Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday BFP!

I just noticed that passed its 2nd anniversary.  Here's the story of BetterFamilyPhotos so far:

Mic: I created this blog to improve my photography and share what I learned.  Our first blog post was on June 29, 2009.  When we first started, the blog was getting around 50 visits and 85 page views in a whole month.  Stats didn't improve and I got busy so after a few months, I stopped posting.  Then I noticed that I wasn't improving my photography, so I in March 2010, I relaunched the blog, and started mentioning it in forums such as DP Review.  From 50 visits and 56 views in February 2010, we suddenly got 472 visits and 995 views in March 2010.  I promoted the blog through even more active participation in DP Review, and we went from 464 visits and 1066 views in June 2010 to 2,475 visits and 5,168 views in July, then to 3,595 visits and 7,654 views in August.  From there, readership continued to increase gradually.  In June 2011, we ended the month with 5,922 visits and 10,655 views.  Those numbers are small relative to blogs like strobist, but it's nice to see it grow each month.

Meanwhile, my photography has evolved.  When I first started, all I cared about was that the light was soft and directional.

Indoors with bounce flash

When I wasn't bouncing the flash, I was using a handheld umbrella.

Outdoors with an umbrella

Now, I usually apply a lighter touch (pun unintended) with my flash to make it not just flattering but also less apparent.  Working on the blog has allowed me to do this by practicing techniques and concepts such as   light motivation (i.e., making sure the direction of light appears natural), balancing ambient and flash (particularly through a better understanding of TTL), color, and other factors.

Flash or no flash?  I hope to keep you guessing :)

I've also started to pay more attention to everything else other than the lighting, such as the emotion and the moment.  That would not have been possible without practicing so much to become  very comfortable with exposure and lighting so that I no longer have to take too much time thinking about them.

Little Ballerina

This year I've also started learning setup shots, which has opened many interesting creative possibilities.

BC31: Local Hiro

We also finally added a subject-by-subject index of the literally hundreds of articles on the blog.  (Check it out if you haven't done so.)

Probably the best development that has happened to this blog, though, is the addition of Mohammad Shafik to our team!  Mohammad was a regular reader of our blog who started commenting more often.  What I noticed in his comments is how much we had in common.  I thought it would be interesting to have another voice for the blog so I invited him to do a guest post and the rest is history.  I'll let Mohammad share his side of the story himself...  :)

Mohammad: It seems to be a very long time since I stumbled upon this blog, I was probably searching for something that had to do with lighting and speed lights when I first found Mic's blog. Back then I was starting to learn photography (and still am, will always be), and I was hungry for any photography tutorials blog, I remember that the blog was almost one year old and I quickly devoured all of Mic's posts and started following the blog via Google Reader where I'm subscribed to no less than 50 blogs/sites (a new post idea just popped up: my favorite blogs).

I was always interested in Mic's posts because of their originality, practicality and the prevailing "user perspective" tone in all of his posts, I felt how much he cared to explain things and make them simple to average users. I also noticed we had lots in common regarding photography, so I started actively commenting on Mic's posts when I had something useful to say, you can see my first comment on the blog here, it will show you how much we had in common. @Mic: Wow, I don't remember you wanted the AB1600 for such a long time, and you also said you won't be dragging it along. :grin:

So after a few comment and email exchanges with Mic, he suggested that I do a guest post to demonstrate some concepts I commented upon, I used to send him the post in a word document and attach the pictures to the email, and this was my first guest post on the blog. I did two more guest posts and then Mic added me as an author to the blog, my first post as an author was one of my more successful posts, the first installment of the Canon Lenses Chat. And speaking of firsts, this particular post is my first collaborated post with Mic and also my first post as an admin to this blog, thanks for the trust Mic. :-)

This was a quick background on me joining the "betterfamilyphotos" family. As for my photography, I started learning on an advanced P&S, the Canon G11 back in March 2010 , I knew very little back then about lighting, how cameras worked, techniques and even DSLRs (can you imagine that?). I quickly started learning via online tutorials, here's a summary of the breakthroughs that I went through in the past year and a half:
  • Mar 2010: Had my first good camera, the Canon G11, my main reason behind the G11 was to get better indoor pictures of my little girl, it was ok but not good enough.
  • Apr 2010: Caught the bug, bought my first cheap Chinese studio flashes, a couple of umbrellas and a light stand, this opened a new world for me regarding indoor pictures, I was finally able to use low ISOs and freeze my daughter, but the focusing speed and shutter lag of the G11 killed me.
  • May 2010: Discovered  Zack Arias' brilliant workflow post, it was the first time for me to successfully use RAW files and lightroom, my images had a huge boost in quality and color accuracy.
  • Jun 2010: Bought a couple of speedlites, a new 430EX and a used 580EX, and got a couple of eBay triggers. More lighting possibilities in outdoor environments, for all of my indoors shots I blasted both speedlights at the ceiling thinking that was how they were supposed to be used off-camera without light modifiers.
  • Jul 2010: I sold my G11 and finally made the jump to my first DSLR, the Canon 550D (T2i). I was in a different league regarding focusing speed, shutter lag and noise performance.
  • Aug 2010: Discovered the black foamie thing and Neil VN's world of on-camera directional flash, this lead to a huge jump in the quality and looks of my photos, still my favorite technique ever, especially that I hate to carry more than the camera, one lens and a flash at most.
  • Nov 2010: Joined this blog, this forced me to take more photos and try new techniques so that I am able to show the internet how they were done. From then on I started upgrading my photography kit including lenses, bags, modifiers, etc... until:
  • Apr 2011: Sold my 550D and bought the 60D + 580EX II during a trip to Malaysia.
  • Jun 2011: Bought my first softbox, the 24" Lastolite EzyBox, and took my first classic three light portraits (Key + Fill + Rim), I yet have to blog about it.

The above sort of sums up my not-so-long photography trip, and before I end this post I'd like to talk a bit about why I joined this blog in the first place, two main reasons, the first being my passion in teaching others about everything I know, if you know me in person you'd better be careful when you ask me questions, I might keep explaining to you everything related to the matter for hours on end, didn't you notice that my posts are usually lengthy? I also love reading long, detailed posts intertwined with personal opinions. So joining this blog opened a nice large door for me to teach and explain things I knew about photography. It makes me very happy when I read comments telling me that my post helped someone with a decision or a technique, that's why one of my favorite and most read posts is the Canon 60D vs Canon 550D & 600D, just look at the encouraging comments, guys, please keep them coming, I want to know that what I'm writing is interesting to you.

The second reason for joining this blog was to make it as generic as possible, i.e. Mic is using a Nikon system and I'm using a Canon system, so both of us would serve a wider audience than if it was a Nikon or Canon only blog.

So that's it, now you know all about me, my main photography now is centered around my little kids and my family, there are no real breakthroughs for me, but I'm quite interested in product photography, so I might expand into that area in the future, the only problem with product photography is that it requires a table and a large setup which is a hassle to keep installing and removing all the time unless I get a dedicated product photography room.

Thanks for all your support and for joining us on this adventure!  Happy Birthday BFP!

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