1 Aug 2013

My Photography Journey...so far

Since I started The Week's End series a few months ago, there has been considerable interest in my photography.  Actually, so much interest that it has sort of shocked me.  You guys have been so incredibly kind in humouring me each week and leaving such lovely comments about my small glimpse into my life via photos. I've been tossing around the idea of doing more photo related posts, but I am a bit hesitant because I don't want my blog to turn into a photo blog.  But, given that our house is sold and we are waiting to take possession of the new house, I am pretty much project-less at the moment. (Unless you count researching appliances, flooring and paint as a project....but more on that later...)  So, maybe now is as good of a time as any to dive a bit more into photography and share a little of what I have learnt along the way.

I have to add a little disclaimer here that these posts are about my experience and my experience alone.  I am in no way claiming to be a professional photographer.  There are amazing photographers in this world who have incredible skill and talent who know about a bazillion more things than I do, but if you are just starting out and are wanting to learn a little more about photography hopefully my experience will help.

I am sure my story is like many others.....it all started with a point and shoot.  In fact, our point and shoot camera (a Cannon PowerShot), was the very first 'big' purchase that Mr. Swell and I made together.  And let me tell you....we felt pretty darn swanky with our brand new tiny camera with 10x zoom. Woo hoo!!  Off we went to Hawaii to capture a bunch of junky photos.  Yes, they were junky, but that's ok...I can still look back on them and remember the moments. 

Prior to my DSLR
point and shoot with flash...all sorts of awesome....but he's still cute!
A few years later Fin came along and we took picture, after picture, after picture.  Our trusty old point and shoot was still doing it for us and we were happy enough.  Then I started blogging...and the game changed! 

I'd spend hours and hours on a room makeover and then try and shoot it. And then get frustrated and shoot it again, and then attempt to edit all the crappy photos...and then shoot it again.  I couldn't seem to get an accurate photo of what the room actually looked like.  Mind you, it didn't help that I was often taking pictures at night with a flash (gasp!!). 

Prior to my DSLR
A prime example of a pre DSLR blog photo.
About 6 months into blogging I'd had enough.  It was time for a new camera.  By this point I had read enough to know that I needed a DSLR.  Here's the thing...I am cheap.  Like really, really cheap.  The thought of spending over $500 on a camera gave me heart palpitations.  So, I scoured the flyers every weekend until I found a camera that I figured would fit my needs.  It was a Nikon D3000 and it was at Wal-Mart for under $300 (with a kit lens).  Sold!  That was last fall.

Nikon D3000

I was determined to learn how to shoot in Manual Mode, so before I even started shooting with the new camera I bought the Shooting 101 course from Shoot Fly Shoot.  I put my camera dial onto M and never looked back.  Shooting 101 was a really great way to start.  The videos were short and I found it easy to watch a video and then go out right away and practice.  I practiced a lot. A full blown Mamarazzi was born.

Throughout the next couple of months I kept shooting and was getting happier and happier with my results.  Room reveals and project photos seemed to actually be improving.  I was editing all of my photos with iPhoto (which came with my iMac).

Kitchen @ A Swell Place to Dwell.com
Our kitchen. Edited with iPhoto
Over Christmas we went to Hawaii for 3 weeks and I came home with thousands (yes, THOUSANDS!) of photos.  Overall I was pretty happy with the photos I had, but I knew they could be better.  iPhoto wasn't giving me the the control that I wanted, so I took the plunge and bought Adobe Lightroom.  Lightroom is another beast entirely from iPhoto.  It's a seriously powerful tool.  

Remember that I am cheap? Right....I was too cheap to actually buy a Lightroom book or course. Instead I scoured the internet for free tutorials and resources (I have many of them on my Photography Pinterest board) . I watched endless Youtube videos of people editing.  I would watch and try, watch and try, over, and over, and over again.  Mr. Swell became a Computer Widow.  As soon as Fin went to bed I would sit at the computer and work away.

My Photography Journey
One that I was very proud of....before I knew much about
white balance or getting everything in the frame.

Around that time Shoot Fly Shoot released Shooting 102 and I bought it as soon as it came out.  It was in that set of videos that I was finally convinced to change from shooting JPEG to shooting RAW.  This was a turning point for me.  Once I switched to RAW I was amazed at the control I had over my photos and I was able to start getting the results that I wanted.

Since around January I had also been stalking the Clickin Moms blog.  Clickin Moms is an online photography forum of mostly women (most of whom are Moms).  It's a paid forum and I was hesitant at first to actually drop more money on photography (remember the multiple cheap comments above??). So, I took the free route and read almost every single article on the blog. I was a sponge, and I loved it.  In April I saw that Clickin Moms was having a sale so I finally got over my cheapness and joined the forum for a year.  

And that's when it started....oh. my. goodness.  The forum was like a black hole of photography goodness. I read, and read, and read some more.  I read every tutorial on the forum, I submitted photos for critique, I sat in awe of these ladies and their amazing photographs and how willing they are to help.  If you are interested in photography and want to learn more at your own pace, I honestly can't recommend Clickin Moms enough (and just so we are clear, this post is not sponsored by CM).

