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Insider Tips with Jeffrey Kelly: Tips for Beginners

Hey, my name is Jeffrey Kelly and I am the Community Engagement Manager for URBANYEG and a professional photographer. 

As a kid, my grandmother would buy me those little Kodak disposable cameras for our travels. I loved the process of taking and developing photos, and seeing them in my grandmothers photo albums. As I grew up, photography took more of a back seat in my life, but it was always there. 

In May 2015, I, by chance, ran into an old colleague and URBANYEG’s founder, Chan. He invited me to join the group and I decided to purchase my first DSLR and take on any opportunities that came my way. Photography has given me the opportunity to shoot with YEG Fitness Magazine, STARS Air Ambulance, Oodle Noodle and Apollo Originals. 

I continue to be a photographer because it’s a never ending process. There is ongoing skill and ability development through practice and learning, but there’s also personal development that comes with challenging yourself. Being in the business of photography, as well as photography itself, can be challenging. However, creating beautiful imagery and building relationships make it all worth it. 

Here are my top five tips for beginner photographers to better execute your desired imagery. Even if you’re more advanced, I still suggest you give it a read as these may serve as a helpful reminder. 

5. Shoot Outside of Your Comfort Zone

When I first picked up a DSLR I was pretty self-conscious about going around townpointing my camera in all different directions. At the time, my comfort zone was pretty much within my apartment, so I usually stuck to alleyways and side streets. However, through URBANYEG’s InstaMeets, I was able to explore the city with other photographers and gain more confidence as a photographer. This led me to accept an offer to photograph for YEGFitness Magazine. I had never considered fitness photography and it was definitely something outside of my comfort zone, especially considering I had only purchased my first DSLR about six months prior.

Shooting outside your comfort zone will help you gain new skills that will help youacross all areas of your photography. Also, shooting outside your comfort zone may also introduce you to new areas of photography that you may actually enjoy, but hadn’t previously considered.

4. Take Your Time

Slow down, relax and take your time. Be present. I’ve been guilty of rushing shots and not paying full attention to the subject or the environment. Sometimes in some situations this is unavoidable and may actually add to the images you create (like street photography for example).

That being said, if you take your time, learn your camera, hone your skills and shoot with intention, not only will you produce better images under optimal conditions, you’ll also be more comfortable and confident under conditions that may require you to act quickly.

Also, when you’re relaxed and comfortable, you may be less likely to get tunnel vision and more likely to notice or consider things within your environment.

3. Look Past Your Subject and Look Behind You

Sometimes we can get tunnel vision and lock in on what is directly in front of us. You may want to take a photo of your subject; however, you are also taking a photo of everything that is visible behind your subject. Whether your subject is a person or a building, look past your focal point and see what’s contained within the scene. There may be something that’s contained within the frame that you would rather not include, or you may want to simply change the composition to create a stronger image.

Another thing to consider, that could be overlooked, is to look behind you. Often, I have spent time creating an image that I see right ahead of me, only to turn around and find a potentially stronger image waiting to be captured. An image I would have missed entirely if I hadn’t thought to just turn 180 degrees.

2. Expose for Your Highlights, Develop for Your Shadows

If your highlights are too bright, or “blown-out”, this will result in a loss of information in this area of the image. Basically, a blown-out part of an image is made up of fully white pixels. If this occurs, you will not be able to recover this section of the image in the editing process.

For this reason, I would suggest perhaps slightly under exposing the image as to not lose information in the highlights. You can always make the highlights brighter in editing, but if your highlights are over exposed, and you lose that information, it’s most likely gone forever.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…“wouldn’t that make my images darker?” Well, that’s dependent on the environment, but generally yes. That’s where developing for the shadows comes in. And if you’re shooting RAW, you’ll have plenty of information in the darker areas of the image to bring them up in the editing process.

1. Shoot RAW

If you’re not already shooting in RAW format, you should be. Most cellphone cameras,as well as most entry level DSLR’s, will produce images in JPEG by default. JPEG is a compressed format that decreases the file size of your images. In order to do this, the compression process discards some of the information contained within the original image.

RAW format on the other hand preserves all of the information originally contained within the image. Why is this important? Well, if you intend to edit your images using a program such as lightroom, you’ll want all the information you can get as it will allow you a much wider range of adjustments (such as increasing your shadows) before the introduction of noise or artifacts.

You can change your file format to RAW in your camera. Also, you can shoot RAW on your phone if you’re using a third-party app such as the Lightroom CC, VSCO, Snapseed or ProShot.

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I hope these tips help you in your photography journey – happy shooting!

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