Progessions of a Madman: A journey into My Photograpic Evolution: Episode 1

I've been severely neglecting my blog, and in my never-ending search for new content I've come up with sort of a weekly photo series where I'll show you a series of photos, old and new, to illustrate and discuss how I advanced from new photographer with zero knowledge and even less skill, to where I am now as a photographer. This is the first edition of what I'm tentatively calling "Progressions of a Madman" - if you've got a better title, feel free to leave it in the comments - and over the next few weeks, maybe longer, I'll be taking you on a photographic journey through space and time and hopefully help someone who's new to photography avoid making the same mistakes I made in the beginning and, in some cases, the not-so-beginning.

Each blog post will have, hopefully, 3 photos from different periods in time to show how my composition, in-camera exposure and post-production have changed and progressed since day 1. I can't say how long I'll run with this, but for now, let's get started with one of the first photos I ever shot after picking up a Nikon D5200 with the kit 18-55 f/3.5-5.6, before I had any other gear and didn't know how to use what I did have:

2014:

The beginning is always a good place to start, no? With that in mind, let's go all the way back to Christmas Eve 2014, just about one month to the day after I picked up my first DSLR. Here's a photo of a friend of mine at a Christmas dinner. It's terrible, but I'm not embarrassed to share:

Aside from the obviously very distracting background and the overall lack of bokeh, the image just isn't  that  sharp. Now, that's not a focus issue and has everything to do with using a kit lens, but look at that composition. Yikes! These are the things you  don't  notice as a noob with a camera - no, I was not a photographer, I was a noob with a camera - and the result is photos like this. If I could shoot this over again with the knowledge I possess now, I'd have shifted my subject to the right of the frame and put the white wall over her left shoulder in the frame to keep the distracting, cluttered background full of bags and coats out of the shot entirely, and I would have moved some of the junk on the table in front of her out of the way to get her entire hand holding the wine glass in the shot  There's also the issue of noise from the high ISO - remember, I didn't have an external flash at this point, and I was afraid to use the pop-up flash, so I had to bump my ISO for everything without understanding what exactly that did. Obviously, if I were shooting this today I'd set up a pair of speedlights off-camera and light her properly, but that's neither here nor there. The other issue I'd like to point out is that my editing SUCKED! I can't go back through my Lightroom catalog from this long ago because I've changed computers and don't have anything older than early 2015 in Lightroom anymore, but just eyeballing it, it looks like I destroyed the highlights  and the  white point, took the shadows up way too high and didn't bring the blacks down nearly enough. There's also  zero  contrast, which left me with a flat, uninspiring image that would have only been marginally better with my current workflow.  2015:  Moving right along, let's skip ahead just about 4 months to April 2015 and what has become one of my favorite photos over time. I've re-edited it a couple times over the past 2 years, so I'll show you what it looked like in 2015 and then I'll show you what it looks like now after developing my workflow and editing skills. Here's the original in all its poorly processed glory:

Aside from the obviously very distracting background and the overall lack of bokeh, the image just isn't that sharp. Now, that's not a focus issue and has everything to do with using a kit lens, but look at that composition. Yikes! These are the things you don't notice as a noob with a camera - no, I was not a photographer, I was a noob with a camera - and the result is photos like this. If I could shoot this over again with the knowledge I possess now, I'd have shifted my subject to the right of the frame and put the white wall over her left shoulder in the frame to keep the distracting, cluttered background full of bags and coats out of the shot entirely, and I would have moved some of the junk on the table in front of her out of the way to get her entire hand holding the wine glass in the shot

There's also the issue of noise from the high ISO - remember, I didn't have an external flash at this point, and I was afraid to use the pop-up flash, so I had to bump my ISO for everything without understanding what exactly that did. Obviously, if I were shooting this today I'd set up a pair of speedlights off-camera and light her properly, but that's neither here nor there. The other issue I'd like to point out is that my editing SUCKED! I can't go back through my Lightroom catalog from this long ago because I've changed computers and don't have anything older than early 2015 in Lightroom anymore, but just eyeballing it, it looks like I destroyed the highlights and the white point, took the shadows up way too high and didn't bring the blacks down nearly enough. There's also zero contrast, which left me with a flat, uninspiring image that would have only been marginally better with my current workflow.

