This week's JUST ASK JO is all about photography, my first passion and I'm so excited to get into it with you all. Photography was an art form I fell in love with when I was 15. It was the one thing that helped me express my heart, my thoughts, and ultimately helped me understand my depression and mental illness a little more. A few weeks ago I offered to answer questions on my Instagram about photography and here's what you asked. Continue below to read more about the cameras, lenses, and gear I recommend for beginners, bloggers, and traveling.
I take my camera with me nearly everywhere I go, mostly because as a photography there's this part of me that just wants to document my life. The beauty about social media these days is that I'm able to share snippets of that life with you through Instagram and even on IG Stories which I've loved using more and more these days to have raw conversations with you. But sadly content online on social media is just borrowed space. Instagram stories and Snapchat are proof that content space is merely on short term lease.
I think the biggest advice I have for you on learning how to take better photos is mastering the best lens you have on you, which is your eye. We can go on and on about the basics of photography which I will get into a little bit within this blog post, but the most important thing is understanding the visual story that you’re trying to tell.
Before you begin to check out Amazon and purchase the latest and greatest cameras out there one of my favorite photographers of all time, Chase Jarvis said this, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” I have seen some of the most visually captivating photos taken with a mobile device and some of the most amazing ones taken with the world’s most expensive cameras. Neither one is better than the other because the image captured is not dictated based on all the bells and whistles and how its taken. An image moves you because of the visual story its telling your heart.
I studied photography in high school and co-own a wedding/lifestyle photography business with my husband. On top of the creative environment we have in my personal life, I work for a company called VSCO, who’s mission is to empower people to create, discover, and connect. Basically I’m surrounded by photography left and right. But most importantly, photography for allows me to create and I do believe that as humans creativity is built in our DNA. It’s something we thrive on.
Now that I’ve rambled a little a little bit about my own personal philosophies on photography here’s some of the basics that I lean on with every photo I take.
Some would argue that lighting may come last as the thing you have to learn or get a grasp of, but for me lighting is the king to all photography. After all, photography in Greek means writing with light. Begin by starting to train your eye with lighting that bests suits your visual storytelling. As you walk around a room or down the street look at different objects to see what the light source is doing to it. Ask yourself what is the light doing to the space around me, around a particular object? Begin to notice whether or not certain lighting is giving an object more dimension or is it looking flat. Light can make the most mundane looking objects come to life and its important to start to pay attention to the different lighting scenarios around you.
Composition in its truest form of thinking is simply framing. How are you framing a particular subject or object in your photo? I’m sort of a purist which means I like to follow the rule of thirds when it comes to art. Then I start to break the boundaries and think outside the box. Framing is all about how your eye travels through a photograph. For me as a general rule of thumb I want to make sure that the eye travels through about 2/3rds of any photograph I take. Sometimes this drives my husband nuts when it comes to looking through the shots I get at a wedding because I love to give more space around my subjects and he likes to come in close filling the frame. It’s a perfect example of why we work so well together. His artistic vision on how he captures subjects is completely different to my own, but we’re both storytellers in our approach.
“Don’t look. See” is this quote splattered on the top of a page in one of my favorite easy to read photography books called “Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs.” by Henry Carroll. BUY IT NOW! Everyone’s artistic vision is very different, it’s personal, it’s the magic sauce that makes us as artists unique. It’s how we want to tell the story of what we see, not what we’re looking at. Two very different things and two things that are hard to explain. I guess you can argue that it's like hearing and listening. When someone hears you it’s the mere act of hearing sounds, when someone is listening they are engaged, understanding, and taking in every bit of what you say. You can say that this is true with photography.
An incredible photographer and great friend of mine Tanja Lippert once told me,”start to see your photographs as frames in a movie.” When she said that during one of her photography workshops I took, it clicked. I began to see things one frame and one moment at a time rather than the whole picture.
My Personal Camera Gear
Here are some books that I love and get inspired by:
Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll
The Best Camera is the One That’s With You by Chase Jarvis
Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
Vivian Maier: Street Photographer author John Maloof
The Photographers Playbook: 307 Assignments and Ideas by Jason Fulford
Photo Editing Apps
- VSCO for iOS
- My favorite preset happens to be A6, 04, A8, and M5. Depending on the image, I do make adjustments to exposure, temperature, tint, sharpen, and contrast.
- VSCO Film for Lightroom
- My ultimate favorite VSCO FIlm packs are VSCO Film 05 & 06, however depending on the lighting of the image I may go back to the good old classics of VSCO FIlm 01. Start with the Essentials Pack, it has the best of all 7 packs.
- use Lightroom for most of my DSLR photo edits, this way I have full control of all the RAW capabilities when editing with my RAW DSLR Files
Other Recommendations on Camera Gear
I hope that this helps to inspire you a little bit more to gain a better understanding of the basics of photography. If this is something you’d love to see more of comment below and let me know what you’d like for me to dive into.
I was on a call with a woman named Jennifer, yesterday talking about fitness and life. I kept saying "Fitness is not about the perfect body, it's about getting your shit together, it's about figuring out who you're meant to be, and finding the confidence to simply go for it." When I started this fitness account and blog it was to hold myself accountable for the promise I made myself which was, to head into my 30s as the best version of myself. I wanted to be confident in my own skin. Which ultimately meant being confident in the choices I make for myself both personally and professionally.
In my twenties I thought it was so vein for someone to believe that the way the looked translated into the way they feel. Boy was I so wrong! Because the desire to feel good about how I looked became the driving force of my fitness journey.
Back in May I had the honor to be in front of the lens of my dear friend Tonhya Wysong for her La Femme Forte series. La Femme Forte, the strong woman, is a boudoir series that was born form the heart. Tonhya set out to photograph women and to help them embrace their "flaws" and to redefine their own definitions of beautiful no matter the shape, size, or color of their skin. I'm sharing photos from my 2016 set of La Femme Forte photos here so please be kind and if you love them, hit up Tonhya and tell her to come to your city! For all you SF area ladies, our city was her first ever so don't worry she'll be back next year.
Not enough credit goes out to the man who has supported me through all my greatest accomplishments in life. Jonathan has been the driving force in everything I do.
The beginning of my 12 weeks transformation was rough. I started my first 10 days while road tripping with the family for summer break. Boy was it hard to make sure I was eating on schedule as my fitness coach had instructed and eating properly. I knew though that this was something I needed to make sure I was able to do since my daily schedule consisted of a life that was on the go!
There was a time when I thought what I needed was my husband to make the same lifestyle changes. I was wrong. That mindset was why I failed so many times in the past. My husband has been the one constantly saying to me, "I am so proud of you!" Hearing those words of encouragement was exactly what I needed to push through. There were days I was just too exhausted to finish up my meal prepping and he would be the one putting them into tupperware so that I can get my 7-8 hours of sleep to endure another day of early morning cardio, weights, a 40 minute commute to work, work day, commute home, sleep, and repeat the following day.
Throughout the past 13 years he has always helped bring out the best in me. I thank God every day for completing my life with his presence. I am the luckiest woman alive!
We recently had our photos taken by a good friend of ours Sean Flanigan. These photos were taken about 6 weeks into my 12 week health/fitness program. These photos capture a time in my life where I started to feel like I was finally shedding all the years of self hate.