…. Picnik was all the rage and I had the platinum membership. Photoshop was for people that faked their photos. SHOOT ME NOW. Well, in 2011 Picnik announced that they were shutting down and I seriously thought my life was over. How am I going to edit?!? None of the other online editors had the style I liked or did what Picnik did… was I going to have to learn Photoshop?! OH THE HORROR!!! Thankfully my sexy husband knew a thing or two about Photoshop and introduced me to it. I’m a quick and visual learner, so I picked it up pretty quick and soon my photos were looking better than ever! And they were no longer compressed to a terrible level like they were when edited with an online editor. Hooray! Progress!

Ok, I know you guys are thinking, “I just want to see the pictures.” Well, here you go:

Let’s talk about these 3 really quick. I believe all of these photos were taken in 2008, when I started using my DSLR. Picture one: My adorable niece at the park, ruined by a not so sharp focus and TERRIBLEAWFULDISGUSTING editing. Keeping part of the picture in color and most of it in black and white was all the rage back then and… it’s not such a timeless look. In fact, it looks down right bad. If clients ask me to do this nowadays, I politely decline. I’m sorry, y’all. But this will never happen again. Not from me. Picture two: One of my gorgeous sister’s senior portraits. The photo isn’t too bad, lighting wise. But the editing killed it. The white vignette, the super softening of her skin, the over whitening of her teeth, and the over saturation on her cheeks. If there’s one thing I could tell up and coming photographers that edit skin and teeth and things like this, it’s this: PLEASE STOP. Learn from my mistakes. It doesn’t look natural, it doesn’t look good. Maybe it does to you now, but in a few months or years you’ll look back on this and shudder. Natural is better. If you need to edit skin blemishes, use the spot healing tool in Photoshop or invest in some professional beauty actions. But DON’T OVER DO IT. Also, editing makeup onto someone is a bad idea. Learn from my mistakes, please. Ok, and lastly, Picture three: Oh, the good ol’ December Rose days. These guys were some of my best friends back in the day (and I’m married to the one in sunglasses. Yup, that’s Marc!). The black and white/color pop thing made its way back and man… isn’t it spectacular? No. It isn’t. This photo also shows how bad my posing was then. I wasn’t very comfortable with it and I thought giving people direction wasn’t really my job. *face palm*. You can barely see David in the middle. I should’ve had him lean out more. And the guys in the back, well they aren’t even in focus. Sadly, this used to be one of my favorite pictures. It’s definitely not my worst, but… it could’ve been better.

Here’s a then and now photo for two different seniors! On the left is a senior from 2010 and on the right is a senior from 2013. The difference is HUGE. I think the poses are both fun, but knowing how to really work your camera is VITAL, along with knowing how to edit. On the left, I feel that if I would’ve really known how to work my camera then, this picture would’ve been a lot better. It was dark, cold, and close to drizzling that day, so the light was definitely not good. But also notice the editing… the vignette did make the blue wall seem to pop more, but I think dark, heavy vignettes cheapen and image and don’t look very good. Her skin is over saturated, the details in the eyes are lost, they’re almost like black circles and it’s just… bad. The photo on the right came with challenges as well, but knowing how to manually work my camera saved me. It was very very bright and super windy that day. I kept an eye out for open shade and I love backlighting. It makes your subjects look like they’re glowing! Notice the detail, how her skin isn’t over edited and how the image is just bright and clean. That’s my editing style now. It’s timeless and can’t be outdated by old vignettes and over saturation. Clean and simple is the way to go!

Photo One: The lighting is super uneven. It didn’t help that I was shooting around 1 or 2 p.m. when the sun is high and casts weird shadows. I didn’t know how to use the natural reflectors around me and I still wasn’t too good at giving direction. Had this been exposed properly, it would’ve been a great picture. Also, the glowy-blur effect kills it for me now. I’ve said it several times, but guys it’s so true: Natural is better. This was taken in 2009, I believe. Photo Two: This was taken in late 2013 and it’s one of my favorite couple shots! It’s romantic, bright, and airy and you can almost feel the love! I adore backlighting.

What a difference three years will make, huh? These photos were taken at the same bridge with the same lens, my 50mm 1.4. One is the standard kiss picture, and the other has a fun twist! The photo on the left was taken in broad daylight, probably somewhere around noon-three o’clock. The photo on the right was taken early in the morning at about 9:20 a.m. I love the soft light during sun rise sessions. You can still get backlighting (if you’re not in a heavily treed area like we were) or even photograph in direct sunlight without it being too harsh. And it’s still cool and comfortable. The other photo is just too dark, not sharply focused, and over saturated. I also added a zoom blur to it, and while it’s light and hardly noticeable, if you look at their feet you can see it better. It’s just not natural. Shooting in manual makes all the difference.

Here’s a fun fact! The photo on the right was taken this year in January and the light source is a mix of artificial and ambient light. The photo on the left was all natural light and don’t you just love that mix of black and white + sepia? Yeah, me neither.

My first ever First Dance (January 1, 2011) and my most recent First Dance (January 25, 2014). Notice the harsh lighting from my on camera pop up flash in the 2011 version compared to my bounced light from my Yongnuo YN-560 III flash in the 2014 image. One is flat, bright and dark, and lacking detail; the other is warm, lit beautifully, has depth, and captures a truly beautiful moment.

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Believe it or not, both of the above images were taken the same year, 2012. The top was early summer and the bottom was in December. It’s crazy the difference even 6 months can make!

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Both of these photos were taken with ambient and artificial light. The one of the left was with my cheap little SunPak flash, the one on the right was with my Yongnuo YN-560 III. *Side note: Ladies, please find a wooden hanger for your wedding dress. Not only is it stronger, but it photographs MUCH better.

Long story short, I think you guys get the point. We all start somewhere! I am so proud of myself as to how far I have come. Learning to work your camera and lenses properly really means a lot. You don’t have to have the best of the best, as long as you know how to use it! I’m really excited to see how much I will grow in 2014! If you’d like me to photograph you, your family, or your wedding, please visit http://www.swanphotographytx.com

To all my wonderful clients through the years: Thank you!!!! From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate you so much. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. Thank you for trusting me with your precious moments.

xoxo, Beth

2 thoughts on “How Far I’ve Come

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