I love photography. However, this post will NOT be about what a brilliant photographer I am. I know my aperture, shutter speed and ISO, I use manual mode and I have some nice gear, but I still consider myself quite much a beginner. It’s possible that I, at least in many cases, underestimate myself, but I think many of my photos lack quality. They may be slightly out of focus or badly composed. I always struggle with sharpness. Some photos are better but perhaps uninteresting or with too harsh light. Perhaps I’m too much of a perfectionist? I’m not sure. However, I love photography and want to become good at it.
This is one I actually like, taken at Campo Imperatore, Abruzzo, Italy, after the first snow of 2017:
My first cameras
My photography journey started when I was about to turn 15. My (late) father asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I asked for a camera. I remember I had always been fascinated by photos, and frequently looked at our old family photos.
My very first camera was a simple analogue camera. I loved it and used it a lot. I knew absolutely nothing about how cameras work, about light or composition or anything like that. I simply captured moments and took photos of people, places and situations I wanted to keep with me as memories. Most photos were quite bad, but I loved taking them.
Years later, my husband gave me a new digital camera (we had one already since we got married) for Christmas – a nice compact camera, a Sony Cybershot. I was very happy with it for a long time until 2013 when we were in Italy and I wanted to take photos of the mountains. I was unhappy with all those photos because the camera didn’t agree with what I wanted to capture. That was the year when I decided to get a system camera. I bought an entry-level Canon DSLR that autumn and started learning more about photography.
Later I started seeing information about mirrorless cameras, how they were smaller and lighter, which caught my interest. I’m not a large person, and I don’t want to carry heavy stuff if I don’t have to. I’ve since learned that DSLRs perform better in low light (NOT the Canon I had, though!) and some other things, but after buying a mirrorless camera, I enjoy photography a lot more. I take the camera with me everywhere and I simply take more photos.
I own some extremely light and small lenses, my Olympus macro lens weighs only 185 grams, and my 25 mm Panasonic weighs 125 grams. My standard zoom lens (14-140 mm) is quite light too. There’s heavier stuff if you want the really fancy pro lenses, and I use a wide-angle lens that is quite bulky (but it’s a fantastic lens), but at least there are lightweight options!
I now shoot with a lovely Olympus OM-D camera and I’m very happy with it.
What photography niche am I interested in?
I love landscapes, nature, and the sea. I’d love to learn to take good landscape photos, but it’s quite complex if you want to do it well. It also has a lot to do with being at the right place at the right time to get the right light. There’s also lots to learn about composition when making landscape photos – and I’m not there yet. I do take photos of landscapes, as you can see above, but most of them are not so good.
For now, I try different types of photography to learn skills. Later I’ll want to decide what niche of photography I want to get good at and work on that. I’m very much leaning towards macro and different kinds of nature photography though. Macro photography is fabulous and exciting – with a good macro lens you can discover details on your subject that you didn’t know existed because you usually can’t see them with your eyes, and this is what made me fall in love with macro.
I used to be in love with street photography but more or less gave it up after GDPR. Really, GDPR doesn’t make street photography illegal or such – it falls under art – but after GDPR came into force I’m hesitant to take photos of people. I still do it but don’t feel comfortable with posting them on a blog for example. There are nasty people out there, and the GDPR is very much up to interpretation – or do I overthink this?
However, I still love street photography and will find my way of doing it. There’s a fantastic Instagram account with photos from Milano, with amazing street shots without people, or with people in positions where you can’t recognise them.
If you have any thoughts about street photography vs GDPR, please let me know in the comments!
What I’ve learned about photography so far is what I’ve read on tutorials, blogs, books, and by trial and error. I’ve learned what I needed to learn to be able to do certain things, but there’s lots of theory stuff that I should have knowledge about but don’t.
A few years ago I tried to attend an online photography course but quit after a while – mostly because of lack of time, but also because the assignments required that you had access to “well-lit places”. The problem was that I lived in Sweden at the time, and it was winter. In Sweden in January and until maybe March, daylight is VERY scarce or even non-existent.
Now that I live in Ireland, I’m trying again with the same course. It started on the 9th of January and is free if you want – I’ve only paid for an app where I upload my homework photos and communicate with other participants.
The course is for beginners, and the beginning lessons are too basic for me, but as time goes by, we will move on to other areas where I’m less competent. The course covers everything from learning how the depth of field and exposure work to heavier stuff such as reading the histogram, composition, using a tripod, editing, and much more. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot and get further with my photography.
The course starts every month and I highly recommend it – see more information here.
Photography during 2019 and my plans for 2020
During 2019 I was very absent from “real” photography. I shot some photos in the garden of bees and plants, and in town at gigs and other events, but not really with any thought behind them. Actually I think my best photos from 2019 were those from gigs, in a pub with pink-purple stage lights and very low light otherwise. Perhaps they are my best photos because the conditions forced me to think through how to take them?
One of my plans for 2020 is to get back to photography and to get better at it. One thing I’ll do is the course I mentioned above, but I’ve also joined the local camera club. It’s very inspiring to meet other photography enthusiasts and learn from them. They have workshops and different events, and also competitions. I’m not sure if I’d join a competition yet but I could use the theme as a personal photography challenge. We’ll see! However, I’m very happy to be a part of the group, it’s about time that I spend more time with other photographers.
And yes, I dare to call myself a photographer. Because you don’t have to make money on photography to be a photographer. A photographer is someone who creates photos. In addition, there are professional photographers, those who earn money on their photos. It’s as simple as that.
My photography goal is also the motto of the Emma Davies’ photography workshop:
“The only photographer I compare myself with is the one I used to be.”