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LIFE:CAPTURED began in August 2013 when we held our first full-day workshop at RAW Space in Sydney, Australia. Our mission is to help people document their stories and create tangible keepsakes to be treasured for generations to come. We offer intensive design, photography, and memory keeping workshops, as well as interactive online classes. We are advocates of honest photography, minimalist design, and memory keeping that's simple, beautiful, and tangible. We are the pioneers of the story book, and we offer flexible templates that enable everybody to tell their story. We believe that life is worth remembering and that it is never too early or too late to start documenting yours. LIFE:CAPTURED was founded by Rhonda Mason (of the Pink Ronnie blog) and Trish Chong (of Tealily Photography).

The blog

The official blog of LIFE:CAPTURED Inc, the modern school of memory keeping. We believe that life is worth remembering and that it is never too early or too late to start documenting yours. We blog about design, photography, and how you can preserve your story with timeless, tangible keepsakes.

For the love of imagery: Get to know your camera


| Written by Ronnie |

Three weeks ago, we had two lovely couples over for dinner. One of the men was thinking of upgrading his camera, and over coffee and chocolates, we got to chatting about photography, memory keeping, and my Fujifilm x100s.

A couple of days later, I received the loveliest email from him. Apparently, our conversation had made him realise how little he knew about the camera that he did have. And so, whilst he was greatly tempted by the idea of a Fujifilm camera, he'd decided after our evening together that he would get to know his current camera better instead.

His wisdom was astounding and cuts to the core of our philosophy here at Life:Captured Inc.

It's not about what camera you have, but how well you use it.

And how well you use your camera comes down to how well you know your camera.

I honestly believe that no matter what camera you own, you are capable of creating beautiful imagery. Imagery that is powerful. Imagery that speaks to you

It's easy to tell yourself otherwise. After all, how any times have you looked at someone else's photography and thought to yourself, 'If only I had their camera, I'd be able to take photos like that?'

But the reality is that the camera you have now is the one that you can use today.

So get to know your camera.

Learn how to switch it from auto mode to manual mode and back again. Learn how to adjust shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Learn how to switch it between manual focusing and auto focusing. Learn how to control exposure compensation. Learn how to tweak the white balance. Learn how to change the image capture size from 3:2 to 1:1. Learn how to do back button focusing.

But even more importantly, get to know your camera's personality. What are its strengths? And what are its weaknesses? What sort of imagery is it particularly adept at making? 

For example, with my iPhone camera, I know that it has a fixed aperture, which means that it's not possible to control depth of field. The image sensor is obviously not as great as a mirrorless or an SLR, and smartphone cameras do not generally perform well in low light. However, smartphone cameras are simple to operate and you almost always have them with you. This means that they are perfect for capturing candid shots - those unexpected moments which would otherwise go undocumented. And while a smartphone camera might not be able to capture crisp, bright portraits in low light, they are perfect for photographing shade and shadows. In fact, photographing twilight used to be my favourite thing to do with my iPhone camera. Even though some of the shots would be grainy, I felt that this added to the character of the images, making them all the more evocative. Similarly, though close-up portraits might not be the forte of a smartphone camera, their wide angle makes smartphones perfect for photographing distant landscape shots, which in turn makes them a great tool for capturing negative space in your imagery

As for my Canon EOS 40D, I have it permanently attached to my 50mm prime lens. This makes it an amazing tool for photographing close-up portraits, as the 50mm focal length creates minimal distortion of facial features when you photograph someone from a short distance. Some of my favourite portraits of the boys are taken with the 40D , and whenever I look at those images, I marvel at their stunning, crispy quality. I know, however, that this magic only happens when certain lighting conditions are met. The 40D sensor is not fantastic in low light conditions, and with the ISO only going up to 1600, nice portraits after 6pm (in natural light) are almost impossible. Whilst the Canon EOS 40D is not a camera that I would carry everywhere with me, I do try to pull it out every month or so to document my growing boys, and I also use it to capture close-up shots at family events like birthdays and Christmas lunches.

The x100s is, of course, my weapon of choice these days for creating imagery. Through constant usage and practice, my hands can adjust the various functions without my brain even having to think about it much. I know where all the dials are, and I know what they do. But more importantly, I know what my x100s can do, and what it can't do. It can't take close-up portraits well, because the wide angle lens distorts facial features when taken at a short distance. It doesn't auto focus particularly quickly or accurately. But, my x100s has the most amazing image sensor which means image quality is simply stunning; the fact that the ISO goes up to 6400 means that even in extremely low light, I can create amazing imagery. It also has a 'Peak Highlights' feature that makes manual focusing a treat, which for me, has been the answer to most of my auto-focusing woes. The wide angle lens, whilst not the particularly suited to close-up portraits, makes it perfect for all the still life and landscape imagery that I love to create. The 23mm lens (equivalent to a 35mm on a full frame camera) also makes it an excellent camera for event photography because it enables me to capture an entire scene, allowing me to tell more of a story in every single frame. 

So, friends, if you have a heart for improving your imagery, take the first step and get to know the camera that you have today.

Don't set all your hopes on that other camera. 

Know your camera, and the rest will follow.

You can read the other posts in this series here.

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