Today, I am finally working on Q&A! I apologize for the late delay, but life has gotten a bit all over the place and blogs were placed on the backburner because I spent a great deal of time doing job stuff. I wanted to organize all the photography q's separately since it seemed like they made up a good chunk of what people had asked.
First and foremost, I made a long post a while ago on my photography timeline. I've been taking photos for 15 years, so it's something that has become so natural to me that I don't really consider myself a "photographer" anymore. I mean, isn't everyone a photographer these days? Basically, I'm just someone that has a camera and always want to take pics of people I like and the places I go.
I also had made a super long post all about night photography in detail. That would be a good first place to start if you're focused on that kind of stuff. I talk about specific gear, strategy/preparation, settings I use and example shots.
As usual, digital photography is always evolving and I can never keep up. Especially with all of these young folks where digital was their first format and are all tech-savvy with Photoshop and filters. I'm so jealous of them. If I could still shoot film, I would if I had the disposable income and patience. But digital is so easy, quick and cheap once you have everything.
What camera do you use?
This the number one most frequently asked question.
My Instagram is a mix of my iPhone 6, Canon EOS M and Nikon D800. I have a lot of discontinued models bc I'm old and haven't felt like keeping up with technology.
I only use full-frame DSLR for client work. It's fast, has incredible quality and is 36MP (which is quite unnecessary actually). I also have been using Nikon since the film days, so that's the only reason I started off with Nikon. I was familiar with the build and settings, so I stuck with it when I switched to digital.
They say the best camera you have is in your dirty shirt pocket, and it cannot be any more true. It's the quickest and easiest camera to use when you're on the go. While I was hiking, it was super easy to take out my phone out of my shirt instead of reaching into my hip belt for my real camera. I also don't have to take the time to adjust exposure, so I ended up having way more iPhone pics in the end.
I don't really know why, but people seem to be so intrigued by what camera I used on the PCT. I basically ordered this camera off Amazon without any research, got it in the mail 5 days before I left for San Diego and never used the it until I was in southern California. Never had time to test it out nor see how the editing worked. I can't believe I was almost not going to bring a camera on trail. What was I thinking?! I just didn't know anything about mirrorless, didn't have time to do any research and didn't want to spend like $1k on another camera. I opted for the 22mm bc portraits were important to me and this stopped down to f/2. I know people are really into the really expensive Sony Alphas...but I couldn't justify on spending so much for a new camera.
I can't stress this enough but knowing how to use your camera/settings > expensive gear
Photography can be 100% self-taught. All of the information is online, and there are tons of tutorials you can search for. Read your camera manual and know how your aperture, shutter and ISO work together. But most importantly, it's mainly just getting out there with your camera and take as many photos as possible. Shoot anything and everything, and you will find out what subjects you like the best and what your strengths are.
Do lenses really matter?
Yes, absolutely. 100%. Bad glass will produce a bad photo. Sharpness and exposure make a quality image. I cannot stand blurry or super dark/bright pics. I see so many people buy super expensive bodies but use a medicore kit lens, and it's a big no-no. Instead, buy a whatever body separate and invest in a good quality lens.
How do you know if a lens is good?
Honestly, I have no clue really. But I usually always buy glass that has at least a stop of 2.8 or lower. I typically always opt out of zoomies unless it's something specific I'm needing it for, but primes all the way. Focal length, I really like to keep it basic and wide-ish without distorting but it's nice having a bigger zoom for good DOF for portraits. Also, don't go for third party brands unless you're really desperate. Nothing will ever beat the quality of a real brand.
Do you use flash?
Only at dark receptions. I don't like the look of fill flash in the outdoors. If you need to fill shadows outdoors, consider using a reflector for natural light. I only use speedlights so that I can bounce the light. I have both the SB 800 and SB 600. I sometimes shoot direct for dance shots though.
Do you have any camera recommendations?
