My Photography Journey by Rebecca Hellyer
Like so many others, my photography journey began shortly after the birth of our son in 2011. I found myself yearning to capture each stage of his infancy and all those fleeting moments in between. I had been reading up on the how-to’s of photography online, started learning about the exposure triangle and I knew I wanted to be able to control the camera manually. At the time, I didn’t want to commit to the price of a dSLR, so I bought a Nikon Coolpix P300, put it in manual, and snapped away!
Gosh, I was over the moon with those photos! I was so proud of myself – shooting in manual and editing in Picasa. Most of my images were completely underexposed, and I had absolutely no idea about how to use light, but golly… I loved those photos anyway. Look at that awesome composition! I was pumped that I could get parts of the image “blurry.”
Sometimes, out of sheer luck, I actually did an okay job (look at that sunflare!). I started to play with composition and the rule of thirds.
On Mother’s Day 2012 my amazing husband gifted me with a Canon t3i and a 50mm f/1.8 lens. I was immediately head over heels in love with the images I could take – I gushed and swooned over that close-up shot, which was the first image taken with my new gear. I still had some things to learn about editing though (hello, over-saturation!).
I started to try my hand at backlighting (fail!), and occasionally got an image that was semi-decent (if only he had some light in his eyes!).
I moved up from editing in Picasa and bought Photoshop Elements. And I discovered actions. And apparently didn’t mind that my son was missing an arm…
I bought a wide-angle lens (a Sigma 10-20mm) and had no clue about distortion…
And of course, I tried the infamous “baby with Christmas lights” shot (PS – please don’t try this at home! So dangerous!).
And then, in December 2012, I made the jump to full-frame and bought a Canon 6D. I was instantly in love with how it handled low-light and I pushed it to its limits as soon as I got it.
This is where my photography journey started to really take a turn for the better. I started producing images that I loved and that were technically pretty darn good. I was still grappling with white balance, still editing in PSE, and still using actions more than I should have been. But I had the basics down and was starting to get more creative with my work. A lot of these images actually made it into my CMPro application (with some re-edits, of course).
In early 2013 three things happened that further propelled me along this path – I moved from editing in PSE to editing in Lightroom, I joined Clickin Moms and I bought the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART lens. I began to play even more with difficult and interesting light. I started to edit more on my own without the use of actions, and I paid more attention to white balance and skin tones.
And then, something just… clicked. I was able to consistently produce images that I loved, that were interesting, and creative, and technically correct. I started trying to tell more of a story with my images. I wanted to capture more of how it “felt” to be there. I wanted to capture the details of my son’s childhood – his excitement, the joy, the small details.
I played with new techniques (freelensing, purposeful out of focus shots), I photographed things other than my son and I wasn’t afraid to take risks and try new things.
In January 2014, I decided it was time for me to work towards a CMPro application. It seemed like a lofty goal. I joined a group of women who were also working towards becoming CMPro’s, and under their guidance I further fine-tuned my editing and curated a set of 150 images that I was proud of. I submitted my set in late February 2014 and four days later I was amazed to see that email saying that I had been accepted!
With that extra confidence boost, I felt the freedom to love images that spoke to me on an emotional level, regardless of whether they were technically correct or not. Slipped focus? Eh. I looked past a missed technicality and saw my son being goofy on a hot summers evening, remembering the feeling of the sun on my skin as I sat in the backyard with a glass of wine as I watched him play.
My favorite images fast became those which were risky. I played, and became truly enamored, with light.
Even though my goal of becoming a CMPro was long ago achieved, a year later I still try to push myself to be a better photographer, and my amazing CMPro prep group is always there to cheer me on and encourage me to take risks and try new things.
For those who may feel stagnant with their work, I highly recommend finding a small group of like-minded folks who act as your cheerleaders, who push you, who help you up when you feel like you are stuck in a never-ending rut. Because while photography is such a personal thing, it helps to have others along for the ride.