Saturday, July 12, 2008

I need help...

And, no- it's not the exciting kind of help, like mental help, or some kind of intervention, although I'm sure I could use that, too. Really, I just need camera advice. If you have no interest in photography, this will be a boring post for you.

Before I start on my long-winded tangent, have you seen the great news over at My Minivan Rocks ( If not go check it out and give Tracy and Christian a huge Congrats! I'm so happy for them!!! He's gorgeous, you guys!

Anyway- I would someday like to get a *real,* big-girl camera (not today, but someday as in "God only knows when."), but the choosing/purchasing a better camera has me stumped. I don't even know where to begin, because all the photography talk is gibberish to me- i.e.: aperture, ISO, shutter speed, focal length, blah blah blah. In other words, if you give me advice, take my stupidity into consideration, please. Talk to me like a little kid. One that eats paste.

This is the camera that haunts my dreams and makes me stalk It is a Nikon D80. It's way more camera than I need, but I figure if you're going to wish for something, wish BIG or forget it. If only I could afford it and/or knew how to work it:
I would be perfectly happy with a D40, considering I will be just as clueless trying to operate that one, too.

And, unfortunately, this is the camera I have- a Casio Exilim EX-Z60 6MP digital with 3x optical zoom. It was designed and manufactured by the Anti-Christ:
It helps me capture the awesomest shots, like these:

Too blurry.

Or, lighting problems like these...
Some are caused by me trying to get the picture with the sun in the wrong place. I have figured out through much experimentation that this happens most often because I'm an idiot.

Some are exposure problems that I will blame on my camera.Too dark (and blurry).
Too light (and blurry. And if you're wondering what this is a shot of...
click here for the explanation. Yes, it is a squirrel.)

But the saddest thing is that most of my pictures look like this... Staged. Still. Posed. Frozen smiles. Fake:This happens because it's so hard to get my camera to take a picture that isn't blurry. Everyone has to stand verrrry still, making any kind of action shot- or real life pictures- almost impossible.

Even when I try to catch a spontaneous moment, my kids have been brainwashed into giving the dreaded, frozen "Picture Face." It never fails when they see a camera come out, they stop whatever cute thing they're doing and give me this: The pictures themselves aren't that terrible, and the subject is cute, but these were not the expressions I was hoping to capture in those moments.

There is also a little bit of a delay between pushing the button and getting the shot. So, I either have to anticipate the exact moment that something fun and spontaneous will occur, and be ready to push the button one second before it happens, OR- I wind up with shots that were taken one second after the fun and spontaneous moment- which means I get a lot of the backs of kids' heads, or blurry profiles, like this:Some of you are amazing picture-takers. In fact, some of you don't just take pictures- you take photographs. So, I'm hoping I can get some advice from the photographers out there.

Just a few of the bloggers with the skills I so desperately desire can be seen at: With Arms Wide Open , Pho For Five, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Ladybugs and Dragonflies, and of course, Nicki at Stepping On Legos and Stepping on Legos: Behind the Lens, who is ridiculously talented and both inspires me to become better and makes me hang my head in shame at the same time. I also love the tutorials at Pioneer Woman Photography, although I don't understand what they mean most of the time. They show a lot of stuff that can be done with Photoshop, which is awesome, but I don't have the full-blown version of Photoshop. I do have Photoshop Elements, but don't have that figured out either. Why does this hobby have to be so complicated?

If you're a lurker who happens to take great pictures, now is your chance to come out of hiding. Speak up! Basically, tell me everything you know that made you good, so I can become good, too- :P. Is that asking for too much? If you would PLEASE leave me a comment with your suggestions, advice, or condolences (I'll take whatever ya got), or direct me to your own posts where you've already discussed similar things, I would hugely appreciate it.

I'd love to hear suggestions from any and all of you (if you're even still reading by now) on what cameras you love, hate, what to buy, what not to buy, etc. I'm also interested in your opinions on how much of your picture-taking success is natural talent (as in- it's something that can't be learned- you either have the artistic talent, or you don't), how much is a learned skill, and how much of it is equipment (a really good camera, lenses, etc.). Have you taken photography classes, and did you feel they were helpful? One of my other questions for you would be: What one item, other than your camera, do you feel is a must-have for getting good pictures (i.e.- Photoshop, a certain lens, etc.)? I'm tired of missing all the precious moments in my kids' lives. Help me. Please.