In May I saw a thread on the forum asking if anyone was interested in doing a picture a day for May.  Me? Sure, why not? It's not like I have anything going on (sarcasm, of course...).  So, on May 1, 2013 I started shooting daily.  That particular group wasn't very active and by the end of the first week I was the only one left...but I kept going. Then I saw another group who was starting a 365 on June 1 - shooting every day for a year.  Well, I had already started so I might as well continue.  So I joined that group.  That group has been one of the best things that has ever happened to my photography.  I shoot every day and post to the group every. single. day.  I've been at it for 3 months now, and can't believe that I have a collection of 90 photos that I am totally proud of.  There are days when the last thing I want to do is pick up that camera and find something to shoot, but I always force myself, and surprisingly enough, those are usually the photos I end up loving because I have to get creative.  Many of the photos that end up on The Week's End are from my 365 project, but there are also many others that I don't post here to respect my family's privacy.

My Photography Journey
Day 1 of my 365
I have also discovered a total love for editing.  I know some people really like getting their picture perfect straight out of the camera so that they don't have to edit, but I actually love the challenge of a crappy straight out camera picture.  I can sit and work on a picture and get so into it that sometimes half an hour has passed...on one photo! Love it.  (Obviously my personal work is edited much heavier than my project photos...which usually get very little editing.)  After editing pretty much every night I think my style is starting to emerge.

My Photography Journey & My Favourite Photography Resources
A more recent image from my 365
I dream of having a better camera one day (and can now see why spending over $500 actually has value!), but for now I am still using my D3000 and secretly like the challenge of making what I have work.  I used only my 18-55mm kit lens for almost 8 months and then I was lucky enough to get a 35mm 1.8 as a gift.  My 35mm pretty much lives on my camera most days as it's the best to shoot with in low light situations. I tend to only put my kit lens on when I need to be able to capture a whole room.

So that's where I am now.  I feel like I have come a long way, but I still have so far to go.  I love learning and am so happy that I am able to continue to have a ton of ah-ha moments.  

Phew, if you are still reading...wow, kuddos to you! That was a bit longer than I anticipated.

My plan over the next little while is to write a couple of more photography related posts.  I am thinking some beginner basics, a post on how I got the shot with pull backs so you can see my set up and the power of editing showing some before and afters.  What do you think?  Is there anything else that you'd like to know?  Do you have any questions?  If so, please leave them in the comments section and I will be happy to answer them all in a future post. 

**this post contains affiliate links


  1. I had no idea that you had only recently (relatively) started taking photography seriously, I thought you were a long time veteran.

    I'd gladly read your tips. I had every intention of learning more when i bought my DSLR, but life is busy and "good enough" is good enough for me.

  2. My favorite picture is the great dane and the baby on the bed. SO SWEET!

    1. Even though that one isn't technically perfect, I still love it too!

  3. these are great tips- as i said before you have a very talented eye and that can not be duplicated! :)

  4. Yes, agree...great tips and while I shoot in RAW, I still haven't gotten around to the Manual mode. I have to buy Shoot Fly Shoot's manuals I guess :)

    1. I won't lie...manual mode is so frustrating at first....it takes forever to figure out settings, etc. But after a bit of practice it sort of becomes second nature. I can't imagine going back to auto now...i'd be so ticked that I wouldn't be able to get the exposure I want! Yes, definetly give shoot fly shoot a chance and see how you like it. Do you have a Cannon? They demo on Cannon, so I think that makes it a bit easier. I use a Nikon so it took a little bit of figuring to make sure I was using the same buttons, etc.

  5. I've been looking at the Shoot Fly tutorials, too. Glad to hear you like them. I have a "fancy" DSLR, but it seems like such a hassle to be all the time. I think if I was a bit more comfortable with it, I would use it more.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!


    1. So funny because I actually find using the camera on my phone a hassle. I hate that I don't have the control....mind you...sometimes lugging the DSLR around can get pretty heavy!

  6. I'm so inspired!! I want to learn how to become a better photographer. Amazingly, I use my iPhone for pretty much all my blog photos (I think it shows). I'm so in awe of your gorgeous photography. So I vote: more posts on photography (maybe how you edit) and more posts showing off your photos. They are simply stunning!!

    1. Thank you. Noted...more photography posts coming up! It's a fun hobby to take up, but can totally become all consuming (as in my case!). If you got into it I can't even image the things you could capture in NYC. If you are interested, Stacey Vukelj is a street photographer in NYC and she does amazing (!!) work. http://vukeljnyc.com/

  7. You should check out Creative Live. They do free online workshops and the ones that I have done are AMAZING! All different subjects (some business stuff, some editing, and others just shooting), but all really good.

    1. Thank you. Yes I have checked them out and their stuff looks great! I heard that the wedding 2nd shooter one a couple of days ago was fantastic.

      Thanks for the comment!
      Have a great weekend


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