After you’ve mastered correct exposure and soft light, the next step is to jump out of your comfort zone with both! And the roadmap to those next steps – which will also help you unlock your unique style – is understanding different kinds of light, how to harness it, and how to expose for it in a way that fits your creative vision.
Correct exposure is the holy grail when we first start learning about the exposure triangle and how to use our DSLR in manual mode. We learn how to use the EV meter as a tool to guide us when choosing our settings, and we become intent on maneuvering the needle to the middle, for every shot. And don’t get me wrong, that tool is gold when we’re new to manual mode and we don’t instinctively know what settings we need to get a good exposure. But the middle doesn’t work for all kinds of light, or all artistic visions.
Sue Thorn credits learning to let go of the middle, and exploring different qualities of light and ways to expose for it as the light bulb moment for her after she joined our Advanced Photography Course. It came in Lesson One, and she was inspired and excited to find herself viewing exposure – and light – with new eyes. Over the weeks as she worked through all the lessons, she started gravitating naturally toward a certain look until, with much delight and quite unexpectedly, she arrived at her own style.
And with that I’m thrilled to introduce you to Sue, Advanced Grad from Sydney, Australia. Read on to learn how Sue went from joining us in order to learn how to take beautiful landscape and travel photos, to becoming a professional portrait photographer who has won awards for her honest and soulful black & white portraiture…
I live in Sydney with my hubby and 3 kids aged 4, 9 and 10. We’re a pretty active family – 3 of us (including me!) play soccer and one very enthusiastic and bendy 10 yr old loves dance. I worked for Nivea in trade marketing, but I never went back after baby number 3 and I now run a family photography business whilst also taking care of our family.
I love travelling and seeing the world, and this is what sparked my interest in photography in the first place as I would trawl through travel magazines wanting to go to this or that place. Then when I learned how to use my camera and had the skills to get those images, that was when I really wanted to go to some amazing places and take my own great photos that I could put up in my house. Japan and cherry blossoms was number 1 on my list!
I took the CLG Enthusiast Course which gave me an understanding of how my camera worked and the exposure triangle, and the fundamentals of light and composition so that I was able to take a good, technically sound photo. I also came away from it having fallen in love with this hobby (and I never intended to do it as a job!). I spent every available hour looking at photos, not really knowing why I loved them or hated them.
But I still felt like a beginner, and I knew there was still so much to learn. I wanted to continue my journey for personal fulfillment, and I wanted to be able to take award winning photography!
So I joined the Advanced Photography Course, and it really pushed me into using my camera to get more creative.
The high and low key exposures lesson was a game changer for me.
Before the course I stuck to what the meter told me was ‘right’, but I learned I could decide whether to expose light or dark depending on the ambient light, the subject and my creative vision – not what the camera told me it should be.
At first most of the photos I was taking for the lessons were landscapes not portraits, because at that point my preferred genre was landscape and travel photography. But also, I found portraits challenging. However the high and low key lesson, portrait lighting, and backlighting lessons helped me learn to view exposure and light in a completely different way, and that helped me improve my portraits so much that I soon developed a love for taking them.
I started the course with a preference for light and airy images but as time has gone on, and armed with the skills I gained from exploring exposure and different ways to light, I have leaned more and more toward low key, dark and moody images.
I also learned how to shoot during the golden hour to get that beautiful warm glow.
I also wanted to learn how to convey more emotion and mood in my portraits, especially in my black & white images, and I achieved this through learning how to push my shadows in the creative exposures and editing lessons.
Lastly I learned how to analyse other people’s photos – what worked, what didn’t and why, and this was key to understanding what had gone wrong when my images didn’t quite nail it so that I could try again.
Hands down the biggest difference between CLG and any other provider is the live support, and the community of like-minded and lovely women, many of whom I’ve become friends with.
Even though it’s online there is live support every day, and you have plenty of opportunities to ask questions.
When I first started, I would think my questions were too beginner to ask. But Lou would always answer patiently, and she never said ‘oh just go back and look at this or that in the workbooks’, and she would patiently explain it again and again if need be.
I also had opportunity to ask questions during the live calls with Lou. I really looked forward to those live calls because there was always a light bulb moment, a little snippet of a gold wisdom and I was so eager to learn absolutely everything I possibly could.
We love a side by side before an after as it’s such a powerfully visual way to show how far you can come in such a short time when you take the Advanced Course. So please enjoy Sue’s fabulous before & after images – the first one was taken just before the Advanced Course, and the after shot was taken at the end or shortly after.
Many thanks to Sue for your generous words and beautiful images! If you want to see more of Sue’s portrait photography check her out at Sue Thorn Photography.
If you’re shooting in manual mode and ready to push your creative boundaries, join our Advanced Photography Course and learn to shoot with confidence in any scenario, and discover your own unique style through intensive 1:1 critique on your work. Our sale opens in just a few hours… join our wait list so you don’t miss out!