My Photography Journey by Gigi McGill

It’s been almost a year now since I discovered CM and wow, what a difference a year can make. I found CM while searching for tips/tricks/miracles to help me learn how to use my camera in manual mode. A lucky Google search led me to Shooting 101 and I signed up and registered on the spot. Up until that point I had been using my camera in program mode. While P mode does offer a little more control than A, the only difference I knew about was that my flash didn’t pop up – which I considered a win. I got a few lucky shots here and there but my camera had a love of choosing wide apertures and slow shutter speeds so I have quite a collection of slightly blurred baby pictures of my daughter.

I am forever grateful to Lynne for demystifying manual mode. Between the videos, the PDFs, the patient Q&A and the encouraging critique I finally began to understand how everything worked together. This is from my first day shooting in manual. Compositionally not much to look at, but I was dazzled it wasn’t all black or all white and they were both pretty much in focus.

There are way too many a-ha moments to count from Shooting 101 but I had loads of fun practicing with creative apertures and stopping motion:

Drunk on learning, I signed up immediately for Photoshop Fundamentals. To say I didn’t know a thing about Photoshop would be an understatement. It’s a testament to Lisa’s patience and skill as an instructor that I figured out how to even change my default settings, much less understand curves and levels. I wholeheartedly agree with the wisdom that it’s far easier to get a photo right straight out of the camera than to try to save a poorly exposed image but it’s nice to know that improvement is possible. Keep in mind I was brand new at shooting in manual at this point so I found myself trying to salvage things like this:

I had been using Lightroom for a few months before I signed up for Lightroom Start-to-Finish  in February of this year. Before class I upgraded my camera body and had just started shooting RAW. I laugh now because I actually debated on whether I would benefit from the LR course since I had a book. If there is any doubt, trust me that there is no comparison between a book and Lynne. No offense to Scott Kelby, but he’s got nothing on her. Skin tones, graduated filters and HSL panels, oh my!

This is one of my very favorites from class:

And to illustrate that saving a photo is not just for Photoshop:

After LR 101 and PS 101 I felt like my processing was coming along pretty well so I was ready to concentrate more on shooting. Enter Beyond the Basics in March/April. I learned a ton from Lynne, the TAs and my classmates and overall just had so much fun. Here are a few of my favorites from class:

My latest workshop was Composition and Creativity. Sarah, the TAs, the contributing alumni and my classmates all made this such an unbelievable learning experience – I am still thinking about everything I learned, every day, every time I pick up my camera. This class is certainly more than learning about compositional guides although that’s part of it. It emphasizes shooting with purpose and thoughtfulness and I loved everything about it.

I was so thrilled to join CMpro this summer and have since been participating (somewhat sporadically) in the CMpro Daily Project. I’m hoping to get my daily photo mojo back shortly because some those images have been my favorites. Regardless of my own posting schedule, it’s just incredible to look through all the talent there on a daily basis.

Some of my recent work:

I am so happy to have found CM when I did and so grateful to have had the chance to learn from, and with, so many amazing and inspiring photographers. Each class has taught me so much skill wise but I think the most valuable thing I’ve come away with has been confidence. Don’t get me wrong, I still take imperfect photos. Loads of them actually. All the imperfect shots are ok too though because being able to identify why I don’t like something, or in some cases, why, despite the imperfections, I love it anyway, is invaluable. Bottom line, I love photography because I love these moments- the perfect ones and the imperfect ones – and being able to capture them with relative accuracy is just amazing to me.