Photography for Dummies

Oy, does that title qualify as copyright infringement?   Already?  I’m barely one line into this blog post and already have legal concerns.  Maybe I should write a blog post about Blogging for Dummies with a chapter on how not to plagiarize.  Ack!  Just looked it up!  That book title also exists and now I’m going to spend years and years languishing in jail.  I hope I at least get arrested by the officer who learned police work by studying Forensics for Dummies.  I might have a chance at fooling that guy.  Since he’s a dummy and all.

On a related note: do they really have the market on the word “dummy”?  That doesn’t seem fair.

Get it together, Micaela!  Back to the point!

Right.  Sorry.

Are you a good photographer?  One who knows big words like “aperture” and acronyms like “ISO” and lingo like “bokeh”?  This post… is probably not for you.  Just in case the title didn’t make that clear.

If you are new to your camera, or if you’ve have your camera for awhile, but like me, weren’t getting very far with it… read on.  I hope I can give you a little link love to some awesome sites that have helped me.

Last summer I got a shiny new camera, a compact DSLR.  (FYI, that stands for Digital Fancy Pants Camera.)  My camera’s not swanky enough to run with the big boys, but it does take pretty pictures when I’m not mucking them up.  

When The Camera arrived, I played around with it a bit and then, when I didn’t instantly become a world-famous photographer, I gave up trying manual mode (the one where you have to figure out all the settings yourself) and just stuck with the auto modes.  This camera actually takes a lot of really nice photos in auto mode, and has some pretty effects.  So I was happy, and for the most part, I forgot about trying to become famous and just enjoyed being a MWAC- mom with a camera. I did not make that acronym up, but I appreciate that you think I was that clever.  

Fast forward 5 months to December 30.  I had received a very generous Amazon gift card from my sister in law for Christmas.  My husband, in no uncertain terms, vetoed every single item I had in my shopping cart (vitamins and homeschooling supplies) and told me to “find something you want that you wouldn’t buy for yourself.”

Argh.  But what?  I actually had a short-lived crisis that ended with me- surprise!- whining.  I believe I said something along the lines of, “I don’t even know who I am anymore!  I don’t have any hobbies or anything outside of the kids!”  Sob sob, moan moan.

And then I closed my eyes and thought about my days.  I imagined what I do do (she said “doodoo!”), in the midst of all dishes and diapers and schooling and waxing of the floors (not!).  The one thing I do do (again!) is I grab the camera and snap a few pictures.  I take it outside when we play, I grab it when we are reading on the the living room floor, but mostly I just annoy the heck out of my kids with it.

So I posted up on Facebook asking advice about camera supplies.  Got some great suggestions, purchased them, and set to work improving my meager camera skills.

The stuff I bought:

Photoshop Elements 11.  Confusing at first, but a powerful program and far beyond anything I had used before.  I’ve been spending lots of time with it over the past few days, and already I have a grasp of the basics.  It’s not exactly intuitive, though, so I have found Photoshop Elements 11: The Missing Manual to be really really helpful.  I downloaded it onto my iPad with the Kindle app and keep it next to me as I work through the program.  (Notice I did not choose the Photoshop Elements 11 for Dummies.  I am mad at them for their monopoly on the D word.)

A Gorillapod tripod.  Super sturdy and flexible, it also helps those of us with a little shake in our hands capture that elusive steady photo. It seems virtually indestructible, which is a big bonus in this house.

A Lenspen lens cleaner.  Cheap!  Helpful!  You can’t be much of a photographer with a dirty lens, and since my house is rife with grubby fingers (40 of them!), I anticipate getting a lot of use out of this bad boy.  As long as my daughters don’t turn it into a make-up brush, that is.

The free stuff I found:

How to Shoot in Manual Mode from Click it up a Notch.  Straightforward and helpful for a beginner.  There are a ton of other articles, all of which I plan to read tonight.  HAHA!  Just kidding.  I’ll give myself until Sunday at least.

Thomas Hawk’s 10 Tips for the New Digital SLR Photographer.  Some of his list may be too simple for those with a bit of experience, but I suggest beginners read it anyway, just for the guest tips at the end.  I found those especially interesting and helpful.

And finally, I’m hoping to win (fingers crossed!) this e-book called Say No to Auto by Kristen Duke.  You can enter the giveaway too, over at Team Whitaker.  But I’m warning you, if you win, I will be calling in a favor.

Next on my to-buy list is a Nifty Fifty lens, but that is gonna take some saving.  Unless you have one lying around, of course.

What do you do with your camera?  Add your advice or product suggestions in the comments below.  And Happy Snapping!

P.S.  Is it ironic to write a post about photography and not include any photos?  I’m not sure.  I’ve been confused about the definition of irony since the days of Alanis Morisette.


  1. So sorry you didn’t win, BUT happy you stopped by!