Photography has been my longest running hobby, which I interestingly picked up rather late. I only really worked on it in my late 20’s. While some have had opportunities to play around with photos using film cameras, my hobby was more borne of the digital age.
This is a story I’ve prolly told my friends hundreds of times by now — I started with borrowing other folks’ digital cameras, mostly the point and shoot kind, to take photos before I was able to save up for my own. Bought my first camera, a Canon DSLR 400D + 50mm 1.8 prime as my walk-around lens, in 2008. Upgraded it to a Canon 60D in 2011 then invested in a Canon 50mm 1.2 prime L lens in 2014.
Back when I was just starting, I remember sitting in front of my brother’s boxy desktop (yes, it had a CRT monitor!), teaching myself to use Photoshop Essentials to process photos before moving on to later versions of the program. I still have this memory of how much I had been fond of diffusing light on my images using that thing. I’m now using Photoshop CC if I’m not too lazy but, normally, I’d simply use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.
I had been big on using photo sites before. I still have my Flickr account but I rarely use it now. It has all my earlier photos, even the ones from using P&S cameras. Now, I realised that I lost the habit of keeping a copy of my photos. I reckon years of stressing over storage space has taken its toll. To date, the number of EHDs I own is comical. Well, at least, to me, haha. I have 2 1TB EHD — an old one that you’d need to plug into an electrical socket, the other is portable — and 2 smaller-sized EHDs, 512GB and 256GB. Should I include the USB thingies? Anyway, I’ve had these things crash on me; requiring me to move files around. I grew tired of doing this so I had developed a system after processing wherein I’d just keep the ones I like on file, or would just upload them in an album on Facebook. Less attachments equal less stress, methinks.
Dreamcatcher – 2014 Bangkok trip, floating market
Although I don’t have too much time to take photos these days, I’d still try to do it once in a while (hopefully, esp when it matters). It’s a given that I’d take photos during some of my travels. But you know how it’s like when you’d be too lazy to lug around a big camera when your smartphone’s cam will do? That’s the case when I went to Phuket, or most of my trips to Yangon and Bangkok. My Instagram is filled with odd shots of things and sceneries that my big cam’s SD card has yet to hold.
Yet some occasions merit the use of the big cam, like my mom’s first trip to Yangon and Bangkok in 2014. I knew it’d be a shame not to. And I certainly was happy with the opportunity to take photos again and having been able to take ones that I would refer to as “money shots.”
Mom, 2014 Yangon-Bangkok trip, floating market
Money shots are the photos that can be considered the best of the lot. Yes, I take several shots of a single concept, or take more shots with multiple, varied concepts. This is why I sometimes dread to upload them for processing. I know it will take hours before I’d end up with a set of 10 decent ones to form a “series,” or, to be a little casual, an album. And out of this stack, you’d have that one favourite and, to me, I call that the money shot.
But what do you do with this hobby if you often stay at home? Well, I try to be a little creative — take a single concept then develop this more during the processing stage.
Take, for example, an odd accessory set against a light streaming from my bedroom window. The “story” of the photo was finalised during processing — to make it seem more interesting to look at.
Black Sequined Mask
Or, like when we had one big wall in the living room painted red last year. I did a self-portrait session to mark it (was pretty excited about that wall, haha).
Sasha Manuel – self portrait, Red Wall series
Not all photos I take end up being frame-material. It’s a hit or miss thing. Sometimes, I’d be lucky to have had my hands steady enough to capture that moment at the right time. Other times, not so much. I’ve scrapped hundreds of photos simply because they’re not “usable” or meets a certain grade I’ve set for a particular concept.
Sasha Manuel – self portrait, #NS30 series
With my recent #NS30 project, it needed me to take a fair amount of photos, not just of myself but of the products included in my regimen as well. I also needed the product photos for a website I’m building. Since I haven’t been using the big cam a lot, things were a bit frustrating for me. Esp since there’s a specific render I needed for the photos.
For the self portraits, I wanted it to look as natural as it possibly can. So from toggling the white balance, proper tone, exposure, sharpness, blah-blah-blah… I had to stay patient as I teach myself how to maximise what equipment and tools I have. It didn’t help that I was seemingly acting like a n00b by having issues with achieving clarity and light with just the camera. This ended up with me relying on the processing stage to salvage what photo I have. Talk about hundreds of hit or miss scenarios.
The other thing is, I realised how I tend to prefer shadows and noise in my photos — this ends up with a more sombre set of photos. As seen above, the self portrait was taken in Day 22 (used a different one for the project), shows you how my preferences lean toward this kind of processing. But the project needed a bit (a lot actually) of a lighter set. This was proving to be difficult esp when it comes to taking product photos.
How light? Er, check the photos of the products below.
Nu Skin Body Cleansing Gel
It was a “hit” moment when my camera’s LCD lit up and showed me this photo. It was exactly what I was going for. You don’t know how much I had wanted to jump around in celebration BUT I had to stay where I was and continue shooting, haha.
Prior, I had spent a few days taking photos of products only to end up with ones I can’t use. Imagine my frustration. No amount of processing can save them. It meant I had to redo most of my work. It isn’t easy since I rely on natural light along with my amateur skills as a photographer.
It was great that on my last photo session, I was able to recreate the setting and take somewhat similar photos. It still is not perfect (prolly never will be) but I’m hoping that when I get behind the camera again in the coming days, I’d be able to take better photos.
Nu Skin Night Supply Nourishing Cream
I’ve grown to accept that in photography, as in life, I will encounter a lot of hit or miss scenarios. It’ll just be a matter of how gracefully I will take the misses and celebrate the hits. Money shots are gold but I shouldn’t stop there. There are more moments to capture, which can give me way better photos. Telling myself to keep on learning and shooting. (Slightly off-topic: Reminds me of someone telling me to “aim less, shoot more” — simply meant to curb my habit of overthinking things.)
Your turn. What’s one hobby you’ve been doing for years?