When I was 12 my Mom and Dad brushed off an old Minolta SLR camera and showed me a few of the settings before a family trip to some famous tulip gardens in Holland. They gave me two rolls of film and patiently waited while I set up my shots, focusing in on rows of waving flowers. They helped me pay to develop my film and then my Dad showed me how to mat the photo for a local contest held by our newspaper. It was so exciting when I won—my prize was a dinky little Kodak 35 mm plastic camera—and I can honestly say that was the high point of my photography career.
I took a few classes in high school and learned how to develop film, a skill I’m sure I’ll tell my future children about as they ask me if I used rotary phones while riding to school on my dinosaur.
In college I got a digital camera and my friends and I burned through Costco-sized packages of batteries in a weekend, delighted at the ability to take 128 photographs of ourselves at a party and then through the miracle of technology look at them on the spot with a teeny tiny 1×1 inch screen. Spoiler alert: those photos, all carefully burned onto compact discs, are horrible.
My skills never got better, even though cameras became smaller, lighter and more powerful. My husband and I finally bought a nicer point-and-shoot for our honeymoon, and while we snapped plenty of good memories we didn’t get any good art, no matter how valiantly we tried to capture the beauty of Napa Valley.
Disappointed in my shots, I tried reading photography blogs, even the great photography posts here, but they were all over my head and I had no idea what they were talking about. ISO and fractions – I was never good at math- and shutter speeds intimidated me. I resigned myself to bribing all my friends with skills to take our annual Christmas card photo.
Then my Mom bought a DSLR camera (a Canon T2i) and she let me fiddle around with it last year when we took a family vacation together. I didn’t want to hand it back, and at the end of the trip I was intrigued; maybe I could figure this stuff out. On my Mom’s last trip to Chicago she surprised me with a two-hour intro to digital photography course where I spent the entire time trying to wrap my brain around white balance while using a loaner camera. I know, I know, easy stuff for all the experts out there, but for me it was quite the accomplishment.
And so, when our savings account filled up I took the plunge and hit “order” on my Amazon cart:
A Canon T3i is on its way to my house to live for forever, with two lenses, a 50mm and a 55-250. And now I’m soliciting any and all advice from experienced photographers on how you learned to turn the “auto” function off and step outside your comfort zone. Did you take classes, enlist a friend to help or watch YouTube tutorial videos? And for all of you, like me, insisting that Instagram is plenty good enough for all your memories, what is holding you back?
Daisy is a lawyer married to a lawyer (insert lawyer jokes here) living in a small condo in a big city with a new baby and beagle. She breaks up the legal-speak by blogging about life in Chicago, which is filled with escapades of urban living. In the summer she enjoys patio dining and in the winter wonders what she was thinking when she moved here. You can read more from Daisy on her blog, Just Daisy.