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Transformation Tuesday: Featuring Tina Auten on Pretty Presets for Lightroom

I come from a family of “picture takers” and don’t remember a family get together or holiday when my grandmother didn’t have a camera of some sort in her hand. My great grandfather (her dad), owned a portrait studio in Amarillo, Texas back in the 1930s and 40s so I suspect my love of photography is genetic. My first camera was the Kodak Pocket Instamatic and I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen! By high school I was an aspiring journalist and took a photography class as an elective. This was back in the days of the dark room and I loved that magical moment when an image started to appear on paper after carefully measuring chemicals and developing the film. For many years I was stuck with point and shoot cameras simply due to lack of funds, but borrowed my mom’s Canon AE-1 when I went to archaeology school and never gave it back! I adored that camera and am still astounded at the crystal clear images I was able to get while using manual focus! I resisted digital technology (I thought it was a phase like eight track - LOL) and considered myself as a purist with my beloved 35mm film SLR. A friend talked me into trying a digital point & shoot but it just didn’t feel like a real camera. Eventually my darling husband took pity on me and bought me the Canon Rebel xTi for Christmas and it felt and acted like a film camera! And the lens had auto-focus! Best gift ever!

While I’ve taken pictures for most of my life, they haven’t always been good pictures and it’s only been the last few years that I’ve truly gotten serious enough about the technical aspects to learn how to create images that are frame-worthy. Our local parks & recreation department offers photography classes and I took a basic class a few years ago to try and shake the cobwebs out of my head and relearn the Exposure Triangle. Even though the material was very familiar, I still found myself going back to aperture priority or *gasp* Auto mode. I kept at it and started realizing the limitations of my kit lens so I bought my first big girl lens, a Sigma 18-250mm 3.5-6.3, and it quickly became the only lens I used.  I took the next photography class from the same instructor and was introduced to the wonderful world of Lightroom. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. Still, I couldn’t quite master shooting in manual mode unless lighting was ideal and that bugged me to no end! I also started realizing that I was outgrowing my beloved Rebel and on a lark, stopped by a local camera shop to browse and spotted a Canon 60D in pristine condition that had been used as a trade in along with a gently used 50mm 1.8. I batted my eyes at my husband (works almost every time) and ended up with new-to-me gear! My images seemed to morph overnight and I realized it was because my new body was so much better than my old one. Still, I struggled with manual mode and decided that for better or worse, I was going to learn it, live it, and conquer it in 2015.

My husband challenged me to start a Project 365 this year and the timing couldn’t have been better. I took yet another photography course (this time it was Nick Kelsh’s Going Manual) and it’s been a game changer. My camera hasn’t been out of Manual mode since Christmas 2014 and I finally know that I’m in creative control rather than my camera. This has been a tremendous year of growth - both technically and creatively. I started getting requests from friends and family to take their portraits and while I initially declined on the grounds that I didn’t know what I was doing, I finally sucked it up and started doing it. Because I’m a people person, I have found that I love the connection between photographer and subject. I love watching a scene develop organically in front of my lens and I try not to over direct my subjects when shooting. My goal is for my camera to capture who they are at that given moment in time. It is such a rush to look through the lens and know I’m getting something special that they will love as much as I do! For me, the next step is turning my hobby addiction into a business. It’s a daunting but exciting time to be a photographer and I’m looking forward to the new challenges ahead. I’m also extremely thankful for the Pretty Presets team and products. I learn from and am inspired by each of you on a daily basis! 

Tina’s Top Tips 

1) Study Other Photographers

I’m a bit of a Pinterest junkie and realized one day I was drawn to images but didn’t know why. I began analyzing images to understand why they appealed to me and started a board as a resource. Was it the composition? Depth of field? The way it was processed? Perspective? My thought was simple, if I could figure out why an image spoke to me and what the technical components were, I could then replicate with my camera. I was both right and wrong. I can’t, and don’t want to, replicate another person’s work. I have my own vision and need to be true to it. However, by understanding why an image works and what it takes to get a specific type of image has helped me define my style and made me a better photographer. My current favorite photographer is Vivian Maier. Her work is raw, honest, and emotive!

2) Shoot Every Day 

If you want to really improve your craft, then you need to shoot every single day and I really do mean, every, single day. It doesn’t matter if you have a cold. Take a picture of a box of tissues and play with DOF to see if you can make it look artistic. Shoot anything and everything. It’s only been in shooting day in and day out, that I have truly become comfortable with my camera and lens. I know the sweet spot on my 50mm is f/2.2-2.8 because I made myself shoot with it exclusively for the month of January. I’ve learned not to fear higher ISO because a sharp image with grain is better than a blurry image without it. My settings are instinctive rather than experimental after shooting in various types of light every day which has given me confidence. Start shooting every day and you’ll be amazed at the learning curve.

3) Learn Manual Mode 

I can’t stress this enough. It is the key to all things beautiful in photography! Until you really understand and can apply the concepts of the golden triangle (aperture, shutter speed, ISO), you will be at the mercy of a camera that makes your creative and technical decisions for you! There’s a wealth of information on the Pretty Presets blog and other sites to help you conquer manual mode, but there is no substitution for practice! Take the time to really, truly learn manual mode and you will reap the rewards! Don’t give up, just keep shooting and have fun - it is so worth it! 

Then & Now:

Morning Roses - Back in 2007 I was shooting in jpeg, didn’t know a thing about post-production, and hadn’t yet learned the rule of thirds for composition or heard of bokeh. Now, the same rose bush looks completely different when using a shallow DOF and rule of thirds for composition. Shot in raw, edited with Clean & Creative Advanced Workflow + Sunflare from Spring Color Flare/Haze (retired). 

Bethany & Caleb - Taken a scant 16 months apart, not only has the little guy sprouted up but Grandma’s photography skills have grown right beside him! More aperture means more bokeh and like many of you, I’m a huge fan of creamy backgrounds. These images were taken in nearly the same spot in our front yard but the difference is that I rotated them so that the background was prettier and also so the light would hit them indirectly (bright shade). This recent portrait was edited with Milk & Honey from the Summer Collection, Dancing Lights (tweaked) and Portrait Brushes. 

Tina is a Texas girl who is passionate about family, Friday nights under the lights, Mexican food, sunrise sessions on the beach, cold beer, and all things related to photography. Married for nearly 30 years to her best friend, they enjoyed life as an Air Force family while raising three children: Taryn (angel at 19), Bethany (28), Creighton (24), and grandparents to Caleb. Tina has the heart of a student and teacher, so she’s always eager to learn (and master) new interests and then share that knowledge with others. She is a natural light and lifestyle photographer in Southlake, Texas. 

Where you can find me:
Please follow me on my first Project 365!

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