One of the BEST things about teaching people photography is simply the impact it can have on your students, and the images they take.
Seriously, nothing makes me feel happier than when I get an email from a student saying how much more confident they feel after taking one of my courses, or how it is all coming together for them, or when I see a student on Facebook or Instagram and they are simply rocking their camera.
A few weeks ago, I was on Instagram and viewing some of the images posted by my students, when a few caught my eye. They were from the same photographer, Katie Lynn, and I was blown away by how amazing they were. I was even happier when I learnt that she shoots with what some would call “basic” gear - an entry level camera with a crop sensor and the kit lens - absolute, 100% proof that you honestly don’t need the most expensive gear to make great photographs!
So I asked Katie Lynn if she would do a case study for me, because I really wanted you to see just how much impact learning your camera can make on your images, and how it improves them SO much more than getting the latest lens or a new set of actions.
I’ve done a few case studies on the blog previously (I’ve linked to them at the bottom of this post if you would like to read more!) as I love seeing the journeys of other photographers, but this is the first time I have had a student on the blog, so I am extra delighted to have Katie here!
Take it away, Katie….
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you wanted to learn photography?
My name is Katie, and I’m from the suburbs of Chicago, IL. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology/Social Work. My focus was working with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the schools and providing in-home ABA therapy.
In 2016, I became a stay at home mom of three and feel so lucky that I am able to do that. Photographing my kids and documenting their lives has always been a love of mine. I played with a Canon point and shoot and a borrowed Nikon DSLR for many years in automatic modes. Never did I think that I was capable of figuring out Manual Mode.
In early 2016, after my grandmother’s passing, I found myself sitting in front of an old box filled with photos of my ancestors, photos of my grandmother’s life, and photos of my own childhood. All of which, I never knew even existed. Those photos were all I had left of her memory, and it linked me to so many memories of my own childhood. That box was my turning point, or ah ha moment, where I realized how important photography is to me. I want my children to have those types of memories to fondly look back on one day, but I also want to make beautiful photos for me to cherish. Life is so precious and being able to freeze and document those little moments is certainly a gift like no other.
When did you start to learn photography?
I’ve always liked photography, but after my first child was born in 2007, I found myself with a point and shoot in my hands regularly. Documenting every milestone there was. For the past couple years, I found myself borrowing someone else’s DSLR on occasion. In January 2017, I purchased my first DSLR and started with Auto to Awesome in February 2017. I finished the course in about 8 weeks; however, I return to it regularly to reinforce my learning. I have now had that DSLR in my hands for 10 months, and my love for photography couldn’t be stronger.
What challenges did you experience when learning photography?
The first time I sat with my DSLR, with the manual in hand and the internet browser open, I felt defeated before I even started. The mountain of information from a plethora of different places was overwhelming.
Where do I start? Can I even do this? Why is this so confusing? Is manual mode even going to make a difference?
I was taking bits and pieces, and I just started reading and watching videos about my camera. I felt lost.
Which ways did you try to learn photography?
I was taking bits and pieces from everywhere. I purchased a book of another well-known photographer from the US, which seemed to help reign in my focus by reading from Chapter 1 and working my way through, but I was still frustrated when I was actually putting the information to practice. They make it look so easy!
How did you hear about Auto to Awesome?
I ran across Auto to Awesome after clicking on a Pinterest post about the basics of photography. That, in turn, led me to Audrey’s Blog, Live Snap Love, and I hit the jackpot by finding her blog! It was exactly what I needed. It contained information that helped me dive head first into my learning process with no regrets.
Why did you decide to enroll in Auto to Awesome?
After reading many of the blog entries explaining the basics, things were already starting to click better than ever before. I signed up to become a subscriber so I could get the beginner’s boot camp course and gave it a shot. What did I have to lose? It was a free opportunity to learn! I was so intrigued and impressed by the information I obtained, that it brought me back to look for more ways to learn from Audrey, and Auto to Awesome was it. She has a way of explaining and teaching photography like no other.
(Note from Audrey: the Beginners Bootcamp is retired, but you can grab this FREE 90 Day Learning Blueprint instead, which is even better :-) Go here to download.
How easy did you find to work through the course?
It was, and still is, extremely easy. I learn and practice on my own timeline. Between printouts video learning, the knowledge and communication from Audrey whenever I was stumped, and the Auto to Awesome Facebook group, I always had the support I needed through the process. Auto to Awesome gave me an excellent foundation for learning how to get out of Automatic Modes.
Plus, the video lessons are wonderful! Just having the lifetime access and ability to always go back to reinforce what I’ve learned is a huge benefit. I also love that Audrey has added new, more advanced, lessons since I’ve joined that I am able to access!
How do you feel now you have finished the course?
I feel like it was money well spent. Before I signed up, I wasn’t sure if the cost was worth it. I’m here to tell you, it was worth every penny! I am not only confident in how to shoot in manual mode, but also in how to make my photos look the way I envision. Photography is a constant learning process, and I’m thrilled with where I am on my journey because of Auto to Awesome.
What gear do you shoot with? Do you find your gear limiting?
I shoot with: Nikon D5300, a Nikon 18-55mm kit lens, and a Nikon 35mm f1.8 prime lens. At first, I thought my kit lens and crop sensor was limiting my photography; however, now that I know my camera and know the fundamentals, I actually get many complements on my kit lens photos! Now that I can control my camera, I’m much happier with the results.
Is there any advice you received or read that stuck with you?
That it takes practice. I can read all I want about photography basics and skills or watch other photographer’s videos, but I need to put it to use. By regularly picking up my camera, the buttons have become second nature to me. I don’t even need to think about what button to push for what I want to do. My fingers just do it. I can tell a huge difference in how much faster I move when my camera is in regular use.
How do you get inspired and stay creative?
I love getting inspiration from other photographers! What better way to be inspired and challenged than by surrounding myself with other people who have a passion and creative vision for photography?! My Facebook feed is filled with others’ photography and photography related questions. I also find inspiration on my Instagram feed by following different groups and photographers I love. My photos have been featured on multiple Instagram photography groups, which not only motivates me to continue this photography journey, but it also challenges me to document beautiful moments in my life.
The other thing that helps me stay creative is following different group challenges. Whether it be a 365 day challenge, a 52 week challenge, a scavenger hunt challenge, or just posting in a Facebook group for advice and corrective criticism, they’re all excellent ways to stay inspired and creative. I haven’t done a 365 day or a 52 week challenge yet, but hope to start one in 2018. Life gets busy, but challenging myself will only make me a better photographer.
What’s next on your photography learning journey?
Well, I’ve already signed up for Launch into Lightroom, which is also awesome. Post processing plays an important role in those beautiful photos we all see. I am hoping to learn more about indoor photography with a Speedlight as well, as I find myself shooting family events/parties indoors. And of course, PRACTICE. Finding the time to practice is probably the most important next step for me.
Do you have any advice that you would like to pass along to new photographers?
To new photographers, you can do it! It may be overwhelming with the amount of information out there, but get a grasp on your gear and take it one step at a time. Also, get corrective criticism from fellow photographers - Facebook groups can be a great resource to get ideas from fellow photographers on similar journeys.
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Fancy reading more case studies? Then check these out!