Your camera is apt to become your best friend if only you’ll let it. I rarely go anyplace without my camera and a small notebook. If somebody were to ask me if I’d rather have my camera or my iPod along with me for everyday use, I’d pick my camera—every single time.
When you first bought your camera, you probably did so because of some snappy advertisement, or perhaps a friend ranted and raved about just how amazing the thing was, or maybe you saw photos that the camera had taken before and you thought to yourself, “I am coveting that, I must have it.”
Of course, perhaps this wasn’t the case at all. The camera might have been a gift from somebody else and the person buying it had no idea of the things it was—or was not— capable of.
Maybe you felt ripped off when the photos you took were not quite as amazing as those you were tempted with at the outset.
So, just what can you do that requires little to no effort on your part, and still yields better photos?
I’m so glad you asked…
Most cameras today have a dial of sorts on the top or back that allows for you to change modes without really knowing anything about photography. For example, the little green camera icon means ‘automatic.’ You’re in essence telling your camera to do it all for you. This is not a bad place to be, and can yield some fantastic results. One thing I’d recommend if you are planning in shooting in the full auto mode is to take more than one photo and meter from several different colors/shades/hues.
I can already hear your brain exploding.
Meter shots? Didn’t you say that this was effortless?
I did, let me explain.
Metering is the way of allowing the camera to pick how fast it’s going to take a shot, and at what aperture setting. Here’s all YOU have to do: point your camera at whatever you want a shot of and push the shutter down about halfway. This allows your camera an opportunity to adjust its settings.
Let’s say that you are planning on taking photos of your aesthetically pleasing daughter or devilishly handsome son. When you point the camera at your child, allow the ‘points’ in the viewfinder get information from your child’s face for a few shots. After taking a few, meter again from their hair, their shirt, and so on. By metering from these different places, each photo will look slightly different as for color. Later, when you are going through your photos you can delete those images that are much too dark or bright (never forgetting that minor corrections for color, hue, and brightness can be made with the most basic of photo editing software)
Now, back to your child…
If you were planning on taking one photo of your son or daughter in a particular pose, take fifteen or twenty instead, moving your position slightly from side to side or back and forth. You see the photographers on TV doing that all the time during photo shoots. They’re always saying things like, “Work with me, work with me. Show me sassy, show me flirty, show me shy…”
I figure that if it’s good enough for the actors on TV, and people at the Oscars, then it’s good enough for me.
You’d be surprised what moving a few inches in one direction or another really does.
You have other icons on your camera such as the one of a woman (or maybe she’s not on your camera, how do I know?). This mode is for taking portrait-type shots and generally tends to soften the background when you focus on the subject, narrowing the depth of field. Don’t worry, I’ll talk about depth of field later, just know that it’s the space of the photo in focus. Using this mode softens the background and gives it a blurred look - much like the boy pictured in the viewfinder above.
If you have an icon of a mountain, this is the mode that tells the camera to expand the depth of field (make more in-focus space) so just about everything is clear and crisp.
The runner icon is for sport shots. This tells the camera to utilize a higher shutter speed, allowing you to freeze the action of that amazing moment of glory.
Consult with your camera manual and find out about the modes your camera is capable of doing all on it’s own when you feel like living on the edge and switching from the green automatic setting.
Don’t worry about shutter speed and aperture; we’ll hit both of those soon.
Until next time; shoot ‘til you get it.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: About Your Camera
Part 3: Aperture
Part 4: Shutter Speed
Part 5: White Balance
Part 6: ISO
Part 7: The Breath
Part 8: The Rule of Thirds