Photography: And the Lies I Believed

Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007-2013 All rights reserved – 

“I T  I S   A L L   A B O U T   T H E   M E G A P I X E L S”
It seems like I have always had a camera in my hand.  I started with film and then as the digital came about kept upgrading as newer generations of cameras came on the market.  My dad purchased a nicer digital camera after the birth of my first son in 2005.  This sparked a new journey for me with photography.  It looked like a DSLR but had a fixed zoom lens with 8-megapixels.  Eight years ago 8mpx was really awesome and I thought thats how you choose a camera.  It was a great camera for the year and half we lived in California. 
The Truth: Of course cameras have advanced much in the last eight years. However you really should not get a camera solely on how many megapixels it has whether it is 2005 or 2013.  Are you blowing up your photographs to a large size to produce wall art for your home?  Or are you just sharing things on facebook and making small prints for family?  Do you even print your photographs?  
“I   H A V E   T O   H A V E   A   F A N C Y   C A M E R A” 
I was in photography mode again with the birth of my second son in 2007.  I met up with other military wives for photography outings and they had with them pricey DLSR cameras, interchangeable lenses, and light reflectors.  I remember being in awe as I watched them photograph and listened as they talked about only shooting in manual.  We would return from our photography outings and everyone would share the photos we took that day. I felt gutted seeing the amazing photographs the other military wives took of my own kids with their cameras.  I was sold into the fact I had to have their camera to get photographs like that.  
The Truth: You can put any camera in the hands of a photography pro and they will me probably produce amazing images or pieces of art.  You can put the same cameras in the hand of an extreme novice who knows nothing of manual settings, lighting, or composition and you will probably have nothing but rubbish photos with no eye appeal, bad exposures, horrible white balance and subjects that are blurry. 

Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007-2013 All rights reserved – 

“I   H A V E   T O   H A V E   A   C A N O N”

When my husband and I started looking at DSLRs I was adamant about getting a Canon. Why? I was in love with the photography of a young fashion photographer from England and she used a Canon.  In fact almost every photographer who shot fashion photography that I knew used Canon. There seemed no question in my mind.  My husband however loved Nikon and had read up on how well they made their lenses.  Our first DSLR was a D70.  To be followed by the D200 and then the D700.  
The Truth: A camera is a camera. It seems like the biggest competitors are Canon and Nikon, but you can buy a different model and still be a photographer.  To me I equate it to whether you use a PC or a Mac.  You can use both, switching between the two can be a bit challenging at first, and neither is really better than the other.  I have a friend that shoots with her Pentax and loves it.  It comes down to preference. After years of being a Nikon user I love the way it feels in my hands and the sound of the shutter. When I hold a friend’s Canon it feels so light like I’m holding a toy.  I’m not saying I could not switch to Canon down the road. I am just not going to throw a fit about not owning a Canon like I would have back in 2007.  I know better. 

“A L L   P H O T O G R A P H Y   E Q U I P M E N T   I S   E X P E N S I VE ” 
When we looked into getting a brand new camera I was scared.  Scared by the dollar sign and the numbers following it when looking at camera bodies and lenses.  I worked with other photographers as a hair and make up artist and I saw the types of equipment they used.  Expensive lighting set ups, complex backdrops, and so many gadgets that the numbers just kept adding up in my mind until it got overwhelming.  I would see the photographs these photographers were producing and compare it with ones photographers who had less were producing and to be honest they looked the same.  Or the photographers who had less expensive equipment were producing better images. 

The Truth: I hate to say it but photography is an expensive hobby. If you think otherwise you are sadly mistaken.  However there are many tricks of the trade that you can pick up instead of cashing in for the next latest and greatest piece of equipment.  We have bought all our cameras from other photographers off of Craiglist in Hawaii.  When it comes other equipment you do have choices.  You could buy a really large light reflector from a well known company and cut off your arm in the process.  Or you could find a cheaper model on amazon or ebay for a much more affordable option.  Or you can get creative and find other ways to bounce light on your subject.  While I own three large reflectors (with multi sides of white, black, gold, and silver) I have used other things as well.   Mirrors on the beach with the sunrise, windshield sun shades from my car, white poster board, and even natural light reflectors. What is a natural light reflector?  Shoot your subjecting near a white surface like white stone steps or the white pillar of a building. 

Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007-2013 All rights reserved – 

“P H O T O S H O P   C A N   F I X   A N Y T H I N G ” 

You get home and upload your photographs to your computer and realise that one shot you really wanted is over exposed.  So you play around with it and eventually resort to putting it in black and white and still try to tweak the photograph.  What is photoshop for if you cannot fix your wrongly executed photograph? Likewise that model that you did not meet before hand has shown up and bless her heart, but her skin is horrible. You shrug it off and assume that you can do what you can with lighting and then photoshop her skin in post processing.  
The Truth: Photoshop is awesome. As is Lightroom.  Actually if you are a photographer I recommend you use Lightroom before you put a photo in photoshop.  While photoshop is more geared towards graphic design artists Light room is for photographers.  Post processing has been around before the digital age and is the digital version of a photographer’s darkroom.  In post processing you can take a great photograph and make it look amazing.  You can take an SOOC (Straight Out Of the Camera) photograph that looks perfect and in post processing make it stellar! However you can take a bad photo and it will still look rubbish, or rubbish in a fancy dress, after post processing.  There is a thing of being ‘too photoshopped’ and photoshop cannot fix everything.  You want to aim to get the photo right in the camera. But do not dismiss post processing as a fad.  It is an amazing tool in the hands of those who know what they are doing or have the time to play around with it to figure it out.

 “I  N E E D   A N   E X P E N S I V E   D E G R E E” 

 Upon high school graduation I went off to a private Christian University to get a bachelor’s degree because is that not what everyone does?  My passions?  Theatre and moving abroad.  So I majored in Theatre and minored in Missions.  I remember hearing about the awesome photography course complete with use of the darkroom, but it was rumored to have filled up before the class began registration.  I wish I had tried harder to smooze my way into that course because maybe my career in photography would have started sooner.  But I assumed I needed a degree to become an adult.

The Truth: There are many photographers out there that do go to school and get degrees in photography. However thats not the only way to go about becoming a professional photographer.  It was not until our third upgrade of DSLR and three years into my career that I took my first photography course focused on different types of lighting.  I am self taught.  That means I bought books, I looked online, and I picked the brains of all the photographers I knew or came into contact with while working as a hair and make up artist.  Most importantly I took photographs.  There is no better way to get better at something without practice.  You do not even need someone else to photograph to get better.  When I want to work on portraits I do self portrait photography.  Otherwise I work on landscape and stock photography.  If you are passionate about something and have something you want to do in your horizon  do not not wait for it.  Run toward your dreams and take photographs all the way there!

“I  N E E D   A N   E X P E N S I V E   C A M E R A” 

 We started off small and as we could we sold back our camera to other photographers and upgraded again.  We have never bought a brand new camera which has saved us money.  When I made the jump from the Nikon D200 to the Nikon D700 I could not figure out how I got by in photography before.  I could shoot in bad lighting situations and still be able to produce quality images.  As I held my D700 I heard about the next series of cameras in the line of Nikon, ones that were ‘better‘ and more expensive.  I wondered if my need for the next best camera would ever dissipate   

The Truth: You do need an expensive camera.  Yes the cameras get better the more expensive they are but its not just about what camera body is in your hands.  It is about the glass (the lens) and the quality of it.  You could have a great camera and crap lens and not be any better off than someone with an okay camera and a really high quality lens.  Lenses are not all made equal and they do not all do the same job.  I use my 85mm for different shots than I would use my 50mm lens.  Also a 50mm 2.8 differs from a 50mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4.  Do not believe me?  Get all three 50mm lenses and test them out on the same shot to compare the differences.  Or google it for a quicker answer.  Expat life can be expensive when you start out and I sadly parted with my D700 to help us in our endeavors   Going back to my D200 I felt very depressed about photography as a whole.  It was hard for me personally to do something that felt like ‘taking a step back’.  However it has helped me realise this is just another lie I have been lead to believe.  Although my photographer eye can see a difference, it has pushed me as an artist to really work on my skills.  These are not simple point and shoot cameras and I have been learning how to get the image I want from the D200 with the lenses I own.  Which is the point.  You can capture amazing images and create breath taking art with what you have.  You just need to continue practicing and understand your camera like it is your best friend.  

