There’s a bit of a story behind this photo that I thought would make it particularly interesting to post here on Weekly Fifty. Over four years ago when our son was just a few months old my wife and I continually struggled to get good-looking non-blurry photos of him with what we thought was a very nice pocket camera. (And one that we still have and use from time to time.) Kevin, the guy in the picture, was my friend and coworker at the time (he’s still my friend, but no longer my coworker as he now lives 60 miles away) and he and another coworker named Ryan helped me learn, quite literally, almost everything I know about photography. I didn’t know an aperture from a bag of Doritos and thought about getting a D3100 with a kit lens because it was supposed to take good pictures. I had heard the old familiar refrain of “it’s not the camera, it’s the lens” before but all I saw when I looked at cameras online was spec sheets and feature lists telling me this camera is cooler than that camera, and here’s a camera that you’ll like better than the other one, and even talking about all this with my buddies did little to assuage my ill-founded desire to get a fancy new camera with a kit lens. I mean honestly, how much difference could the lens make anyway?

With much patience over a few weeks of time Kevin and Ryan helped me see that it wasn’t the camera but the lens that really mattered, and on one afternoon when Kevin came over to our house to let me and my wife play around with his Nikon D200 and 50mm f/1.8 lens we were hooked. My wife and I bought a D200 and a 50mm lens and the rest, as they say, is history. That super old camera combined with a really nice lens immediately helped us get significantly better photos of our child, and I could hardly believe how much better all our pictures were compared to everything we had been able to get from our pocket camera. Several months later I created Weekly Fifty, a year after that I started writing for Digital Photography School, and in March of 2015 my wife and I decided to see if we could actually make some money at all this picture-taking stuff with our side project Stevens Creek Photography.

That leads me to this week’s picture. Kevin recently asked his longtime girlfriend to marry him, he and his fiancée asked if I would take engagement photos. I don’t know if I can quite explain how honored I was to be able to do this, not only on a professional level in that a couple would entrust these special moments to be documented by me and my camera, but on a personal level as well since it was a sign of the confidence that Kevin had in me as a photographer. I talk here on the blog all the time about understanding the basics like aperture, shutter, and ISO along with more esoteric concepts like framing, composition, mood, subjects, lighting, and the like and this photo session was a concrete example of how all that practice has paid off. The three of us spent a few hours at various locations and I came back very pleased with the pictures, and the two of them have told me on more than one occasion how much they like their photos as well. And it all started with Kevin, his D200, and a 50mm lens.

This picture was taken with the same 50mm f/1.8 lens I have had since the beginning but on my much-newer D750 and it’s a nice reminder of how much I have learned over the years. I would have never been able to take this shot without all the pictures of flowers, wagons, trees, toys, shoes, rocks, and other things I have shared here on Weekly Fifty though I see this not as the end but just the beginning. In many ways I feel like I have more to learn now than when I first started out, and I’m excited for the photographic journey ahead.


  1. Camellia says

    Simon, as a newbie to this fabulous but expensive hobby, I am commenting to let you know how fortunate I feel I am to have stumbled upon your blog. I bought my first DSLR camera in November of 2015 with a kit lens. By December I had a acquired two more lenses of which one of them was the nifty fifty. I truly saw the difference between all three lenses. Fortunately, for me, about the same time I came across your blog. Your blog has helped me “see”, it has inspired me , and has been teaching me quite a bit. Obviously, I have a long long ways to go in my journey to becoming a better photographer, but I hope that with your help and your weekly nifty blogs I can take the same exceptional quality pictures as you.
    Thank you and keep up the wonderful posts.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words Camellia, and I’m so glad to have you as a reader! Congratulations on the purchase of your DSLR last November and I hope you are finding some fun and creative ways of using it. If you ever feel like sharing some of your own photos I’d love to see them, and I think you’re really going to have fun with that 50mm lens :)

  2. Simon —
    Thank you for sharing with us your introduction to photography and the difference that committing time and effort can make in our finished product. You’re right. The mechanics concerning this picture (f stop; shutter speed; ISO) are not the point today. What is important is that this picture chronicles the change in you and your ability as a photographer. I appreciate you taking us along for the ride!

    • David, I know it might seem weird but I consider you and the other readers of Weekly Fifty just as much a part of this ride as anything else, and I know I would have stopped posting these pictures a long time ago if it weren’t for people like you :) So thank YOU for all you have done to help me with this hobby too!

  3. This is a great post! I got a good camera about 9 months ago and I am really enjoying learning what it takes to make a great picture. It will be a continuous process and I find that a good challenge.

    • I’m excited for the photographic journey that awaits you and your new camera, Debbie! I realize that might sound a bit cheesy but I really mean it. I’m always excited for new people to get into photography and not only start to experience the joys of this hobby, but hopefully learn more about how to control their cameras and develop their own talents to start producing the kinds of images they might not have been able to take otherwise. Good luck to you!

  4. My very first camera was a Kodak Brownie and I took it to Outdoor Ed when I was in the fifth grade. My parents loved the photos so much that they matted them and hung them up in the hallway of our home. That was quite a few years ago ;) and I have learned so much more since then, only having gotten my first DSLR a few years ago. Took a photography class and finally learned about ISO, aperture, shutter speed, etc. and have actually been paid for photos! Looking into starting my own ‘business’ as a photographer after all these years because I love helping other people capture special moments.

    • You owned a Brownie? I’m actually kind of jealous, Yvonne :) I think it’s great that you have had such a rich history when it comes to photography and with all the knowledge and talent you have built up over the years I’m sure you will have quite a successful business if you do decide to go down that route.

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