Behind the photography

December 23, 2010 in Career,Philosophy

While I’ve never considered myself a photographer, I’ve always loved taking pictures. For the most part, I’ve documented my social life through photos: from a disposable Kodak for middle school field trips to borrowing my dad’s digital camera for high school dances to taking (and breaking) my own point-and-shoots at the bars in college.

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But after a trip to Italy with friends when I was 18, I realized that I loved taking photos of more than just my social escapades. Many times, I liked my own photos and what they captured more than the pricey postcards I was sending back home.

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I still don’t think I’m much of a photographer, but I have taken some photos that I absolutely love—and that other people seem to like, too. Whenever someone mentions the photography on C’est Christine as one of its differentiating factors, it still kind of takes me by surprise.

When I was in the market for my first grown-up, DSLR camera, I was overwhelmed by the options. I was clueless about the terminology, and had no idea what was a must-have, a nice perk or a waste of money. I spent a lot of time combing the camera review sites and double-checking the Best Buy comparison charts, but I wasn’t getting anywhere closer to a decision.

When I was finally exasperated enough, I went to Aaron Quinn, a photojournalism professor at California State University, Chico. When I told him what I was looking for and my level of experience, his top recommendation was the Canon Rebel XSi.

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I’ve been using the Rebel for about eight months now, and absolutely love it. It took some getting used to after using a point-and-shoot for so long—I actually didn’t realize at first that I’d have to look through the tiny little viewfinder! However, I can notice a real difference in the range of colors and textures it’s able to pick up. It’s amazing for shooting up-close and taking flattering portraits. (While this model has since been discontinued, I’m still very confident in the Canon Rebel line.)

While I adore my Rebel, it’s not ideal for nights out, hectic days or times when I just plain don’t want to carry a lot of stuff. In addition to my DSLR, I wanted a point-and-shoot that would be easy to keep in my purse for those times when a photo opportunity arose out of the blue.

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The SD940 IS is my third Powershot—and there’s a reason I keep buying them. (Although if it wasn’t for my penchant for documenting just one more oatmeal cookie shot or game of beer pong in college, maybe I wouldn’t have to keep buying them.) The photo quality is tremendous for its size and price. It’s incredible easy to use. And it’s light enough that I can pack it in any purse.

I don’t know how to explain how I take the photos I take. I think it’s a combination of luck and speed: I’m often in the right place at the right time, and I’m often in such a wanderlust-y mood that I’m looking all around me. That’s how I usually spot street art or offbeat angles. I don’t use many photo edit programs, other than a quick crop or enhance in iPhoto. What you see is you what you get. I’m almost shocked sometimes at how high the quality is of the photos without editing, but I think that’s what you get with a higher quality camera. Then again, I am pretty lucky to be able to photograph in some absolutely beautiful natural settings: the French Riviera, Paris, my home state of California. There’s a reason why so many people love to take photos here!

What kind of camera do you use? Do you edit your photos? Are you happy with your current photo setup?

  • I also use a DSLR and a point and shoot, because of the reasons you listed, plus the fact that my P&S can film, as opposed to the DSLR. I use Photoshop Elements to enhance/calibrate the colours and crop but I’m not into big editing (this process is completely useless with P&S photos – the quality isn’t high enough).

    What I hate about P&S is the constant overexposition. The colours are just too bright. Have you noticed how, on a grey day, the sky always comes out bright white no matter what settings you use?

    I find the images more flattering from a DSLR, even if it’s more detailled (which would seem like it’s not a good thing, like HDTV for newscasters, but it is).

    I use Flickr Pro to host the photos I’m most proud of, and I try to use them whever possible on my blog. I’m not always comfortable using other people’s photos when I have some of my own.

  • Great post, as I’m shopping around for a new camera…

  • Anonymous

    I love the photos on your website Christine, as I’ve commented in the past. You always manage to capture the moment and essence of wherever it is you’ve traveled to.

    While I’ve always had some desire to invest in a DSLR, I can’t bring myself to giving in to carrying around the extra weight. I’ve actually recently decided to take the majority of the photos for Backpackingmatt.com with my iPhone. With the BestCam App for editing, it’s all the camera I need!

