I went to Chicago from May 15 -17, 2015 and took three Nikon School workshops. The first workshop was Basics of Exposure and Camera Controls, the second was Creative Lighting, and the final workshop was Action and People Photography.
Going into the workshops, I barely knew how to operate my DSLR camera after having it for almost four years. I was always shooting in auto mode and starting to think that photography was just a natural talent I could never achieve. I assumed that since I had not been able to take great photographs after such a long time that it would never be possible. My STEP Signature Project showed me that just a small amount of training can make a huge difference in the world of photography.
The first class, the Basics of Exposure and Camera Control, was great for me because I had always seen all the different controls on my camera but had never really ventured from the auto setting on what I now know as the “exposure dial.” I learned about three main factors involved with exposure: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. On the exposure dial, I had always glanced past the M, A, S, and P settings, or Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Program. Much like they sound, the aperture priority setting lets the user choose the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed, while the shutter priority setting does the opposite. I learned what the different aperture and shutter speed values mean and when to make them bigger or smaller. Another feature I found particularly interesting was exposure compensation, meaning making the shot purposely undersaturated or oversaturated.
The second workshop of the day was all about creative lighting. It was cool to learn how to modify the built-in flash on my camera as well as how to utilize additional flashes. Similar to the exposure compensation, there is also a flash compensation setting. It was amazing to see the difference between three pictures where one had no flash, one had full direct flash, and the third had some flash but not full power. Using a flash greatly helped the image even in daylight, but lessening the flash a little bit really enhanced the natural look of the image. Before today, I knew nothing about Speedlights so it was awesome to learn how this additional attachable flash can make such a difference in the lighting of the photo. I loved seeing the differences in the photos with direct flash versus the ones where the Speedlight flash had been bounced, allowing for a much more naturally lit look. The orange and green “gels” to put over the flash were so cool because they changed the temperature of the photograph, blending with the available light. I also learned about white balance, which is another setting I had never touched on my camera. I now know about the different options depending on what environment I am in, such as incandescent and cloudy daylight.
This last workshop was great because it focused on what I am most interested in photographing — people. Also, many action shots are of people doing things. Over and over the instructors mentioned the 50mm f1.8 lens and how great it was for people photography because this low aperture allows the person to be in focus with the background almost completely blurred. This is the exact look I hoped to create with my photography.
These lessons taught me so much and gave me the confidence to go out and take pictures. I can see my own improvement with each shoot and want to keep learning more and more. Academically, I was able to use my knowledge of camera settings to help a professor at the Ohio State College of Optometry by taking photographs of eyes. It was great for me to be able to apply my skills and to see how photography can be used in optometry. With the future of imaging ahead, I think the skills I gained from this experience will be beneficial as an overlap in the optometric world.
The greatest impact of all was on my personal and life goal of being an amateur photographer for my friends and family. My first photoshoot after I returned from Chicago was a graduation session around Ohio State’s campus. This was my first time using my new f1.8 lens, which was highly recommended by my instructors. The low aperture of the f.18 lens allows the person to be in focus, with the background almost completely blurred. This is the exact look I had always hoped to create with my photography. Next, I did a photoshoot during what is endearingly known in the photography world as “golden hour” because of the perfect natural glow. Taking pictures is so much fun and something I truly love to do. I love spending time with people during the shoots, creating this fun art form, and producing end products that people enjoy. I hope to increasingly make photography a part of my life and to capture moments in the lives of those around me, and maybe someday this will lead to bigger endeavors that all started with STEP.