I’m going to tell you a story about Shelley and her love of photography.
This is Shelley (in the pink) on Day 1 of her Camera Road Map adventures.
Several years before this day, Shelley went to Paris. She took a point-and-shoot camera with her and snapped all her memories in auto mode.
At the time she was thrilled with her results. Here’s a couple…
At that time she recognised that photography was about capturing memories in her life and what she was feeling at that time.
Her friend was upgrading her dSLR camera, so Shelley inherited her old one. Her interest took hold and she realised she wanted more creative control and quality in her pictures.
So she ‘bit the bullet’ and invested in her own dSLR camera.
Her aim was to set the camera to manual, and never go back.
- She asked her friend for some tips but it wasn’t making sense and she wasn’t very happy with her results.
- She joined a photo group, went on some outings, but found she was still bumbling her way around the camera.
- She found the process of adapting to manual shooting with her new toy disjointed and confusing.
- She switched to auto.
- Then her pictures were worse than ever, and she didn’t know why.
- In frustration and disappointment Shelley stopped trying, with the plan to give it another go down the track.
One year later she heard about The Camera Road Map.
I interviewed Shelley to capture her experience of adjusting to manual shooting, and what it has meant for her in her life since.
Her photos are featured below.
Beth: Shelley, you took photos on your point-and-shoot in Paris, then eight years later you took photos in New York on your dSLR camera in manual mode. What was the difference between the two results?
Shelley: My pictures were so much better, I was thinking more creatively and I was much more aware and careful with framing and lighting.
Beth: Keeping in mind that this is your hobby, and it had to fit in around your day to day life, how long did it take you to feel you were confidently across your camera, creativity and photo management?
Shelley: It took me about a year to gradually work through the workshop and courses and to get to the place of feeling like it had clicked in and was starting to work. I didn’t push myself and at times I had to step off it, but then I came back to it and kept going.
Beth: Did it happen overnight?
Shelley: No, it happened slowly over time with practice. It would take me five minutes to set up the camera to take a photo! But I’m stubborn, I guess, and I didn’t want to give up on it. I think you have to go through the uncomfortable stage with it before you can get to that stage where the better ones are coming through. It definitely took some perseverance but I was determined to get to that stage where I felt I was in control of the camera.
Beth: What else have you noticed has changed since you started?
Shelley: I can look at my photos now and see why something has or hasn’t worked, and I know how to assess how I’d do it differently to get a better result next time.
Beth: That’s great Shelley!
Shelley: Yes, yay! If I put the camera down for a couple of months, and then pick it up again, I have to go back to the shoot flow steps (in the manual camera guide) and revise, but it’s all there. I’m noticing now that there’s more consistency. I’ve also learned to slow down, have a think about it first, ask myself what it is I’m trying to do.
Beth: OK, so now we’re moving into how you see the world creatively through your lens…
Shelley: Yes, I completed all the photo themes in Your Camera, Your World. My main thing is to take photos of my family and I’ve always been the one they call on because I have the camera. I’m much better than I was, with of course always room to improve! But I know perseverance and practice is what I need to do to get better at capturing the essence and emotions of those occasions. I also have my two cats who I photograph all the time, so I loved the Animals theme. And now I’m capturing lots of little moments all the way through from kitten, all the way through, which I didn’t have from my older cat who has since died. I just love capturing how little, naughty, cute and playful they are.
Beth: So tell me about New York. Obviously you knew this is going to be a big trip, the camera was definitely going with you?
Shelley: Yes, definitely. When I travel I love getting really caught up in the place. I do all the normal touristy things, and then lots of other not-so-touristy things. What’s interesting is comparing the New York photos to the Paris ones. In Paris I didn’t really have that much of an idea of what I was doing. At the time I was really happy with them, but now I look at them and can critique them. I can see the lighting was wrong, the camera was pointing the wrong way…
Beth: How was it different in New York?
Shelley: I took more time to think about what I was photographing, why, and how. I was a lot happier with the results, there was more consistency. I looked at buildings differently, and nature too, out of your course.
Beth: How did you find the visual diary?
Shelley: The visual diary was great. I could go back and reflect on what I’d learnt. I tend to reference my visual diary before I go out shooting so I can revise on certain aspects of what I’m going to photograph.
Beth: Are you finding you’re taking less photos now?
Shelley: Taking 800 in two hours is ridiculous! You get fatigued trying to sort them out and find the good ones. I know there was one moment where I did do that in New York. I was taking a cruise at sunset around the Hudson River, up past Manhattan past the skyscrapers and around the Statue of Liberty. It had been storming all day and it was just so beautiful. I wanted all of it! The way the sun was hitting the buildings, and then the sun went down and it was all pink, so yes, I didn’t want to miss any part of it. But really, I could have put the camera down and just experienced the moment. I knew I was going overboard.
Beth: In the creative camera course you were encouraged to slow down and think more about what you want to say before you shoot. This was a particular moment for you, so I can understand you threw the rule book out on this one! If you’re in rapid fire then you’re in danger of missing out on the moment altogether because you’re engrossed in taking photos the whole time. Would you say learning to slow down and have confidence and faith that you will get it is required here?
Shelley: Yes, I’ve definitely learned to have confidence in myself and trust that ‘I’ve got the image’, and to know when to put the camera away. That just takes vigilance too!
Beth: And how has your photo management been going?
Shelley: I live a busy life, so at least at this stage I’m cataloguing everything, backing up and flagging my favourites. I know at a minimum if I can at least keep on top of that, then I have that security around my photos. The book’s been great in helping me sort that out.
Beth: If you met your former self, from the day before the workshop captured above, what would you say to her?
Shelley: I would say definitely do the Road Map content, all the way through. Take it step by step, and hang in there with it, because it will get easier in time. Be OK with walking away from it if you need to, and reflect for a while, but it’s important to come back to it and keep at it. You can always press delete! It will definitely be worth it in the long run.
To find out more about The Camera Road Map, click here.