Who needs a fancy camera with all the confusing buttons and dials when phone cameras are so great these days? Blurry backgrounds, face recognition, portrait mode, landscape mode… phones with 3 cameras for goodness sake! But here’s the thing… no matter how feature packed they become, you still don’t have full creative control. Also, the quality is poorer (phone photos on a phone sized screen look great! But printed large, not so much!).
And that’s why a camera you can use in manual mode is the only way to go if photography… ie. taking gorgeous, crisp, light filled and creative photos on purpose every time… is important to you.
Nicoleta Philpot can totally relate! She’s a Click Love Grow grad, mother of 2 daughters aged 3 and 1, and a high school science teacher from a little town in California called Petaluma. She had a DSLR for years before joining us, but she had always used it as a point and shoot because she couldn’t figure out manual mode. Unfortunately a fancy camera used in auto will take no better photos than an automatic compact camera, or your phone.
Nicoleta knew this too, and it’s not as though she didn’t try to learn manual mode. But it always escaped her and eventually she resorted to using her phone pretty much all the time. At least the phone got it right half the time.
But by the time baby number two came along, she was tired of the hits and misses and never being fully happy with her photos. So she got serious about learning, and that’s what brought her to Click Love Grow!
My husband and I had owned a DSLR camera for many years prior to my interest in photography. But it usually only came out with us on trips and was only ever used in Auto mode. Neither of us really knew how to operate the camera, we would just point and shoot. The photos were okay but lacklustre.
For many years I kept telling myself I would learn to use it, but the user manual seemed so daunting and boring to read! Life is busy so I never got around to it.
Fast forward a few years after our wedding and baby number one came.
I’d try to take photos of my daughter, but I just never felt happy with what I would capture.
The light was always wrong and I had no idea what editing was or how to do it, so I just stuck to my phone when I wanted a photo. It was quick, easy and the built in filters and tools did a pretty good job. Portrait mode created the blurry backgrounds that made photos look nice, so that was that.
But two years later my second daughter came along and whilst the phone was handy, I just didn’t have the full creative freedom that comes with a camera used in manual mode. You can’t adjust settings on a phone based on what you’re trying to achieve, and there’s no options for lenses. Plus I like the physicality of a camera, and uploading photos to the desktop for editing, saving and storing, whereas my phone images just get lost. No where near the same as a camera in so many ways!
So I tried again to learn to use my camera in manual mode, but I just got frustrated again.
We had professional photos taken but the photographer only delivered family shots, even though she must have taken hundreds of just the baby. I wanted more photos of just her, so I kept trying.
And this is where the research began. I read blogs, websites, watched how-to videos on YouTube, and that outside research did help but only with how to operate my specific camera. I still didn’t understand how all those pieces came together.
But all that research meant social media knew what I was up to, so in started rolling all the ads and businesses to help me. At some point I saw an ad for Click Love Grow, and when I opened it I saw they had some free courses, resources and a Facebook page. I jumped in, then I discovered their Enthusiast Photography Course and it was exactly what I needed.
I researched Click Love Grow and read reviews before I considered paying for the course, and that helped me decide they were a trusted and proven resource so I took the plunge.
I remember I was literally laying in my baby’s crib at night time, nursing her to sleep in the dark when I purchased the course over my phone. I felt excited and a little bit anxious! The next morning I received my welcome emails and instructions for the course.
I was so excited at the prospect of finally learning to use the camera!
Lou and the other instructors seemed like amazing and kind people, and I really loved their back stories. They all had a willingness to be vulnerable, ensuring me that they had all been in my shoes at some point and sharing photos they used to take which looked a lot like mine currently did.
It’s always hard comparing yourself to seasoned photographers, and I was very beginner but they made me feel more empowered and less embarrassed.
It makes you realise you really can get there someday!
I would watch and listen to the courses in the shower at night, and this became my routine since I worked full time and had two little ones to care for all day. Then during the day, nap times or weekends, I would practice the lesson challenge.
The personal feedback you get from the instructors was one of my favorite parts of the course. Learning about the exposure triangle was very helpful, but I’m very much a hands on, kinesthetic learner so the practice that came with the challenges, and the instructor feedback on my images is what made the difference.
I jumped right into manual mode and practiced on my kids constantly!
We had students of all skill levels from around the world sharing their work, and walking alongside my own journey and I loved being able to see their work in the challenge albums. It was extra support, and nice to get feedback from a variety of people and different eyes.
I think my favorite lessons were on using light, how to achieve light bokeh and create more interesting compositions.
It was easy, to the point, and FUN!
The challenges along the way kept me practicing all sorts of new things and really diving into learning photography.
Three months post the Enthusiast Course I have made this hobby into a mini side business, taking on clients expecting babies, newborn lifestyle shoots and families. I even got to document a home birth! It has been so exciting and being able to capture memories for others, in addition to my own, has been such a wonderful, priceless experience!
We love a before and after set of images as it’s the best way to show off our student’s transformation!
Big thank you to Nicoleta for your time and gorgeous images! If you want to check out more of her work, you can find her on Instagram.