30 Days of Photography: The Pictures, the Process, and the Skills behind the Progress

For 30 days learning photography was my day-to-day. I followed more than 30 hours of photography and Photoshop courses and spent at least double that time putting everything I learned into practice. I enlisted the help and expertise of photo editing queens and kings and raged through the works of photography masters. This is a journal of the photos I took, and the courses and people behind them. 

Please note that this post is a work in progress · Last update: July 23, 2017*

Mirha Masala looking to photos on camera

photo & edits by Calvin Lee

For an overview of the resources mentioned below: gear · photography courses · Photoshop courses · applications · books · other

My goals for this spin-off were to overcome my fear of asking strangers for a picture and learn the basics of photography and Photoshop. My first challenge, however, was to sift through the mass of widely available information on photography and come up with a plan of action.

After a day at the library, and hours spent perusing the web, I first settled on learning street photography and opted for the Canon EOS 760D paired with a 24mm lens as my weapon of choice. Then, as I stumbled upon Udemy’s online learning platform, I knew I had found the core of my study material.

I chose two photography and two Photoshop courses and went with a short course and a long one on both subjects. The idea was that following a short course first would set me up with enough basic skills to prevent me from hiding behind my computer and how-tos for too long. The idea worked, almost too well. 

Some part of me hoped that I would need a week to get through my camera’s manual only, but Pullos’ one-hour beginner’s class (photo day 1) got me out on the streets, fumbling with all-new-to-me settings and panning cars, on day two of my spin-off already. And Chad Neuman’s course “Photoshop Beginners Mastery: Zero to Hero in Photoshop” (photo days 7 + 8) did the same trick but for Photoshop and in 2.5 hours. 

With a raving head start like that, I was then able to take my time and gradually delve deeper into more intermediate photography and Photoshop techniques. Phil Ebiner’s “Photography Masterclass” (14.5h) guided me through every letter in the photography alphabet (photo day 18), and Manfred Werner’s Photoshop course (30h) is a gold mine that I’m still digging my way through on weekends (photo days 24 + 25).

During my search, I also discovered Eric Kim’s articles on photography, of which I went through many. It’s Mr. Kim who convinced me that I didn’t need a high-end camera to get started, and it’s his voice in the back of my head that has kept me from adding a second lens to my arsenal. 

I also used Eric Kim’s workbook “Street Notes” (photo days 2, 3, 9, 16–3), complemented with Duchemin’s “Ten” and “Ten More” (photo days 9, 14, 16–234), as the guidelines for my photography practice. The first assignment in “Street Notes”–Five Yes, Five No– helped me overcome my fear of asking strangers for photos (photo day 2, 16–1). I technically failed this exercise, by the way, as I never got five people to decline my request.

Although my study program was abundant as is, I also still wanted to include a classic how-to photography book, like Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure,”  of which I had read an older edition some time ago. Then, Amazon’s “Customers who bought this item also bought” feature got the better of me, and before I knew it, I had added Peterson’s “Exposure Solutions” (photo days 29 + 30) to the reading list as well.

Lastly, there were the cream and cherries smack on top of my learning experience. A Skillshare class by master photographer Daniel Krieger; a trip to Mumbai, a chance at channeling the Steve McCurry in me (photo day 14 and onwards); and the sweetest of berries, no doubt, the handful of photographers who agreed to teach me the secrets of the trade.

Dee Alkhatib guided me through her photo editing workflow, pixel by pixel, sharing her hard-won skills without reservation. She let me record her creative process and answered every question I had. I was awe-struck by her generosity. And when she left, she left me with a huge smile on my face, mad know-how on how to turn days into star-sprinkled nights, and a bucket of soy pudding in my fridge.

Rushdi Jamari spent a late afternoon walking me through his camera settings and most-used photography applications. He demonstrated his editing process, first on one of his photos, and then on one of mine (photo day 22). He shared his insight into the local photography community with passion and in length. And as if that wasn’t enough, he offered to introduce me to the creative bunch he works with, and then went on to present me to every creative friend he knew in the cafe where we had met.

Calvin Lee is the friend I can always count on to say “yes” to going shooting. He knows the best photo locations in town, and when others insist on keeping them secret, Calvin advocates transparency and creative generosity. He not only shoots and tells, he even sometimes takes a few lucky ones by the hand and shows them his favorite spots himself (photo day 5).

There are three other people, who weren’t directly involved in this spin-off, but to whom I nonetheless owe part of its success. Like, Arjen Calter, who gave me my first crash course in Photoshop years ago. Silvia Falcomer, who let me shadow her every shutter release on our trip in Seoul. And, Mr. G, who let me shoot with his dear-bought DSLR, always in auto mode, and in the sandiest of places, since our first holiday together.