  • Charu

    Nice shots Christine. I’m revamping my own blog, butterflydiary.com, to be picture rich as well. I just invested in a Nikon D-90 and the pictures are quite quality…now I need to play with exposure and mood and lighting and such. I’ve heard the Canon Rebel is excellent, but how do you get such great color saturation? Is that through photoshop?

    charu

  • Anonymous

    I would definitely recommend a Canon, in whatever price range or style you’re looking for!

  • Anonymous

    One, I totally hear you on the constant overexposition with P&S. When I was in Amsterdam, I was really annoyed that I only brought my P&S out because the overcast, cloudy weather was just showing up bright white in every shot. Hate that!
    I use Flickr Pro as well. I only use my own photos on my blog–it’s fun to try and find ones that fit what I’m talking about sometimes!
    Thanks for commenting–glad we’re of “like” photography minds!

  • Anonymous

    The great color saturation comes from great locations! I don’t use Photoshop on any of the photos that are posted on my blog.

  • Anonymous

    The extra weight is the one HUGE downside of a DSLR. I have a love-hate relationship with my camera when I’m on the road.
    I’ve never tried the BestCam App–will have to look into it. However, my iPhone is a 3G (aka reallllly old) so the photo quality isn’t as good as the newer versions. Still worth checking out! Thanks for the tip!

  • Anonymous

    All the recent photos on my blog have come from the outdated 3G!

  • Your photos are great. You can tell you have a really good eye for composition. It’s amazing that you haven’t photoshopped them.

    Earlier this year I got my first DSLR and got the same camera as you, albeit the later version, the Canon EOS 550D. I’m still learning how to use it but it has made a huge difference to my photography.

    I never used to edit my photos, I never even bothered cropping them, but a few months ago I bought Lightroom and now I edit everything I post on my blog. It makes such a huge difference.

  • Aww, I used to have a Canon Rebel XS (one step down from the XSi, I think) and it was true love… until it got stolen ;( Since my husband’s video camera also got swiped, we decided to replace both with the Canon 7D, a huuuuge upgrade that has definitely been a bit intimidating to get used to! Other than how heavy it is, I think it’s forced be to become a better photographer and I’m newly smitten with it. It takes awesome HD video too, but I really can’t hold it up for too long or my shoulders will hurt!

    And I agree, I usually don’t do much more than crop a photo or rescale it to make it easier to upload. I use Gimp for effects I want to play around with, it’s great because it’s free but does most of the stuff photoshop can do.

  • When I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to lug my DSLR around, I rely on my Canon Elph. I have an older 10MP model that still takes super snaps. But for more serious work, I love my Nikon D90. And as lenses go, I’ve never had more fun than with the Lensbaby Composer. Just a blast. Though takes some patience to get the hang of, at first.

    If you’re interested, you can find many of my photos via http://marisawilliams.com and the various sites (Flickr, Etsy, etc.) that offshoot from there. Bon voyage!

  • You sound like me in this post and I laughed out loud at your comment about documenting the last beer pong game… I can relate… a bit too much! I went through 3 cameras before graduating college and even had to replace a friends that was badly constructed and broke after one fall (they need to keep college kids in mind when they choose camera materials!!).

    I’m in the market now for a new one and although I’ve already asked your advice I enjoyed this post a lot!

    As tomorrow is Christmas and *someone* (the BF) has heard me talk for months about cameras I’m crossing my fingers. If not then I’m taking your advice and getting my own in January!

    Your photography is definitely a great addition to your writing on the site!

    Happy holidays!

  • Candicewalsh

    I’m currently in the market since I plan on moving abroad in 2011, and photography will hopefully be my new pursuit. Think I’ll give the Rebel a whirl…many have recommended it!

  • Anonymous

    Wow! Now I’m DEFINITELY downloading that app!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the kind words! Like I said, I don’t think of myself as much of a photographer or artist, so it’s always nice when people appreciate my photos!

    I guess I’m still old-school, but I think of editing as a little bit of cheating. However, I’m definitely interested to see what Lightroom can do!

  • Anonymous

    The heavy factor is my least favorite part of fancy cameras! So often, I’m in a photo mood but not the mood to lug it around–especially in bad weather! That’s where my baby P&S comes in handy :)
    I use iPhoto since I’m on a Mac and it’s the default program–really easy and fine since I don’t do too much.

