Alison Graham

Copyright © Alison Graham

My son plays basketball and water polo. That’s how it began; I wanted pictures of him playing the sports he loves.

Have you ever tried taking photos of kids playing basketball in a gym? The lighting stinks. Water polo isn’t much better, since most games are played at dusk. You can’t get close enough to use flash even if the refs would allow it. And when the players start getting good, they move so fast that all you get is dark photos full of blurry players. I wanted better. I thought a better point and shoot camera would help. It didn’t. I learned more about using Photoshop Elements to alter my photos. That got them lighter, but they were still blurry and grainy. I started thinking that a DSLR might help, but I couldn’t afford it.

This went on for a year until a friend offered to loan me her old Nikon D40 and lenses. She took me out shooting in a garden and I discovered the magic of bokeh and high quality optics. Through the viewfinder I found a whole world of things that I had overlooked. I fell in love with photography. At the same time I took an online class called “iShot That” that centered on iPhone photography. I learned more about composition and my photos took another jump in quality. I discovered the I Love Photography Facebook group through a friend , and started sharing photos. In a few months I bought my own used DSLR.

Eagerly anticipating the magic that the new camera would work on my sports photos, I took it to the gym to shoot a game. No magic. The photos were just as blurry, just as dark, and just as awful as before. The kids, however, loved them. If you want an appreciative audience for your novice photographs, take photos of teenagers playing sports. They kept me going with calls of “Mrs. Graham’s got her camera, we’re gonna have pictures!” when I showed up. They thanked me profusely for making the photos available to them and their parents. It was gratifying, but I wanted better photos.

I started posting my lousy photos and asking questions in I Love Photography. Experienced photographers graciously answered. They guided me to tutorials on the triad of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. They taught me about fast lenses and post-processing to remove noise. I tried and tried, and tried some more. Each step of the way my sports photos got a little better. My flowers, squirrels and lizards got better too, because I was learning how to use my equipment to its fullest potential.

It’s been about 20 months since I was loaned that D40. I’ve shot thousands upon thousands of photos in that time, many of them awful. But the proportion of good ones now outweighs the bad. And each bad shot teaches me something that makes the next shoot better. The yearbook asks me for photos and I am the official photographer for the high school swim and water polo teams. I have been invited to shoot photos for charity events, and folks pay me to take photos of them, their families, and their dogs. I’m still asking more experienced photographers for their advice, and I still have volumes to learn. But along with that, I’m teaching and mentoring others who are starting on their journey.

I come from a family of artists, but I never thought that I had that talent. Now I know differently. I am a photographer. Some of us just take a little longer to find our gift.

My current equipment:
– Nikon D7100
– Nikon 70-200mm f/4.5 zoom lens
– Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens (my go-to for sports)
– Photoshop Elements 10
– Full suite of Topaz Photoshop plugins

My website:
My blog:


  1. Cricket WalkerCricket Walker01-09-2014

    I have so loved watching your INCREDIBLE progress! 🙂

    • Alison GrahamAlison Graham01-10-2014

      Thanks, Cricket! You forged a community that helped it develop!

  2. Alison, your pictures are awesome!

    • Alison GrahamAlison Graham01-10-2014

      Thank you, Trudi!

  3. John KainJohn Kain01-10-2014

    Great story Alison and your progress has been nothing short of spectacular!

    • Alison GrahamAlison Graham01-10-2014

      John, thank you so much. It’s always an adventure 🙂

  4. Helen HolmesHelen Holmes01-10-2014

    Perseverance is the key. Your shots are so good and you can see how far you have come. Great story, well done Alison.

    • Alison GrahamAlison Graham01-10-2014

      Thank you, Helen. I agree, perseverance and a willingness to put ego in the back seat and open my work to criticism have been key.

  5. Deanna Irvin-WheelerDeanna Irvin-Wheeler01-10-2014

    love seeing your pictures and I remember when you started in I love Photography Keep it up

    • Alison GrahamAlison Graham01-10-2014

      Thanks, Deanna!

  6. Wendy CotieWendy Cotie01-10-2014

    I love your story Alison and it’s so fantastic to see more good shots than bad! I will be watching for your images on I Love Photography and have visited your website, have to go back to see more, just had to say CHEERS! Once Photography in our veins, it’s like a virus, but a really great healthy one, amazing what we see when we start on this journey and how we develop as artists. Kudos to you!

    • Alison GrahamAlison Graham01-10-2014

      I’ve definitely been bitten by the shutterbug! Thank you for the kind words.

  7. Martin UnrueMartin Unrue01-10-2014

    A wonderful story with some great lessons in it!

    • Alison GrahamAlison Graham01-10-2014

      Thank you, Martin!

  8. MimiMimi01-24-2014

    Sports shots are such a challenge, you really did well to build from there! Nicely done!

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