Thursday, September 3, 2009

back to school - Q & A session

Summer is officially over here - my oldest went back for her last year of preschool. Hard to believe that summer is done - especially since it will probably be warm around here for another couple of months.

But here at melissa brandman photography HQ it's time for new lessons. This summer I did a lot of reviews on the basics, so this Thursday I will start with some reader questions - things people have asked me in person, via email, or by comments on this here blog. A good way to usher in the new "school" year.

Q. Where did you take photography classes?

Two places: (1) at the local golf course clubhouse through parks and recrecation, (2) at a fancy schmancy art school. Can you guess which one I found most helpful??

In fact, my experience at the art school photography class was the impetus to start this blog as a place for photographers to learn a little something each week. I paid a lot of money to have access to a fine art photography teacher and to learn about Photoshop and how to print my images at a professional lab on campus. Sounds cool right?

My "teacher" spent the first few classes showing his students which websites he thought were "awesome" - most having nothing to do with photography. Instruction on Photoshop consisted of turning it on and clicking randomly on the commands to see what happened to your photo. The only rewarding part was having a chance to print out some of my travel photos on a huge printer for a fraction of the regular cost. Needless to say, it was a waste of time.

My first photography class, way back when I was a sad, miserable lawyer, cost maybe $60 and was taught by an older gentlemen that used slides on an overhead projector to teach. He required us to bring our camera manuals to class to look up topics, we had homework and we brought our printed-out images to class. He would walk from student to student to make sure we were getting each concept.

He is the reason I know what I know about photography.

All this to say you don't need to spend a lot of money to find a good class. There are many classes through your local parks and rec center or community college that are affordable and very informative. If you are just starting out you need a class that will help you learn all the basics, such as what are my camera modes, what the heck is aperture, etc. Definitely find a class that requires you to bring your manual with you (if you are looking for an intro to digital photography class).

See if there are any camera stores in your area that offer classes. I rent my camera equipment from Samy's Camera here in So Cal, and they offer many types of classes through their stores.

Q. What equipment do you use?

I love when photographers share this info! Camera equipment is expensive, and if you are looking to break into a particular type of photography it helps to know what other photographers in that genre are using. In my camera bag is:

  • my Nikon D200
  • my Nikon Speedlight SB-800 external flash unit
  • my Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-70mm lens (came with the D200 - good basic lens)
  • my Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm prime lens (changed my life - wonderful for portraits)
  • my Sigma 50-150mm 2.8 (great for long distance portraits, especially in lower light situations and if you have kids running amok).
And there you have it. I have my eye on upgrading my camera body at some point, and if my wedding work gets hot and heavy I will look for some additional lenses. I would love to learn more about lighting, too. Keep in mind that I acquired my equipment over the years - you can get started with a good basic DSLR and one lens and be very happy.

Q. How do you properly clean your lenses (ok, this is actually my question to myself, but I figured someone else out there might wonder about this...)

Check out this tutorial over at Camera Dojo on how to clean your lenses.

School is back in session - if you have any questions for me on anything (photography-related or otherwise), leave a comment or send me an email. I'll put together another lesson post answering your questions in October.