  • Anonymous

    Great photos! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Anonymous

    Haha, I broke two cameras in college and one right after graduating. I swear, alcohol and expensive electronics just don’t mix! Although (knock on wood) I think I’ve grown out of that stage by now :)
    Definitely let me know what camera you end up with! It’s so much fun to experiment with a new one–I spent ages just taking photos of things around my apartment when I first got mine. And you’re in Florence–so I’m sure you’ll have SO many great things to document!

  • Anonymous

    That’s great! As I said, I highly recommend it–and even for a first-timer, it’s pretty user-friendly :)

  • Side thought: Have you thought about making a little extra money on the side while you travel via your photography? You might consider contributing to one of the many microstock online agencies. For photogs from amateurs to pro, it’s a fun and (potentially) lucrative diversion. I contribute to iStockphoto.com – I am http://www.istockphoto.com/risamay – and am expanding my online presence to other agencies in the New Year – Veer.com, Fotolia.com, Dreamstime.com, Stockfresh.com, and others.

    Think about it! Your photos are wonderful and why not make some money from your love of photography? You could also sell prints on Etsy.com … So many options. Work, but fun!

  • This year I travelled through South Africa with a friend who’s a brilliant photographer. I was so impressed and jealous of her photos I bought a Nikon D90 as I was leaving Johannesburg! No idea what I’m doing with it, but luckily my boyfriend bought me a photography course for Christmas, so I’m excited to start that in Jan and hopefully pick up some skills!

  • Tour Absurd

    I feel quite the same about the photography in my blog. I tell people it’s more storytelling photos than high art, though I do occasionally manage to snap a masterpiece. 😉 I have I a Canon Digital Rebel, too. Bought it used from a former coworker who was upgrading a couple of years ago.

    Thinking of downgrading before our big trip in 2012, actually, for the portability issue. Since I am not a professional, or particularly leaning that way, I am thinking of getting a Canon G12 (http://bit.ly/9kVHtx) or similar. Which PowerShot do you use?

  • Anonymous

    I’ve definitely considered selling to stock photography sites, but I’m not comfortable giving up the rights to my work just yet. Definitely thinking about selling on Etsy! There are a TON of options out there, I just have to put in some work on them–and I think I’d rather go lie in the Australian sunshine at the moment :)

    I’ll have to check out Lightroom–this is the first I’m hearing of it.

  • Anonymous

    What a great idea for a Christmas gift! I took photography courses when I was younger–in the days before the digital camera–and I’d love to take some again. Where are you taking yours?

  • Anonymous

    “Storytelling photos” is such a great way to put it! I feel like that’s exactly what I’m doing. And the portability issue is huge, but I don’t think I could part with my Rebel now that I’m used to it and the quality of the photos. I use a PowerShot SD 940 IS–it’s great, but it’s no DSLR.

  • I really love taking photos, too, though I don’t really consider myself a photographer either. I haven’t delved into the world of SLR cameras, simply because I hate the extra bulk and gear that comes along with them. So I’ve had a string of point-and-shoots.

    By far my favorite has been my current camera, a Canon Powershot SD1100 IS. It’s a great size, has a decent number of settings, and takes great pictures for being a point-and-shoot. In fact, when I was in New Zealand, my little Canon was taking better, more vibrant shots than my friend’s SLR (needless to say, she was not happy about this).

    As for editing, I usually don’t do anything more than a crop or enhance in iPhoto or Photoshop. Sometimes I’ll play with the colors in sunset photos, but I generally like to leave my photos as close to the original as possible.

    And, for the record, I agree with all those who say that your photos are great! I consider you a photographer!

  • No, no! You don’t give up the rights to your work when you sell through a stock agency. You retain the copyright to all of your images. The agency simply handles the licensing of the images for you – they act as your agent and take a cut for said service.

    Most of the stock sites I referenced offer Royalty-Free (RF) licenses. You could also sell your work via Rights-Managed (RM) agencies/licenses. Here’s the difference –

    http://seanlockedigitalimagery.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/rm-vs-rf/

  • Hi Christine,

    The second image in this post is spellbound!! You have chosen a very good career n these pics shows your passion on photography…..
    Good Luck n Keep Rocking……

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it!

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