Style-ish Photography 101

I have had many requests for photography tips and I’m super hesitant as I am no pro. Everything I know is just what I’ve learned on my own and what I see in my own mind. I wouldn’t mind taking classes or rather workshops with fabulously talented photographers but I didn’t want to start out that way as I wanted to learn a bit on my own and develop my own style on my own time. With that being said, I am flattered that I even get asked so I’ve put together a little post in the hopes that it will help some of you but please keep in mind that I’m relatively new at this, I have no special tips or techniques. This is just how I take pictures.

I’ve said it before and I’m gonna say it again. Buying a fancy pants expensive camera will not give you instant awesome photos. The majority of questions I get when I post my photos are “what camera do you use?” I understand why I get asked that question as it’s easy to assume that the camera is the reason why I have nice photos but that there is a lot more to my photography (to anyone’s photography) than just the camera. It indeed helps, but, I hope that this post will show that there are many more factors than just what camera is used.

While I was in Cabo I took a few pictures with the purpose of this post. The camera I used for these pictures is the Canon EOS 40D with the EF 50mm f/1.2L lens.

I woke up one morning to a beautiful sunrise that I wanted to capture and thought this would be a good way to show you all how I think through my pictures. For the purpose of this post, I put my setting on Auto and snapped a picture. I think that I will say that this is probably how a majority of pictures will turn out when shot on Auto, a nice clear picture but really not much depth to it. Plus, I was trying to capture the sunrise and you could barely even see it in the picture.


For the record, I shoot all my pictures on manual, all my pictures that are on my blog are taken on the manual setting, I don’t use any of the other settings on my camera. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with using those settings. I just like to be in control of everything in all my shots. (funny enough, I like to be in control of everything in my life as well. Control freak much? ha!)

I flipped my setting to Manual and I knew in my head that what I wanted to capture was the pretty sun and the clouds and make the building less noticeable. Because I know my camera and it’s settings well, I knew how to change them to essentially capture what I wanted to capture. I fixed both my aperture and my shutter speed to a setting that I thought would work and snapped this picture. (I have to apologize that I have no idea what my settings were, I only know it as I shoot it.)

Better right?

Well, not good enough as it just wasn’t giving me what I needed. I then flipped my camera to shoot vertically because I wanted to lose even more of the building and really put the focus on the sun rise and the sky.

It’s getting there…

After I took that shot, I pulled the camera away from my face and really studied the area. I noticed how the clouds really broke up into beautiful patterns even higher up. In the above photos, I really loved the shape of the palm trees and knew that I wanted to show that silhoutte against the sunrise. With this combination of things, I knew what shot I wanted to get.

Now that I had my settings correct and knew exactly what I wanted to capture, this is the shot I got.

Just Right.

You see how in the last shot, the focus is on the sunrise but the clouds and the palm tree really just accent it, whereas in the above pictures, the building was kind of overwhelming the picture instead of adding to it. I always keep in mind what my main focus is going to be and then what can be added to make it look better.

So there you have it, a step by step thought process of how I take my pictures. Of course when shooting landscape it’s much easier to experiment like this. when I’m taking pictures of people it is different as nobody wants to sit there and study them as you try to figure out your shot. With people, I like to take into factor face angles, body angles and such as nobody likes a bad angle! I guess the thing is, I can’t give you specific photography tips because there is no rhyme or reason to how I get my shots. I just get an idea in my head at the very moment that I am shooting and then I try to make it happen.

The first step that you should take is to read your manual for your camera to understand how things work. Everyone thinks that reading the manual and understanding the settings is the hardest part. Quite honestly, it is the easiest part of photography. The hardest part is setting up your shot which is something your camera can not do for you at all. But at least once you have the knowledge of your camera down, you can use it to the best of your abilities in setting up or styling your shots.

For those of you that made the request, I hope this helped a little. I know that there’s nothing technical that I can teach but my point is, every person envisions things a little differently. If I had J stand next to me and take a picture of the exact same scenery, it would have come out different (and it always does, when we take pictures of the same things, the perspectives are always different, which is good!). The best thing to do is to find pictures you love and pull inspiration from them. The only way to capture images you love is to capture them how you imagine them to be. Nobody can teach you that, you just have to see it for yourself.

Captivate Me, recently had an interview with Fashion Photographer, Mikael Wardhana and I just loved this question and answer as it pretty much embodies how I feel about this topic.

