As you know, we love a good experience gift here at Green Child. One that never ends up in a landfill… an experience is often what your recipient really wants but won’t buy for herself. This type of gift can range from a CSA membership to massage certificates to surf lessons to annual passes at your favorite museum, zoo, or amusement park.
To find the perfect experience gift, just pay attention. The people in your life are constantly saying, “You know where I’d love to go someday…” or “Wouldn’t be awesome to be able to…” Just listen and see what you can arrange for them that fits into your budget. Or if it’s a higher ticket experience, go in with other friends or family members. Once you’ve made the arrangements, all you have to do is present it creatively.
This year, I gave myself the gift of photography lessons, and I wanted to share a little about the course I took and the teacher who has inspired me to see photography from a fresh perspective.
Photography lessons can be a special gift (for someone with an interest, of course) that encourages creativity and brings a little more beauty into the world. Your loved one may be like me a few years ago – the owner of a professional DSLR without the first clue how to use it in manual mode. Or she may just want to up her Instagram game with a point-and-shoot camera or her phone. Just about any beginner to intermediate can learn loads from an excellent guided photography class.
When it comes to online photography lessons, the quality of the material and setup of the class are very important.
Over the past three years, I’ve made a half-hearted attempt to learn to shoot in manual. Ok, I made a one-fifth-hearted attempt because up until this year, I still shot almost entirely in Auto with no flash… with the exception of my sons’ sports, where I used the Action setting, naturally.
The first year, I took an online course that included a one-page PDF once a month. I read all 12 lessons, but with no accountability or community, I got busy with other things, fell behind, and never went back to it. I bought both the for dummies and Magic Lantern guides to my Nikon and checked out library books on photography. They would all overwhelm me in the first 25 pages.
The next year, I took an one-day, in-person class with a wonderful homeschooling mom. She created a binder and some amazing tea, and walked us through how to use our individual cameras. I actually shot a few images that day and kept shooting for about two weeks. Then one day I tried to read the binder and my notes about white balance which led to a screw-it-all moment and I went back to taking pictures of my kids and cats with my iPhone.
My Problem Was Always the Follow Through
Then this Spring, I met Erin Peloquin at a conference and could tell instantly what a kind and genuine person she is. When I saw her presentation on website and blog photography, it was clear that she’s extremely thorough and an excellent teacher. So when I learned she taught a class at Digital Photography for Moms where you receive photography lessons broken down step-by-step every day for a full year, I wanted to learn more.
One of the greatest compliments I can give Erin’s course is that if you get behind you never feel abandoned. This is key because it’s really easy to feel like a failure for not participating for a few days and let that perceived failure keep you from moving forward. In Erin’s classes (yeah, I joined two others because some part of me must enjoy having far too much to do), your fellow participants are pretty open about life getting in the way. Everyone is encouraging and helpful. And the class is set up with you working at your own pace in mind. When you enroll in the Guided 365 course, you get lifetime access to the material.
You’ll find an extensive list of what the class covers at the course page. And I’m happy to share a few images I’ve shot since taking the course. None of these photos have been edited beyond cropping or straightening.
This might sound insane, but until thinking about photography in the way Erin explains it, I’d never considered that I was “composing” an image with my camera. I’d heard about the Rule of Thirds but many examples just didn’t seem that intriguing to me. Then I realized how this rule works best when you’re telling a story. Here, my son is searching the beach in Venice, Florida (Shark Tooth Capital of the World!) for shark teeth fossils on a gorgeous, late summer morning. He’s concentrating on his little square foot area of the vast, calm sea. And beyond that is an endless sky.
So… I didn’t fully understand the differences in direct and indirect lighting until this course. Maybe I’m just slow sometimes, or maybe Erin explains things in ways a preschooler can understand. Indirect light is light coming from all sides, and this course shows you how to find it and make the most of it in your surroundings.
My cat had fallen asleep in a patch of sunlight. When I noticed the light had shifted, I decided to play with the indirect light and got this picture on the second snap. I love how detailed his fur and eyes are (plus the catchlights in his eyes) and how golden the background is.
Focus / Exposure
Anyone who tries to capture images of kids ends up with some blurry ones. I have folders of birthday party pics where I only realized after the party that 90% of the shots were blurred. The same goes for baseball or flag football games. And let’s don’t even talk about basketball court / fluorescent lights photography.
I’m still working on it, but I am getting a better handle on focus with Erin’s advice. In this photo, both boys were in motion and I was pretty far away – ankle deep in the surf – but the kids aren’t blurry and I managed to capture a fun splash.
With these butterbeer cupcakes, I wanted to capture the cupcake and the wrappers upcycled from old Harry Potter books. The image may benefit from a bit of brightening up, but overall I’m pleased with how it turned out given I have zero experience in food photography.
My only limitation with this course has been myself and my time constraints. But the beauty is that it’s always there. And Erin doesn’t want you to buy her course and never use it. She’s designed her lessons so thoroughly yet easily-digestible, you can easily pick up where you left off and not feel behind.
I’ve skipped some lessons – knowing I have the access to go back to them when the time or need arises. And probably like most of our readers, I don’t intend to go into the photography business, but I really enjoy getting great pics of my family and being competent if I need to shoot something last-minute for the magazine.
If you’re interested in learning more about Erin’s course, you’ll find all the info you need at Digital Photography for Moms. The Guided 365 Course is $24.99 per month. It begins Jan. 1, 2018, and you can cancel at anytime if you don’t feel like it’s a good fit for you.
Her course page is extremely detailed, but feel free to comment with any questions. Or send this link to your loved ones as a holiday gift hint!
Disclosure: I’ve purchased two courses at Digital Photography for Moms (Lightroom Editing and Photography for Bloggers), and Erin gifted me her 365 course. All opinions expressed and photos here are completely my own and I plan to purchase more of her courses next year.