October 30, 2013

on photography

My brother, Stephen, is an excellent photographer with an excellent camera. He is always taking great pictures for our family events and we all beg him to share them with us. A few years ago, at our family reunion at the ranch, we all huddled around his laptop as he edited some beautiful pictures he had taken that day on a family hike. We all praised his pictures but followed it with "your camera takes such good pictures!" Stephen very patiently responded with:

"Telling a photographer that their camera takes great pictures is like telling a chef that their pan makes great food."

That really resonated with me as a chef and as a lover of photography. A camera is an inanimate object. It is a tool. Almost anyone can press a button, but the ability to take truly beautiful pictures requires skill and creativity... by a human. Don't misunderstand me - not all cameras are made equal. There's a reason why some cameras sell for thousands of dollars and some for under $100. Having a high quality camera will make a difference, but if you don't know how to use it, you won't get superior pictures from a "superior" camera.
I get a few comments and e-mails asking me about the pictures I take and post on this old blog and if I would do a post about photography. I won't deny that it's flattering to hear praise when it comes to my pictures but I also fully recognize that I am no expert. I do enjoy the artistic creativity of photography, and I have learned a few things over the years, but that in no way means that I know what I'm doing so I won't pretend that I will by posting a tutorial about how to take pictures. I would say that 50% of the pictures I take are no good but I keep trying to educate myself on how to correctly use my camera because I recognize that the camera won't do it for me.

This post isn't a tutorial for how to take pictures, nor is it a bashing of any aspiring photographer (in fact, I encourage any interested person to learn about photography). It's merely my way of encouraging us all to be aware of the skill and hard work it takes to create great pictures. I don't ever plan on being a "professional photographer" (note: please watch this hilarious video) but I want my kids to have beautiful pictures to remember their childhood. My mom was always taking pictures of her children and our lives. She loved photography and took photography classes to improve her skill. We even had a light room in our basement where she developed her own film and I have many beautiful pictures of my childhood to help remember it. There's something really great about learning how to take pictures of your family. Not everyone needs to do it for a profit to make it worth your time.

So, here are my thoughts:

- If you want to learn how to use your camera beyond the automatic button (and I suggest you do), here are five blog posts that I read to help me learn some basics about shooting in manual. They are easy to understand and great to refer back to, but remember to give yourself a learning curve. You have to spend some time taking bad pictures before you get a good one and then you'll be hooked and never go back to auto.

1. 31 Mini Lessons about Basic Photography (a great place to start)
2. Comprehensive Basic Photography Lesson (a must read)
3. 20 Things about Shooting in Manual
4. Specifically about Shutter Speed (eliminating blurry images)
5. DIY Photo Light Box (this one isn't necessary to take pictures of people or places but if you want to take pictures of objects or food, this might be a helpful read)

- Also, if you're looking for a good camera, here are my two cents. My brother is a camera aficionado and knows a LOT about cameras. I picked his brain for hours and he gave me a bunch of advice. The top two contending companies for the average user are usually Nikon and Canon. Both make great cameras but in the end I chose a Nikon, mostly because that's what I felt comfortable using (the programming made more sense to me than the Canon). I recently upgraded to a new Nikon since all my lenses are Nikon and I love it. It's a Nikon D5200 and I mostly shoot with a 35mm lens - in case anyone is interested. I realize that there are a lot fancier cameras out there, but I do like mine a lot for now.


  1. Well your pans makes great food AND your camera takes great pictures!! HA HA! It's true--you're one of the most diversely talented peeps I know! I shall come back this weekend and follow all those links. Thanks for posting! Did you do it for me? Cuz I always complain about shooting in manual being so very scary? We'll just say you did. Thanks friend :) LOVE YOU! xoxo

  2. Thank you!! I def want to learn more about my new camera ~ I've saved all the links.



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