For the past twelve weeks I’ve been participating in the Earnest Challenge, created by Erin at the Earnest Home Company. The challenge comprised working on a particular skills over twelve weeks and documenting it on my blog. Waaayyy back in June, I decided that I would devote much of my time this summer to developing my photography skills.

Back in the spring, I purchased a Nikon D3300 dSLR camera, and I can now say that I am completely, 100% satisfied with my purchase! Sure, I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do, but just learning a few simple functions has already upped my photography game.

This was the image that I chose as my starting point for the Earnest Challenge:

Joining in on the Earnest Challenge to improve my photography |by

Admittedly, I’m still pretty pleased with this photo. It never hurts when you have a beautiful subject like that delicate columbine blossom!

Since today is the final day of the Earnest Challenge, I thought I’d share five things I’ve learned as a newbie photographer. These five tips have been real game-changers for the quality of the photos I’m able to post on Flourish & Knot. I know that I still have a LONG way to go, but I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished in just two months.

So here we go… The five tips that have made me a better photographer in 12 weeks!

5 Things I've Learned as a Newbie Photographer |

1. Check that the photo is straight! 

Yes, you can fix things with editing software. But it is definitely easier to start with a straight photo than a crooked one! This is a mistake that I still make frequently, but I find myself noticing my errors more quickly. That’s progress, folks!

A beautiful sunset at Windy Ridge |

ISO 200 34mm f/6.3 1/500

This photo was taken at Windy Ridge on Palmerston Lake, Ontario. I’ve been coming to this cottage since I was a little girl, and the sunsets are always spectacular.

2. Set your camera in MANUAL mode!

99.9% of the photos I took this summer were taken in Manual mode. Not because I am an Automatic snob, but because I wanted to learn to do things myself. Using Manual mode forced me to take into account my aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and focus. I’m sure white balance comes into play somewhere in there, but I’ll be honest and say that I still have no idea what that is. Next week on Flourish & Knot… 🙂

A bee alighting on a globe thistle |

ISO 100 45mm f/6.3 1/80

I’m really proud of the depth of field I achieved in this photo. Each of the three globe thistles is in slightly less focus, and you can see just how fast those little wings are beating! I wish the bee was in a bit better focus, but that’s something I’ll be working on.

Duck at Ile Bizard

ISO 100 55mm f/7.1 1/200

This was a difficult shot because the duck was moving and it was bright, full, mid-day sun. I took this photo at the park on L’Ile Bizard. It’s a great place to go for wildlife photography!

3. Learn what are “Aperture”, “ISO”, and “Shutter Speed”.

These three elements were the main things I learned to manipulate this summer. I learned that the Aperture is like your eye’s pupil, and the larger it is, the more light it lets in. The ISO is the sensitivity of the camera to light. So, in a very bright setting, use the lowest ISO setting (100). In a darker setting, your ISO needs to be set much higher. I found this pin to be very useful:

Handy chart of ISO settings

Originally from the Forums of

Shutter speed is the rate at which your camera takes the photo. If an object is moving quickly, a higher shutter speed will allow you to capture the image more clearly. Longer shutter speeds require a super steady hand, and are best done with a tripod.

Erick and I took this photo using a long exposure and I love the result!

The moon captured on a slow shutter speed |

ISO 400 18mm f/4 2.5s

I love how the top half of the picture could practically be daylight but the bottom half is very clearly nighttime. Oh and I couldn’t have taken this photo without my handy-dandy new tripod!

4. Speaking of tripods…

Get yourself one! I absolutely love, love, love my Vanguard tripod! It was my combined birthday and anniversary gift this year from my thoughtful and supportive husband (thanks, love!) and I am really enjoying learning to use it. It has made a world of difference in the sharpness of the photos I’m taking.

5. Learn a few styling tricks.

This is something that I still REALLY need to work on, but I have made great progress this summer. I found this article from The Brewer and the Baker about food styling really helpful!
Food shoot styling from The Brewer and The Baker

Photo by The Brewer and the Baker

I emulated their set up for the photo shoot of my pesto recipe:

How I set up a food photo shoot |

I read somewhere on Pinterest that plain cookie sheets make good photo backdrops. This is the only one large enough that I could find, but I have my eyes open for a large, FLAT cookie sheet.

One of my plans for this fall is to collect up a few options to use as backdrops for my photos. I also need to get myself a new white foam core board to use as a light bounce.

So there you have them: the top five things I’ve learned as a total newbie photographer!

One goal that I wasn’t able to meet during this challenge was learning to use Photoshop Elements. Unfortunately, my five-year-old MacBook just doesn’t have enough apple juice (haha) left in it to properly run the programme. 🙁 On the plus side, it is a great incentive to begin saving for a new computer!

I’m so glad to have participated in the Earnest Challenge: it really pushed me to set measurable goals for my photography, and I’m grateful to Erin at the Earnest Home Company for getting the ball rolling. (Erin actually learned to play the ukulele as her Earnest Challenge skill! It made my music teacher’s soul happy – check it out!)

Oh, what’s that you say? You’d like to keep checking out my photography progress over the NEXT twelve weeks?! Well fancy you should ask, because I’m participating in an Instagram game, #HomeForTheFallidays, which will be taking place over the next twelve weeks! Each week myself and fifteen other bloggers will be posting our favourite fall images to our Instagram accounts. Each week will have a theme, and you can get on board by following the hostesses and using the #HomeForThe Fallidays hashtag. You can find all the details here!

Happy Labour Day to all my Canadian and American readers – I hope you enjoy the last day of our long weekend!


This post was featured at the Ultimate Pinterest Party!

Here’s where I link up each week:

Mondays: Merry MondayMonday FundayInspire Me MondayShow & TellLou Lou Girls

Tuesdays: Tell ’em TuesdayTwo Uses TuesdayTogether on TuesdaysTutorials & TipsTuesdays with a TwistHit Me with Your Best ShotTickle My TastebudsTreasure Box TuesdayTasty Tuesdays

Wednesdays: Pin Worthy WednesdaysWork it WednesdayWow Us WednesdayWake Up WednesdayWordless WednesdayWhimsy WednesdayWelcome Home Wednesdays

Thursdays: Think and Make ThursdayHandmade HangoutWeekend Re-TreatFavourite ThingsArtsy Fartsy Link PartyWhat to Do WeekendsFriday Features (Thursday)

Friday: Fiesta FridayFeathered NestFrugal FridayLink Party PaloozaFriday Favourites

Saturday: Share it One More Time

Sunday: Nifty Thrifty SundaySilver PenniesSundays at HomeThat DIY PartyFrugal Crafty Blog HopShare the Wealth SundayFood Stars

Monthly/Recurring: Great Blog TrainSunday Brunch

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