How I Learned to Take Better Photos With The Photography Essentials Program!

by | Beginner, Technical


I love to see the Ah-Ha moments in students when they start to see that they can take better photos. You know, those moments when it just “clicks” …when it all starts to come together for a student, and I can see it in their photos. Gone are the days of out-of-focus snapshots…they are now producing crisp, tack-sharp professional-looking pictures. Pictures that they are proud to show off! And I love even more to hear the stories of where they started and how proud they now feel showing off their amazing shots!

Today, I am going to share one of my students, Christina’s story, and her before and after photos with you.

If you are already in the Photography Essentials Class, I hope that Christina’s story and photos motivate and inspire you to pick up that camera every day. If you aren’t a student in the Photography Essentials Program, I hope you read on to see just how Christina achieved these fantastic photos.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us where exactly you are on your photographic journey?

My name is Christina. I’m married with two daughters, ages 14 and 10. Photography has always been a hobby of mine, and I’ve always looked for ways to improve myself.

What made you want to learn photography?

My interest in photography started around the time I was 13 or 14 years old. My sister and I were both on the yearbook staff. She was in high school, I was in middle school, and my dad had built us a darkroom in our basement. I remember my dad bringing out some old pictures he took as a teenager, and he had the negatives. Not only that, he still had the darkroom equipment he had used. It was so fascinating watching these old negatives come to life. I don’t really remember ever having any lessons in photography, but I always had that Minolta film camera with me at school taking pictures. I would always hear, “Here comes Christina with the camera!” and either my subjects would run or pose, not necessarily what I wanted. I would go home after school, excited to develop the pictures I captured.

As I got older, I still loved the idea of photography and wanting to capture the moment, but I never had the money to go to school. Unfortunately, my camera didn’t get used as much in my early 20s. The longer I waited, the more technology started to change. Then came digital. I could see the pictures right after I took them! There were more settings, such as Auto! Why wouldn’t anyone not want to use Auto? If the camera can figure it out, why keep fumbling with these dials and watching the exposure meter? It would be about 10-15 years later how wrong I was.

How did you begin learning photography?

I was 30 when I had my first daughter. The camera was back in my hands regularly, not missing a moment of my daughter’s first few years. For the most part, all pictures were still on Auto, and occasionally I would attempt to try to remember manual from my teenage years. I would get frustrated and switch back to Auto.

When my girls were around 7 and 3 years old, a local photographer was having a Mini Special. I jumped right on it, as the only other “professional” pictures we had, were from a studio chain. On the day of the Mini session, it was cold and windy. The conditions probably weren’t ideal for young kids getting their pictures taken, especially my three-year-old. The pictures were just…ok with red noses and all. I don’t blame the photographer, but when I looked at the pictures, I thought I could do better!

When did you realize that you wanted or needed to learn more to take better photos?

I realized if I wanted to get that “Kodak Moment,” I needed to learn the camera. Not just Auto, but all the settings. The other buttons I was too afraid to touch. At that time, I started reading my camera manual but went to books, tons of books, FB Photography groups, and YouTube. I started working in manual again, but then, there was another setting- Aperture Priority. I loved Aperture Priority! One less thing I need to figure out on settings, as it figured out my shutter speed for me. But even then, not all my pictures were to my satisfaction. I was missing something, but I didn’t know what it was. Again, back to YouTube, how to do this, how to do that, same with FB groups. I was familiar with some of the terminology thrown at me with the background I had, but it didn’t mean I understood it. No matter how it was explained. So I went with what I knew and tried my best, slowly seeing results.

It wasn’t until this past March that I started to see the missing puzzle pieces, I knew I wanted to take better photos, so I joined Dena’s classes. How the Rule of Thirds can make or break a picture, how the shutter speed and ISO work together, White Balance (I’m still working on those). It’s all in steps, which I wasn’t doing. I was trying to throw it all together.

What is one thing you wished that you had learned earlier?

If I could go back in my early years of the camera, I would have stayed on manual. But you know what? It’s never too late to learn new things.

When I signed up for Dena’s class, Beginner Photography Essential, I didn’t know what to expect, let alone if I was even going to have time to do it.
I was surprised by how easy and simple it was. Dena didn’t throw out photography language that few beginners, if any, would know as most Facebook Photography groups and or classes do. Her classes explained WHY; why my aperture needs to be at a particular place. WHY I should look for the light and not just the location.

I took all three of her classes, and I learned so much from each class. Each lesson in her classes went by steps. The lessons didn’t rush from one to another.
I never thought I would take pictures indoors with limited light. I was actually intimidated by it. Dena explains what light to look for and how and where to position your subject for the perfect picture. When it came to outdoor photography, I knew the best times to shoot were early morning before 10 am and golden hour, but I didn’t know how to work with shadows and open shade, and I learned how in Dena’s Let in the Light class.
With all of the classes, you can go at your own pace, and they can be downloaded as well. If it took me longer on one lesson, I could go back to it as needed. If I still didn’t understand, Dena was right there at the keyboard, happy to help.

reviews of photography class

What is one thing you would say to photographers just starting out?

To those who are starting out, take your time, breath, focus. Learn from your mistakes. One of my favorite quotes is,
“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t turn out, take another shot.”

I want to thank Christina for taking time out of her life to share with us the story of her photography journey. I hope that her story inspires you to pick up that camera, begin learning in a guided manner, and never give up on your passion for photography. Check out The Beginners Photography Essentials if you are looking for the Perfect Program to learn how to take control of your camera, or the Let in the Light Essentials if you want to learn how to find the correct lighting and make it work for you.

Lifestyle Photographer & Mentor

Hi, I’m Dena, a natural light lifestyle photographer with 20+ years of experience capturing other people’s memories and teaching photographers how to understand and easily use their cameras.

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You have a great camera, but you still aren’t getting the photos you want — the photos that truly WOW you! My Photography Essentials Cheat Sheets will help you improve your photos in just minutes!



You have a great camera, but you still aren’t getting the photos you want — the photos that truly WOW you! My Photography Essentials Cheat Sheets will help you improve your photos in just minutes!