Anonymous said...

My suggestion would be to take LOTS of pictures. When I pick one photo out it is from a ton of them to get ONE good one. Professional photographers will do this also, taking rolls and rolls of photos for just one perfect one.

There are free photo programs that will do basic fixes that will probably work just fine until you learn Elements. I'm a Photoshop fan myself (there are just too many wonderful things it can do), but if I just need a quick fix I will use Picassa - which is free downloaded from Google. There are other programs just like it, I just don't know the names off the top of my head. Learning Elements will give you a lot more control of the way you want your picture to look, but programs like Picassa will give a quick and, even better, easy fix and they may be more intuitive for now.

Also, don't be afraid to get TOO close to your subject.

Hope that helps. Take LOTS of pictures.

Christina said...

Oh my gosh I'm so going to stalk your comments because I have ALL THE SAME QUESTIONS!!! My cousin has this huge SLR deal with a flash on top that she can swivel so the flash bounces off the ceiling and she gets the most incredible indoor pictures with NO shadows. I dream of taking a picture like that. And I live with that anticipatory finger pressing the button half-down thing in the vain hopes of catching the good shot instead of the after-shot blur. I can't wait to hear what everyone says... and I want to know *exactly* which camera all the good photographers use so I know what to shop for if/when I can afford to buy one.

Anonymous said...

I too am going to stalk your comments on this one. I had to look twice to make sure you were not talking about my camera (a hp). I have more pics of my son walking away or the back of his head it makes me so annoyed.

Leslie & Shaune said...

hey :)
thanks for the shout out :)

honestly, you need a better camera. lol. probably not what you wanted to hear. if you are wanting the types of photos you noted at the bottom of the page, you will struggle to get them with the camera you have.

i have had my digital SLR camera for almost 5 years. I grew into it. I didn't know how to work every bell and whistle with it but it was still the best investment ever.

The nice thing about Digi SLR camera's is they just handle better and they are more versatile b/c you have the option of different lens', settings, etc.

I have a point and shoot digi and i like it for being able to grab it and throw it in my purse for a kids field trip or something... but i have never been able to take the kind of photos i'm used to taking with my digi SLR with my point and shoot. i've tried.

there are a few places you can go for really easy to understand photography advice.
one column i co-author is with Better homes and gardens and the link is:

also, if you go to there are photography tutorials there that you would likely enjoy:

hope that helps? it is not impossible to get good photos with a point and shoot digi... it is just a bit more limiting. by understanding photo composition, and reading tips from other photographers you should do well i think :)

Leslie & Shaune said...

oh, also check out the site: - it is a photo editing program for anyone that doesn't have or use photoshop. i don't use it but i've seen many that do and the after results are pretty great sometimes.

Michelle said...

Thank you, Leslie! Very helpful!

Anonymous said...

I will be stalking the comments on this post too. I have also been looking at the D40/ D80, though I don't think we'll actually be getting one anytime soon. We thought we were going to have another tax return before this adoption happened, but I am certainly not complaining!

BTW, thanks for the shout out!

Laurie said...

You're so sweet! Honestly though, there's no talent in my picture taking. It's all the camera I use. It could make a monkey look talented!!
The D40 will seriously change your life!! You'll never miss those moments because of a blurry picture again;)
I don't use Elements, but I LOVE Lightroom. I, too, wish I could take a course in photography and Photoshop. Not gonna happen for me, unfortunately, so I just take tons and tons of pictures and hope there are some good ones in there (which there always are just because of the camera...nothing to do with its operator!).

LaLa said...

Girl I can't believe I deserved a shout out...I am NOT a photographer but I do have a really easy subject to work with! Seriously, Annslee makes me look good.

I have the D40 also and agree that the camera makes it easier. I do not miss shots b/c I can just click away. The best advice I think you already got and that is take a TON of pictures. The ones you see on my blog are a few of 100's I've taken that week.

Also, I get CLOSE UP on her. Do not be afraid to ZOOM...I have only taken one class and he said about a million Zoom, zoom zoom....

Smooches on you loving my pics though.....