To be honest, not really. I'm not super techie and don't know much about specs. I also don't do much camera research and follow up on the latest technology. Basically, I'm like an old person who's still stuck in 2002. I only know what I've used, and I like them all. I've heard great things about those Sony Alphas though, but I really do not know anything about mirrorless cameras. I would prob recommend the Canon EOS Mark whatever-number-they're-on-now bc everyone I know has one.
When is the best lighting for shooting?
Lighting will ALWAYS be your friend for good photography. As most of you know, dust and dawn at golden hour is prime shooting time. When I'm hiking, I always make sure I'm already up before the sun rises, so I get that perfect light to shoot the trail, mountains, details and people. Look for nice spots of light throughout the day as the clouds move in and out behind the sun. Light makes the picture interesting and really sets the mood/tone. I also almost always only post photos of good light to make my photography look better than what it really is. Don't be fooled, ya'll.
What is your editing process?
I always shoot in RAW. I made the switch over back in 2010 when I discovered JPG doesn't really cut it for the wedding industry (mainly). If you under/over exposure an image, you're kind of out of luck with trying to bring it back to life. Shooting in RAW is basically like having the negatives of your photos. Yes, you'll have to edit them and convert them, but you can do SO much with it. Whether it's exposure, contrast, white balance, tint, etc. It's amazing! It will change your life if you still have not switched over.
When I dump them to my computer, I put them in a folder sorted by date and/or event and load them into Photo Mechanic (hello, 2009) to cull. I trash all the ugly, blurry, bad pics (so no one will ever get to see what a bad photographer I am) and load the rest onto a Lightroom version I got in college. Apparently, now they have this whole confusing cloud thing that you have to pay for every month, so good luck with that! I do believe knowing how to edit correctly/well is a huge process in photography, unfortunately. :/
Do you use any presets?
How did you develop your style?
I edit all my photos and try to make them look good to my eye. Everyone has a different style, fortunately, and unfortunately. Something that looks good to me may look bad to someone else and vice versa. It's just how life works. There will always be style trends but if you stay true to your own personal taste and style, you'll be set. Please don't try to copy other photographers' style. I mean, you can use it for inspiration but making your edits look exactly like someone else's is basically copying them. I would fine tune it till it's something that represents you and your style. Sometimes I think it can be kinda toxic when you've looked at so many different styles/photographers that your mind starts playing games on what looks good to you. You want your photos to stick out amongst the 23948389 other photographers out there. If you were to throw your photo in a bunch of like 20, can people spot your photo out in an instant? If you like your style, then that's all that matters. Don't do things to please others or follow the latest trend.
I don't really know what I consider my "style," but I've always been drawn to bright, vibrant colors. I used to be more contrasty but lately, I've been de-contrasting my photos to an extent. I'm also obsessed with symmetry and cool tones. I try to steer away from too warm/yellowy tones bc it kinda makes me cringe. Then I always find myself in an editing crises every couple of years or so when I look at all my photos and hate how they all look.
This is why editing is important:
It takes dull, flat, raw images and gives them a nice pop. :) Which is why developing your own style is also important.
Obviously, it makes a HUGE difference in night photography. Literally cannot imagine delivering the raw file on the left, you want to bring out all the details that you captured but it doesn't show up on unless you edit them.
This is also one that makes a huge difference. Look how cut Nate and Meg look but it's backlit, the lighting was harsh and the tone was too cool for the canyon. I warmed it up a bunch and wanted to see their faces correctly exposed. TA-DA!
Another nighttime example, usually has intense vignetting but we want to see the sky better.
Here is Joe at Torres, an already beautiful place which you could use #nofilter but I like seeing photos in #myfilter. Also, gotta take out those other tourists in the background.
So, is editing like fake?
Yes, essentially. But we all do it and kind of have to or else all of our photos are going to look boring and dull and just like everyone else's who don't edit. My only issue with editing is making sure you don't cross over the line of over-editing where yes, it ends up looking super fake. Just play around with stuff and if it starts look too overdone, take it down a notch.
What is your color correction process?
