Photo Tip Friday: Learn the Craft of Photography, Practice and Have Fun!

by Mary Denman     @MaryDenman

Recently, I was asked to talk about my personal photographic journey. About how I developed my style. How changing technology has impacted my photography. 

I'm so glad I was asked.


I was surprised by what I found, and I think it might be encouraging to you!

Let's compare some photos I took in 1997 with my old print film cameras versus some 2016 shots taken with my current camera. 

Honestly, I'm surprised people told me I was a good photographer back then! 

PHOTO 1 (unretouched)
PHOTO 1 is from a family beach trip. 

I cringe at this shot now. There's a pole coming out of my sister's head! I did okay with the difficult lighting. Not great mind you, but okay. But that pole is distracting!

Remember, this was in the print days where you took a shot and saw the results after you processed the film. 

Obviously, I wasn't really paying attention to the surroundings like I do now. I would have move in closer or changed my position so the pole wouldn't have even made the picture. 

PHOTO 2 (unretouched)
In PHOTO 2, I took an indoor shot of my daughter and her cousin. While it is nice of them, again, I cringe that I cut their feet off in the shot. I didn't frame it properly. 

Plus, as I went through more photos of that trip, I realized that I relied on the flash too much for indoor photography.

I much prefer to use natural lighting in my current photography. I think it softens the subjects more. 

There is a place for flashes, but I relied on them too much 20 years ago. 

PHOTO 3 (unretouched)
In PHOTO 3, my daughter is the clear subject of the shot. 

The background is nice and uncluttered. 

This is a picture I'm a little more pleased with! 

Her hair blowing in the wind adds to the feel of the picture. 

So, let's jump to 2016. 

PHOTO 4 (unretouched)
PHOTO 4 is from a shoot I did recently. This is my friend Alycia who's a writer and editor. She needed new head shots for social media and her business. 

Over the years, I've learned how to make people feel comfortable to be in front of the camera. 

Too, I've learned how to simplify the background to make sure the focus is where the focus needs to be. On the subject. 

Head shots and conference photography have become my speciality. I love the interaction with my subjects. 

Another huge part of photography that I've learned that has helped improve is all about the lighting. You must have light to even take a picture. So you need to learn about how much lighting affects your pictures and how to use it. See how even the light is on Alycia in photo 4 versus the strong shadows of photo 1? I made sure the lighting was right. 

PHOTO 5 (unretouched)
PHOTO 5 shows how I've developed a more artistic side to my photography. As Alycia leaned against the brick wall, I created strong visual lines that draw your attention to her. 

I didn't do shots like this back in 1997. 

So why am I doing them now? 

Because I love photography and I'm committed to learning more. I will always be a photographer. I will always strive to get better. To learn and try new things. 

I love seeing amazing shots from other photographers. I study them. Try to emulate them. And I try to teach what I know and learn here on my blog. I want you to be able to take better pictures. 

I want you to see that I had a long way to go back in '97. Practice does indeed help!!

Plus, digital technology has made it so much easier to learn photography. 

Daffodil (unretouched)
When you take a digital shot, you can critique it immediately and change the settings or reframe it to get the picture you want. 

Years ago, it might be a few weeks in between taking a photo and seeing it printed. Unless you wrote down what settings you used at the time, the learning curve took weeks or months to master. 

Technology is changing that!

A new compact camera from a company called Light has an interactive touch screen built right in allowing you to edit photos the instant they are taken. It's an intriguing technology and I'm very excited about it. 

Several years ago, a cell phone camera produced very poor quality images. Now, some people use their cell phones cameras almost exclusively. I'm a fan of DSLR, Point and Shoot, and cell phone cameras. They each have their place. 

So, as I've gone back to really study my old shots, I got exited to share with you that I have improved greatly over the years. And that means you can too! 

I love teaching here and will continue to do so. There's a lifetime of learning ahead. And I think that's really, really, exciting! 

But my biggest tip for today is: Be encouraged! Practice really helps! If I could improve as much as I did, you can too. 

What are some of the lessons you've learned about photography over time? Are you discouraged or excited about learning more?

ASSIGNMENT: Grab your camera and photograph the people nearest you. Try different lighting. Make them feel comfortable. Just get your camera and GO! Practice. Review the shots and try again! This is how you will get better. 

Hope these tips help!
Keep on clicking!





  1. I love that you have been so brave to share your older work! I'm no great photographer, I'm always a bit disappointed that I can't capture what my eyes can see. To get tips like your wall idea is so helpful.
    I do love instagram, it's a great place to experiment and be inspired.

    1. I love Instagram too! I've just recently figured out how cool it is!

  2. Everything else aside - isn't it just plain fun to be browsing through the old film photos? I don't do it nearly often enough. And I keep telling myself 'you need to scan them, scan them now'. Yeah, right...
    I wished you lived around the corner. I could really use a 'good' headshot of myself - sigh - I'm a typical case of 'photographer in front of a camera'. I really love your shot with the leading lines of the wall, that one is awesome!

    1. Thanks Claudia! I wished we lived near each other. I think we'd have a blast with photography together. I love your fine art photography. And I'm just like you about my head shot. I handed my hubby the camera and tried to direct him while he took MY picture! :)

      PS....Quick tip...I took a picture of my old pictures. Sooooo much easier than scanning. You can even set up your camera on the tripod and blow through reams of old print pictures.

  3. Thanks for visiting my blog, linking up, and leaving a comment! But, today I'm visiting your blog via Photo Friday. That way you get a click from me and I can say I participated in the blog hop. (Smile!) I really enjoyed this post and I can identify with a lot of what you experienced, though you're still the better photographer. (Wink!) Have a great day and a blessed Sunday!

    1. Thanks Tina! It was actually fun to go back and see some older pics I took, and how much I've improved. Again, hope for others! I enjoy your photography, you have some beautiful shots! And, if you visit the US again, I hope we get to meet!

  4. This is so interesting. I'm certainly no photographer but love learning all I can about photography. I wish I could remember all the technical stuff though! Thanks for linking up to the ultimate rabbit hole! (shannon@ my2morrows)

    1. Shannon, that's great that you want to keep learning. If you keep learning, you'll get better and better!
      Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Great tips and I enjoyed learning more about your photographic journey.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to stop by Sammie! And thanks for hosting each week!

  6. Isn't it amazing how you can look back and see how much you've improved! I've started to take my DSLR out a little more often these days. I was starting to rely to heavily on my iPhone...

    1. A DSLR is like riding a bike...once you take it up again, you'll remember how! Thanks for dropping by!

  7. Thanks so much for all the tips Mary. I also look back at one year ago when I started my blog and at how horrible the quality of the photography was. It didn't take me long to realize that I would have to improve something in order to attract viewers. After all they are not going to come just for the writing. I think a good home website must have great photography. So all of your tips are invaluable to me. Thank you for joining me over at Sweet Inspiration.

    1. I'm so glad the tips are helpful Mary! You're right about good photography on your site. I'm glad it's been improving. I feel the same way with mine!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  8. Practice does make all the difference!

    1. It really does, and I love practicing it! :)