I’ve always appreciated the art of photography. As a mother of two young children, my appreciation turned to a mission to document this fleeting stage of life.

I daily captured their growth and development and gained in confidence with each picture. But like so many beginner photographers, I wanted more from my photographs.

Armed with basic experience, my D3200 camera, and a Nikon for Dummies book, I took a leap of faith and switched my dial from auto to manual. Then I joined Clickin Moms and that’s where my photography really took flight.

I started on the forums and was amazed by the talent I found there. And everyone was so friendly! After a few breakouts and my first Click Photo School class, I had upgraded my camera to a Nikon D750 with a Sigma ART 35mm lens on it (still my favorite combination to this day!).

I dove right into offering family photo sessions in my local community. Inspired by the talent I saw at Clickin Moms, I worked hard to become a Click Pro myself. Today I am proud to be running a successful photography business and owe so much of that to the Clickin Moms community.

Starting out on your own photography journey can be very daunting. There is so much to learn! All of those buttons and menus and rules can be overwhelming. And don’t get me started on Photoshop and Lightroom!  You have all these big ideas for your photos but it can be so hard to get them out of your head and into your camera.

Ask any photographer out there and she tell you that she felt the same way. There were times when I was disheartened and wondered, “Am I ever going to get this?!”

But there were also some great ‘AHA!’ moments on my learning path. These are the moments that have been the highlights in my journey. Be sure to do these things and you will be well on your way to all of your photography goals.

Learn how to shoot in manual mode

Understanding the exposure triangle is key if you want to make your vision come to life. Learning to shoot in manual is the best way to fully understand your camera and have full control over your exposures.

You can learn to shoot in manual mode through a book, workshop, YouTube tutorials, or any other way that works best for your learning style. Practice adjusting your ISO, aperture, and shutter speed to get the results you want.

I promise that it will feel like you are fumbling at first. This is normal! But the more you practice, the easier it will become.

PRO TIP: Turn on your histogram and highlight blinkies in camera. When you check the back of your camera, you can see visual representations of your exposure.

The histogram confused me at first, but it doesn’t need to scare you! All you need to know is that the shadows are illustrated at the left of the graph and the highlights are illustrated at the right. All of the points in between are the midtones. If the graph is too high in any one section, make adjustments with your camera settings.

The highlight “blinkies” are another great way to quickly check your exposure in camera. These will be activated when the highlights are overexposed, blinking to warn you that there is no detail in this part of the file. You can make changes to your camera settings if these blinkies are on in an important part of the frame.

Study light

I love light, I see it everywhere. Once you start to see light, you can’t stop (and won’t want to!).

Whether it’s hazy back light or harsh shadows in midday sun, I have learned to love all types of light. That said, different light requires different kinds of shooting techniques. As photographers, it is up to us to study the light so we know how to photograph it best.

PRO TIP: If your camera is struggling to focus when backlighting, try using your lens hood! It can block some of that direct sunlight and will help your camera find areas of contrast to focus on more easily.

Consider composition

Composition is simply where you place things within a photograph. Good composition happens when you place your subjects in such a way that it draws the viewer into the frame. The difference between a snapshot and a photograph is often intentional composition.

Ask yourself if you want your subject to fill the frame or if you want to show a lot of the environment around your subject. How do those different set-ups change the way you see your subject? Are you drawn to one over the other? Why?

PRO TIP: Use the rule of thirds. This simply refers to placing your focal point on one of the lines that divides the photo into thirds. Our eyes are naturally drawn to these intersections in a picture. Putting your subject here (either when shooting or when cropping later) will make the frame feel balanced and intentional.

Understand white balance

I cringe when I look back at my early work and can see clearly that my white balance was off. But most people have no idea what white balance even is!

White balance refers to making the colors in your photographs look natural. Depending on the light source and reflective surfaces in a given scene, the camera can read the colors inaccurately. It is up to the photographer to see and correct this.

You can adjust your white balance in camera by using preset white balance settings or dialing in white balance with custom Kelvin settings. Or you can adjust your white balance in post processing. Either way, you will need to train yourself to see what kind of color is correct so you know when it requires adjustments.

To train my eye I use an Expo Disc and I highly recommend it! I can now tell by quickly checking the back of my camera if my white balance is off.

TIP – Correct white balance is how the eye sees color. You will want golden hour images to be warmer and blue hour images to be cooler.

Learn how to edit your photos

You will always want to strive to get the best images you can straight out of camera. But I believe that editing your photos is a chance to put your own unique artistic stamp on your work.

I always start my editing by making sure I have my exposure and white balance just right. If these are not on point, none of the other adjustments I make will look the way I want them to.

I then find the preset I think best suits my image and adjust from there. This allows me to edit quickly but still tweak things from the preset so that the edit is uniquely mine.

PRO TIP: Play with the sliders in Lightroom to understand what they do. Then you will know just which slider to move when you need to make an adjustment to a preset!

Find your community

Have you ever tried to talk to a non-photography friend about lenses or cameras or editing programs? Did you see her start to doze off while you were talking? This is why it is so important to find community!

With the Clickin Moms community, I have found a place where I can talk all day about photography and everyone GETS IT! Even better, I am always surrounded by inspiration and am always learning from amazing artists.

PRO TIP: When on the Clickin Moms forums, head over to the tutorial section where you will find exclusive lessons written by professionals. They are divided into easy-to-navigate categories so you can find just what you need.

Trust your vision

The reason I have progressed so quickly from beginner to pro is that I became obsessed with the art of photography. I practiced every day and read and watched everything I could on the subject. I studied other photographers’ work so I could find my own artistic style and personality.

What began as documenting my family became a way for me to be creative in the midst of being a mum. I allowed myself to see in a new way. I trusted that my way of seeing the world was worth perfecting.

Photography came to me. I grabbed it with both hands and it has unfolded easily and beautifully for me. That’s not to say I haven’t worked hard. I put in plenty of hours of work! But rather than struggling against where I am at, I have embraced the journey.

And I am still learning and growing everyday! Clickin Moms gives me a place to continue my journey and the resources and relationships there have been key to me becoming the photographer I am todya.

Find your own way in photography. It is a wonderful journey and no matter what your path looks like, it is one worth following.