I never really understood how to color correct or what that really means, but I always shoot in auto WB and adjust later. I used to have one of those cool gray card things but always forgot about them. Just play with the tint until it looks good to your eyes. :)
How you keep a distinct feel across different trips, lighting, and locations?
Actually, I don't think I'm very consistent at all bc yes, the light is ALWAYS changing wherever we go! Consistency is one of the hardest things photographers struggle with I feel like. I basically try to always edit the same exact way and hope it stays consistent.
How did you charge your camera on trail?
I carried one wall charger and two spare batteries, one inside the camera and one backup. I wish I had USB charging features but my camera doesn't have that. I charged my iPhone with an external battery charger.
How much memory did you carry?
I carried like 5 32GB SD cards. I only went through 3 of them. I shipped one home in the beginning when it was full, but it was a risk getting lost in the mail and pointless. The cards are SO light that it didn't even matter, so I ended up carried them all the whole way and hoped I didn't lose them.
How did you organize photos while on trail?
To keep up with my blogging, I edited and sorted through all my photos every night in my tent. You can read my whole process here.
Did you keep a backup?
I used Amazon Photos to backup my iPhone when I was hiking. If you have a Prime membership, you can do unlimited photo uploads. I would try to back them up every time I had wifi, but honestly, every town had bad wifi so I wouldn't really back them up until I found somewhere good. But it uploads to the cloud so should something happen to your phone, you at least have some memories in photos saved.
Did you use a special carrying case or clip?
No, I kept my camera in my hip belt pocket the whole time and used a ziploc bag to protect it from rain.
How did you transfer photos to your phone?
I don't have the fancy wifi feature since I have an old model, so I just ended up using a card reader for my iPhone. Because my cards were so huge, it took a million years to wait for photos to load, so I rarely transferred photos unless I really wanted a good portrait or something.
Did you find it difficult to take photos when you're trying to meet a daily mileage goal?
Absolutely. I'm prob the laziest photographer I know. I really hated stopping to pull out my camera especially taking the time to take detail shots when the light was good, but I most definitely forced myself to do it. I would sometimes even go 3-5 days without taking a single photo. You kind of forget when you're so tired. I would also force myself to take more portraits even though I was lazy and just wanted to veg to out bc in the end, I know it was going to be worth it. Anytime it rained a little bit, I almost never took my camera out.
Who are my photography inspirations?
I was never really that kid that looked up to any photographers growing up. No shame here, but I never got into Ansel Adams and stuff. I would have to say, Paul Zizka was a huge inspiration to me in outdoor photography. He is the best and has such a wonderful soul. I also really look up to one of my bffs, Jenny Linquist. Though she just takes pics of motos and Clyde now, her editing is so good. No trendy filters. Everything looks so real like you were there, and you can most def spot her photos out amongst the others. She also knows all my best angles.
How did you learn techniques/skills/style to get to where you are now?
I am 100% self-taught. I never went to art school even though I wished I did, so I could learn more about technology and Adobe. I did start out with film, so it wasn't as technical back in the day...you just had to make sure you got your film speed and exposure right and go get it developed. I don't like dark room stuff, it's too dark and I can't see in there. I did a TON of research online. I don't even know anymore. I remember always looking at Ken Rockwell and Dpreview for gear reviews lol, don't even know if they're a thing anymore. Other than that, a LOT of trial and error and a lot of mistakes and lessons learned.
It's still weird when people call me a photographer bc I don't really see myself as one. It's just something I've always done my whole life and a camera will always be with me for everything that is important in my life. It's been a great hobby, job and a huge part of my childhood, but I'm done making it my full time thing. Yes, I'll do side work, but I also want to teach, share, and help others learn their passion for it. I know it's hard starting out, but you'll eventually get it and then everything just clicks. :) Thank you everyone for all your amazing q's, I really hope this is informative to those seeking answers and guidance! Happy to answer any more that I might've missed.
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***Thanks to Google for the random images