What is most important to you, technique or vision?
The essence of photography is hardly about the most complex techniques or about having the best equipment. It is about one’s vision and one’s expression…and technicalities that are there to back those visions up and transform them into a reality. Someone with an all mighty plastic holga camera can make the most beautiful images imaginable if he has a strong understanding on how to express himself through it.
After all, it is PHOTOgraphy not LIGHTINGgraphy or CAMERAgraphy. I’m not saying that techniques are not important, but anyone can learn the basic of photography in no time at all. Its not rocket science.
(taken from Captivate Me’s interview with Mikael Wardhana, click here to read the rest)
If you do want to learn more about the technicalities of photography, I highly recommend you to go over to That Wife who has written incredibly thorough and helpful series on things like aperture, shutter speed, white balance and much more. Click here to see the series.

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  • Kellie
    April 2, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    I want to get a nice camera. I love taking photos and think I can be pretty good at it, but for now we just don’t have the budget for a nice camera. So I’ll just make do w/ my little $175 Nokia. 🙂

  • Jenna
    April 2, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Do you know about metadata my dear? All of the information (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc) are all stored with every single picture you take in the data for the picture! There are several ways to look at the metadata, but I’m not sure which programs you have. It can be done using Photoshop, Lightroom, Picasa, or even by uploading your picture to Flickr.

  • Couture Carrie
    April 2, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    So gorgeous, darling! You are a photographic genius!


  • Fell4fashion
    April 2, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I’ve saved this post for future use!! Thanks for sharing these great tips!

  • Hanako66
    April 2, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Great post. I bought Hub our first digital SLR for Christmas and I have just begun to play with it to learn. I now am wanting my own SLR as I do not like to monopolize his…lol. These are great tips, I look forward to learning and developing my own style:)

  • Cupcakes and Cashmere
    April 2, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    this was so helpful and i think it’s better that you’re not a professional. their talk is too hard to understand 🙂

  • MizzJ
    April 2, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks for this post! You may think it’s not that helpful, but it really was, as it gave valuable insight into the thought process of how to capture a great photo. I think we all get intimidated by the technicalities and forget it’s about the person, not the camera!

  • captivateme
    April 2, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Fantastic tips! I never use my pre-settings either–I’m still very much a beginner so playing around with aperture, shutter speed, etc has been such a great way to learn. You have an incredible eye for composition–I love how you took us through your thought process with that image…gorgeous 🙂
    P.S I’m so glad you enjoyed that interview!

  • graceful nichole
    April 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    You are so cute and so sweet to post this for everyone 🙂

  • citysage
    April 2, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Great tips and I especially appreciate the ‘before and after’ shots of that sunset—with your guidance I can really see what makes the second one better than the first!

  • Fashion Moment
    April 2, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Your photos are fantastic, it’s always great work


  • freeTEYme
    April 2, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Just what I needed. All my pictures in my blog are awful =). Time to grab that cam and start shooting. Thanks for the tips!

    Tanya of Captivate Me’s interview was great and so is her blog!

  • just my style
    April 2, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this and the link to “That Wife”. My husband recently purchased me the Nikon D90. I have a HUGE interest in photography, but all the settings and such baffle me. I have been trying to find laymans terms and explanations for these settings everywhere. I can’t wait to go out and play with my camera now! By the way…Love the blog!

  • Chessa!
    April 3, 2009 at 1:44 am

    hi, everyone, I highly recommend this site for beginners who want to learn more and see some helpful tips:)
    You can sign up for the newsletter too.

  • ♥ fashion chalet
    April 3, 2009 at 2:45 am

    you’re always so sweet, thank you! =]
    great photos, looks like a gorgeous spot!!


  • courtney
    April 3, 2009 at 2:57 am

    oh my god thanks so much!!!

  • Maegan
    April 3, 2009 at 3:23 am

    wow. just beautiful. I love the first one …and for some reason, the last one almost looks like the sky is the ocean …super cool. …and again, I LOVE YOUR LOGO!!

  • tiffany2stylish
    April 3, 2009 at 3:46 am

    Thank you all for your feedback! I’m glad that this post turned out to be helpful. 🙂

    Chessa – thanks for the link!

  • A Balancing Act in Heels
    April 3, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    You are so talented!

    I’ve been wanting to take on photography as a new hobby. What do you recommend as far as getting an SLR that is good to learn with AND will be useful for later too?

  • Cait
    May 7, 2009 at 4:47 am

    Besides the camera, I believe that lens is a very important key factor in stepping up your photography…btw, you are working with a very nice and expensive lens! I just recently purchased an EF 50mm 1.4 for my hubby’s (outdated) Canon 10D…I love it!