PHOTO DAY 1 · moving away from auto mode

Followed photography course “Beginner Canon Digital SLR (DSLR) Photography” by JP Pullos.

PHOTO DAY 2 · shooting strangers

Photo assignment no.1 “5 Yes, 5 No’s” from “Street Notes: A Workbook & Assignments Journal for Street Photographers” by Eric Kim.

PHOTO DAY 3 · some like it clean

Photo assignment no.2 “Clean Background” from “Street Notes: A Workbook & Assignments Journal for Street Photographers” by Eric Kim.

PHOTO DAY 5 · walk the walk

Joined my friend Calvin’s photo walk, “Go Back To School – NTU edition.”

PHOTO DAYS 7+8 · zero to hero

Followed “Photoshop Beginners Mastery: Zero to Hero in Photoshop” by Dr. Chad Neuman.

photo by Mr. G, edits by me

PHOTO DAY 9/30 · getting closer

Photography exercise “Simplify” from “Ten More: Ten More Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear” by David Duchemin & photo assignment no.4 “Subtract, Subtract, Subtract” from “Street Notes: A Workbook & Assignments Journal for Street Photographers” by Eric Kim.


PHOTO DAY 12 · give me stars

Photo editing session with Dee Alkhatib.

photo & edits by Dee Alkhatib

photo by me, edits by Dee Alkhatib

photo by Mr. G, edits by me

PHOTO DAY 14 | pt.1 · mono, I’m in love

Photo exercise no.10 “Shoot Monochrome” from “Ten More: Ten More Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear” by David Duchemin.


PHOTO DAY 14 | pt.2 · the one before my battery died


PHOTO DAY 16 | pt.1 · overcoming the fear of asking, again


PHOTO DAY 16 | pt.2 · giving up on contrast

Photo exercise no.2 “Better Contrast Creates Better Stories” from “Ten More: Ten More Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear” by David Duchemin.

PHOTO DAY 16 | pt.3 · trying depth

Photo assignment no.4 “Create Depth” from “Street Notes: A Workbook & Assignments Journal for Street Photographers” by Eric Kim and photo exercise no.4 “Create Depth” from “Ten More: Ten More Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear” by David Duchemin.

PHOTO DAY 16 | pt.4 · what about art

Photo exercise no.6 “Pay Attention to the Moment” from “Ten More: Ten More Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Gear” by David Duchemin.


PHOTO DAY 17 · three out of hundred


PHOTO DAY 18 | pt.1 · markets no more 


PHOTO DAY 18 | pt.2 · focus at last

Discovering the diopter adjustment dial (“Photography Masterclass: Your Complete Guide to Photography“, section 4, lesson 27, “How to Adjust the Viewfinder Focus”).

PHOTO DAY 20 · white skies killing me softly

Learning Lightroom and how to get some color in overexposed skies back.


PHOTO DAY 21 · damn you, “quick” selection tool

Learning to composite pictures in Photoshop.

PHOTO DAY 22 · glitter, and pop

Photo editing session with Rushdi Jamari.

photo & edits by Rushdi Jamari

photo by me, edits by Rushdi Jamari

PHOTO DAYS 24 + 25 · six hours down, twenty-four to go

Followed “The Platform’s Biggest & Most Popular Photoshop Course” by Manfred Werner.

“How to Create a Dreamy & Soft Glow” – Section 5, Lecture 50

photo by Mr. G, edits by me

“How to Create a Faded Effect in Photoshop” – Section 5, Lecture 51

“Creating a Valencia Color Effect in Photoshop” – Section 5, Lecture 52

“Sliced Photo Effect with Masking Technique” – Section 5, Lecture 53


“Adding Texture to a Portrait” – Section 5, Lecture 54


PHOTO DAY 28 · one more time


PHOTO DAYS 29 + 30 · tell me everything

Read “Bryan Peterson’s Exposure Solutions: The Most Common Photography Problems and How to Solve Them” by Peterson and practiced the photography techniques as explained in the book.

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Tell me what you think. Connect with me on FacebookTwitter or Instagram (links match comment pages) and let me know: How do you think I did? What’s your favorite photo? And which of the photo exercises, assignments or courses look interesting to you?

*Post published: January 25, 2017 (first version); July, 2017 (final version).


FURTHER READING

In Photographer for a Month, I share the insights that I gained into the photographer’s lifestyle and the resources that I used during this spin-off.