Photography: A One Year Journey in Pictures

The very first posts on my blog didn’t have pictures.  I’ve always liked words, but I was intimidated by pictures.  I didn’t even have a camera other than my phone, and my pictures never came out how I intended them.  I tried to make J take pictures for me with his camera, but I also didn’t like that idea because I wanted everything on my blog to be mine.

Slowly I began borrowing his camera (a Canon Powershot SX10), though I never took it off auto mode.  I produced masterpieces like these:


Kale Salad with Cheddar and Apples.  A delicious salad, not that you can tell from the photo.  I’ve been intending to remake this salad and give it a better picture.


Cornmeal Crusted Tofu with a Tomato Caper Sauce  Another delicious dish doomed by bad lighting, a dreadful presentation, and sad photography skills.

yuppie nachos

Yuppie Nachos.  This was by far the best picture from that period of my photography career.  I remember being very proud of it.  Granted, I just lucked out that the auto settings didn’t make everything dreadfully yellow, considering this photo was taken at 9:00 at night under our stove lights.  Still, these nachos are delicious (made with goat cheese, jack cheese and sundried tomatoes before being topped with guacamole), and I was pleased that the picture made them look like something I would actually want to eat.

Last March (2011), I purchased a LivingSocial deal for a 3 hour beginner’s photography class from Isla Studio.  J had been trying to show me things on his camera, but I knew I’d do better with a teacher.  I went over to San Francisco for the class with J’s camera.  There were maybe 25 students in this cool industrial space, with a whole range of cameras.  Some people had tiny point and shoots, and others had massive DSLRs with multiple lenses. 

Our instructor, Lindsey, was fantastic.  She explained everything simply with great photos to demonstrate, and she somehow found time to show each of us how to use our camera and find each setting we were discussing without ever letting the class lag.  After her class I almost never took my little Powershot off manual again.  (Unless I was trying to photograph a moving target in which case all bets were off).

 Ashley also has a great series of Photography 101 posts that have been really helpful to me:

Plus all her examples are pretty food pictures.

So armed with my newfound knowledge, my pictures started getting a lot better, very quickly.  These are all still taken with the Powershot SX10, but I was shooting in manual mode and had much better control over the camera.


Grilled Cheese with Extra Sharp Cheddar, Apples, and Whole Grain Mustard.  Still my very favorite sandwich.  I’d written about this perfect grilled cheese in one of my very first blog posts, but it was picture-less.  I hoped appetizing photographs would influence some of you to make this sandwich!


Roasted Zucchini and Potato Mole Tacos with Avocado.  Another photo I was so proud of.  I loved the colors (what’s not to like about a purple potato?), and I liked the lighting as well. 

I’d been borrowing J’s camera for nearly a year, and it mostly wasn’t a problem.  However, sometimes we’d be going different places and both want the camera.  I knew I’d eventually want to upgrade to a DSLR, but I didn’t have the money for it yet, and I was totally overwhelmed by all the different models and lenses.  I bought myself this tiny Canon Powershot ELPH 300 which I really liked.  It was tiny and easy to take on runs or bike rides.


I used it to take this picture of a lizard we saw on one of our hikes, and I was really happy with the quality.  For all of my food pictures, though, I was happy to continue borrowing J’s camera as long as it was available.

Around Thanksgiving, J started to talk about how he’d already thought of my Christmas present.  He taunted me with it for nearly six weeks.  He assured me that it was the best Christmas present ever.  That he knew I’d be so excited.  He wouldn’t give me any hints except that 1) I would love it, and 2) it was useful.  Let it be noted that when someone spends weeks telling you that they’ve bought you the best present in the whole world, it is hard to figure out what to get for their present! 

When Christmas finally came and we opened presents, I was completely shocked to see he’d gotten me a Canon 7D.  It was an incredible gift, and I was totally blown away.  He said he thought I’d gone as far as I could with his camera, and that I needed a better one to really make the most out of my photography.  I was so amazed, and must have thanked him a million times.  Even now, when I’m taking photos or going through the day’s photos at night I’ll thank him for my fancy camera.  I’m still just barely learning all of its tricks. 

Several days later, as I was celebrating Christmas with my family, I was shocked again to open a 50mm f/1.4 lens from my parents.  I could finally take artistic food photos with a super tight focus and very shallow depth of field (let’s just call that artistically blurry).  I think I unwrapped it, stared at the box in disbelief, and said to my mom “Really?!” My grandmother had even gotten me the perfect camera case to fit all my new toys!  J had put some serious coordinating into Christmas, and I was overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity.

I was determined to learn everything about my camera, and not become one of those people who has a fancy toy but no idea how to use it.


I bought a manual and got to studying.  Even though I’ve read the whole thing cover to cover, I think I’ve only mastered about 20% of my camera’s functionality.  Still, I’ve been able to take some incredible photographs.


Simple, Customizable Granola.  I loved how the colors of the craisins played against the pink of the bowl, and as well as how much texture there is in this photo.  I’ve also finally learned the lesson about natural light, which means I can take photos in my house, on my kitchen counter, between the hours of 2:30-3:30PM.  Which pretty much limits me to getting great photos on the weekend until it starts getting lighter much later.


Vegetarian Black Bean Soup.  This was my first picture that got accepted to FoodGawker, and I was over the moon with excitement.  Seriously, I called J and my parents and sent frantically excited emails like I’d just gotten into my first choice college, early admission. 

It’s been just a little less than a year from the first photo in this post to the last.  I’m thoroughly amazed when I look at the difference between them.  I still have so much to learn (manual focus, I’m going to master you one of these days!), but my photos are really starting to look exactly how I want them to, and that’s very exciting.


Here are all my tools, my little Canon ELPH 300 in red, J’s trusty Powershot SX10, and my new Canon 7d.  I’ve committed to taking at least one picture a day for all of 2012, though many days I’m up more around the 100 range, and up in the 500-700 range on the weekends.  I’m still taking lots of duds for each good photo, but I’ve learned so much about my camera, as well as about lighting and composition.  With any luck I’ll have improved even more in another year!


Photography: A One Year Journey in Pictures — 3 Comments

  1. I just got the 1.4 and am on pins + needles waiting for the day I can get the 7d!! Your photos are looking fabulous. Keep it up!! Thanks for the link love as well. 🙂

    • Thanks, Ashley! You’re going to love the 1.4. I’d already taken the photo class when you started posting the Photo 101 series, and it was the perfect refresher. I’ve recommended those posts to a lot of friends since then. They’re informative, but still easily accessible no matter your level of expertise. Plus, why not learn from pretty food pictures? 🙂

  2. I love this post. I got a DSLR this year, too, and have been pretty negligent in really getting to know it. I took a class and have been using the manual mode a little, but I am not using it to its potential.

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