Behind the Scenes on a shoot with Bonnie Rose in Mililani, Hawaii

Y O U   A S K  &  I   A N S W E R
with Bonnie Rose on ‘Photography’

Q: Hello Bonnie! Do you have any recommendations for online photography courses or helpful websites for beginners? Thanks!

 Yes!  Hands down my favourite online resource is CreativeLive out of Seattle, WA. They offer free courses online with amazing photographers and its Live.  Since the person who asked this lives in England, we are in the best timezone for watching these live photography courses.  I could watch the repeat showing in morning before work or watch it live as it began after work.  I recommend following CreativeLive on Twitter so you are always up to date with the new courses coming your way. I have been blessed to have watched a few of my favourite photographers that I have followed for years on Creative Live.  They made that possible. I just wish I had known about them sooner. 
More about Creative Live:
Q: I need help picking a wide angle lens!

It really depends on what you want to use it for and your budget. For me I love prime lenses the best.  The two I own are used way more often than any of my zoom lenses.  I have the 50mm 1.8 and 85mm 1.4 for Nikon.  As I shoot a lot of portraiture those two lenses have been my best friends.  When I  upgrade further I will get the 50mm 1.4 lens.  However when we are traveling or sightseeing I find that those do not always cut it and I need a wide angle lens.  I’ve been toying with whether I should get a 24mm or the 35mm.  To be fair so far I have borrowed a zoom lens 17mm-35mm 2.8 and it has been my absolute favourite.  I even loved the distortion it would cause to tall buildings before me when shooting at 17mm. It is really weighs a lot on preference as well. I recommend borrowing lenses (from friends or you can borrow lenses and cameras online) and testing them out for a day.  Photography is not a cheap hobby or business and knowing for sure which lens you want to buy before you make the purchase is ideal. 
I hope you have enjoyed this next installment of my Photography series.  
If you have any questions make sure to comment!

*All photography pictured here belongs to Bonnie Rose of Bonnie Rose Photography © 2007-2013 All rights reserved – 

  • Mary

    Excellent and very informative post Bonnie! In fact, I was about to ask you some questions concerning photography, specifically what kind of camera to buy but I think you have helped me a bit. Are there any specific camera models you recommend that won’t obliterate the pocket of a poor college student? haha. Your work is very inspiring and as some who wants to do more with photography and hopes to join in your self portrait link-up, it’d be really helpful to know. :)

    • Bonnie Rose

      Thank you so much Mary and thank you for sharing this link on twitter. I honestly think starting off small is the best way to go when you are starting off. As newer models come out, the older models get cheaper and cheaper. Look for photographers who are wanting to upgrade to the newest model and shop around. Look at what your budget is and I saw spend more of your budget on a lens. Then just start shooting like crazy and really working at understanding how to use manual in all sorts of situations. If you can do that on a older basic DSLR, you can do anything with any newer model. :) I say don’t feel pressured to get a Nikon D600 or a Canon Mark III just because everyone else has one.

  • Melanie Fontaine

    These are some great insights, Bonnie! I’ve only recently started to get interested in photography and I’m really trying to soak in as much as possible about it.

    • Bonnie Rose

      Melanie, so glad you found it informative. Def let me know if there anything you would like me to touch in the weeks to come. :)

  • Latrina M.

    Oh, I can’t thank you enough for this, Bonnie! You’ve answered and addressed some of the questions and concerns I have been dealing with as a photographer. Thank you. :)

    I’m a Nikon user and have considered upgrading to Canon simply because I have used the Mark II and loved it. However, I haven’t played around with any of the Nikon higher end models… still worried about making the wrong decision. Luckily, there’s a great local camera shop I can rent multiple models and lenses to play around with. Hopefully that will help me decide. 😉

  • lisacng @

    Great post and always a good reminder that expensive equipment doesn’t equate to great photography. Helps me also have less camera-envy.

  • Bonnie Rose

    Great reminders! Thanks for the post.

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