2015:

Moving right along, let's skip ahead just about 4 months to April 2015 and what has become one of my favorite photos over time. I've re-edited it a couple times over the past 2 years, so I'll show you what it looked like in 2015 and then I'll show you what it looks like now after developing my workflow and editing skills. Here's the original in all its poorly processed glory:

Couple things, it's obviously  way  too warm. This is back when I was terrified of trying to color correct on a horrible, old, cheap, uncalibrated monitor. I wouldn't even  attempt  to touch the temp and tint sliders, so every photo I shot was either in black and white or had that ugly orange tint to out from the in-camera auto white balance. This was, however, shot on a Nikon 50mm 1.8 with a cheap Nissin Di466 mini speedlight that didn't swivel and only went up and down 90*. But hey, I was doing flash photography! Go me! Yeah, this image sucked in terms of processing, especially the  heavy  contrast,, but I always thought it captured a nice moment at an event I shot for shits and giggles as I learned photography way back when, but my processing was sorely lacking in 2015. It's not perfect, but I was still new at this and I always thought the moment was cool.  Here's the same photo re-edited on a shiny new professionally calibrated, high quality display:

Couple things, it's obviously way too warm. This is back when I was terrified of trying to color correct on a horrible, old, cheap, uncalibrated monitor. I wouldn't even attempt to touch the temp and tint sliders, so every photo I shot was either in black and white or had that ugly orange tint to out from the in-camera auto white balance. This was, however, shot on a Nikon 50mm 1.8 with a cheap Nissin Di466 mini speedlight that didn't swivel and only went up and down 90*. But hey, I was doing flash photography! Go me! Yeah, this image sucked in terms of processing, especially the heavy contrast,, but I always thought it captured a nice moment at an event I shot for shits and giggles as I learned photography way back when, but my processing was sorely lacking in 2015. It's not perfect, but I was still new at this and I always thought the moment was cool.

Here's the same photo re-edited on a shiny new professionally calibrated, high quality display:

Much  better white balance and color representation, much better overall processing. Her skin isn't orange and her hair isn't glowing and shiny anymore. That kind of piggybacks on my blog post from last week about why you need a high quality, professionally calibrated display, which you can read  here . These two photos should have been included in that blog, in hindsight, but the difference in processing illustrates how having a good, properly calibrated display changes your editing dramatically.  2016:  Finally, let's wrap up with something from the not so distant past and show you something from June 2016.

Much better white balance and color representation, much better overall processing. Her skin isn't orange and her hair isn't glowing and shiny anymore. That kind of piggybacks on my blog post from last week about why you need a high quality, professionally calibrated display, which you can read here. These two photos should have been included in that blog, in hindsight, but the difference in processing illustrates how having a good, properly calibrated display changes your editing dramatically.

2016:

Finally, let's wrap up with something from the not so distant past and show you something from June 2016.

I had been shooting music almost exclusively and was on a bit of a hiatus at the time, so I did this for fun with a friend on a day where I was bored and she was in town, just for portfolio-building purposes. Available light, with an  alright  lens - Sigma 17-70 f/2,8-4 Contemporary - and I've since upgraded all of my glass, which you'll see more of by looking around my galleries, but also on this blog in future editions of this series. But, at the time, this lens was enough of an upgrade over my 18-55 kit lens that I bought it and ran with it, and it served me well for just over a year before it started to limit me creatively. I think this is a cool shot, but I've also always wanted more. You can see, though, that just over a year ago and less than two years after I started shooting, my photography had improved by leaps and bounds. I've progressed even more since then and am no longer afraid to experiment with angles and composition, and do creative things that maybe I was afraid to do even a year ago.  In the next edition I'll end with a more recent photo and, and I'll probably do a post in this series that focuses exclusively on music shots. That's all I've got for now, deuces.      

I had been shooting music almost exclusively and was on a bit of a hiatus at the time, so I did this for fun with a friend on a day where I was bored and she was in town, just for portfolio-building purposes. Available light, with an alright lens - Sigma 17-70 f/2,8-4 Contemporary - and I've since upgraded all of my glass, which you'll see more of by looking around my galleries, but also on this blog in future editions of this series. But, at the time, this lens was enough of an upgrade over my 18-55 kit lens that I bought it and ran with it, and it served me well for just over a year before it started to limit me creatively. I think this is a cool shot, but I've also always wanted more. You can see, though, that just over a year ago and less than two years after I started shooting, my photography had improved by leaps and bounds. I've progressed even more since then and am no longer afraid to experiment with angles and composition, and do creative things that maybe I was afraid to do even a year ago.

In the next edition I'll end with a more recent photo and, and I'll probably do a post in this series that focuses exclusively on music shots. That's all I've got for now, deuces.