I have been an animator for 15 years, I have animated for computer games, short films and television commercials, I love animation and never thought I would do anything else. Then in 2003 I got my first SLR, my Canon 10D. Digital SLRs had just become affordable for non-professionals and I decided to take the plunge. I’d never owned an SLR before, I didn’t know what any of the millions of buttons did, I was kind of embarrassed to take it out in public because I didn’t know what I was doing…so I put it in a drawer and left it there for nearly a year. At the beginning of 2004 I made the resolution that I was going to figure it out so I took a class for beginners and started to learn about what all those buttons do. Then I found out I was expecting my daughter and I knew I had to learn quickly so I could take all the millions of photos first-time parents have to take!
Still I was very unsure and not very good and I took thousands and thousands of rubbish photos. They were grainy or blurry or over-exposed but I was determined to master it. When Eve was about nine months old I started this blog, mainly as a way to keep in touch with friends and family in other countries, and I started to post my photos. Then I discovered photobloggers…people taking photographs I could only dream of and actually sharing how they did it. Finally I started to get better. In 2006 I was nominated for a best Photoblogger award in the Irish Blog Awards, some kind soul actually liked my photos! Since then I have continued to learn and hopefully get better thanks to the help of wonderful photographers all over the world who are kind enough to share their knowledge. In May of 2007 I got my first paying photography job and I launched Gingerpixel Photography and now shoot portraits, weddings and events all over the country. If you would like to know more about the services I offer you can email me at claireATgingerpixelDOTcom or check out my newborn photography website and my wedding photography website.
In the spirit of paying it forward, I am happy to answer the questions I get about my photography (or anything as long as it’s not too personal!)…I’m not an expert by any means but if I’ve learnt anything along the way I’ll gladly pass it along.
What camera do you use? Can you recommend a camera for me?
I still use my old faithful Canon 10D. I know that camera so well at this stage it’s like an extra limb. It’s not possible to buy anymore though (unless you get an old secondhand one) in fact Canon has now updated it many times. Canon (and Nikon) has great entry-level cameras and if you have the money then they probably don’t have the failing of the 10D which was that it was impossibly grainy if you had to set the ISO above 400 which is what you need to do for low-light photography. **Update April 08, I finally invested in the oh so wonderful Canon 5D. My 10D has been retired in comfort. **Update February 09, I took the plunge and upgraded to the fabulous 5D MkII, I didn’t think there could be much improvement on the original but I’ve been amazed at the clarity of this camera.
It’s very difficult to recommend a camera for someone else, it all depends on their budget and ambitions. One thing I have learned is that the camera isn’t half as important as the lens you have on it. Which leads me to the next question…
What lenses do you use?
I use three lenses and they cover most situations:
1. My very first lens was a Canon 17-40mm f4 L lens and it’s still one I will stick on my camera when I’m heading out exploring. It gives a lovely quirky feel when it’s at its widest and the colours and contrast are lovely. Its only downsides are that it’s not the sharpest lens and once the light goes down it’s not much good on my camera so I can rarely use it indoors.
2. To make up for some of these downsides I recently added a Canon 28mm f1.8 lens. Not as wide but still good for indoors and group shots and for when I want to get close and capture details.
3. My absolute favourite lens is the Canon 35mm 1.2L. I just love the 35mm format since it has a cinema look that I love and this is a peach of a 35mm. Smooth, crisp and the colours pop. Most of my recent photographs on the blog have been taken with this lens
4. I also have a Sigma 50mm 2.8 Macro, a Canon 85mm 1.8, a Canon 28mm 1.8, a Canon 50mm 1.2L and a Canon 70-200mm 2.8. I bought the 50mm for the Macro setting which lets me get super close to chubby baby cheeks and tiny toes but it started my love affair with the 50mm. The 85 is often neglected as I just prefer to get up close and use the 50 for portraits although it’s still a great lens. The 70-200 is my least favourite lens, I use it during wedding ceremonies when I need to be able to stand back out of the way but that’s the only time it comes out of my bag.
A good photographer isn’t about the gear, but great lenses make the job so much easier. If you have the money, invest in good lenses. www.fredmiranda.com is the place to go to read up on them all.
Do you use Photoshop?
Oh yes, I love using Photoshop. I don’t like to change the photographs though and I’m always trying to get things right in the camera so I don’t have to fix things so much as enhance what’s there. I use photoshop to boost the colours and the contrast and put a bit of extra sparkle into eyes, that kind of thing. I also use it for converting images into Black and White, I wrote about one of my favourite methods for doing that here. Photoshop allows you to save your most commonly-used processes as actions so you can do multiple steps with one click but it can still take awhile. I also use Adobe Lightroom which is great for tackling large numbers of photographs in a fraction of the time.
Do you shoot RAW or JPG?
I used to use RAW, but I found my cards got filled up really quickly and my computer was bulging at the seams so nowadays I shoot JPEG and really work on getting my images right in camera.
Do you still do animation?
Not so much, although Animation is still my first love and I have a number of clients and studios I regularly work for. In 2004, when my daughter was born I decided to leave the studio system and work freelance and that’s what I still do now. I don’t talk about my animation work on the blog so much because I’m not allowed to talk about the projects until they are released.