Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Taking Great Photos – Part 2: About Your Camera

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Part 2: About Your Camera
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


Farscaper said...

Ok.... I'm an "old school" 35mm shooter. I could make my old film camera (Olympus OM 10 - I got a good one) do pretty much anything I wanted. Then the digital age came in and I had to select strange things on the dial. I've only ventured between Full Auto and Manual.

THANK YOU!!! for explaining what the portrait and mountain settings were for. (I tried to read the manual but it was too long and I wanted to hurry up and start using the camera... don't know where it is anymore) I've used the "runner" setting and it did the job nicely. I think I need to use the portrait setting more often and see if I notice a difference.

I'm totally ready to go off and play with our silly little point and shoot camera again. (Someday I will own a Canon 7D - or better)

Mamma has spoken said...

You make it sound so simple, but then you saw how my pictures turned out. I've played with the settings but to no avail. Hopefully you'll be hitting on what I did wrong ;o)

The Empress said...

I know you're married, but otherwise I'd kiss you over that post. I have never read anything so clearly written and easy to understand.

THank you! THIS is exactly what I've been looking for.

And I even bought "digital cameras for dummies."

This one is king here.

Teachinfourth said...

FS - The reason I didn't go over ALL of the settings is that different cameras have different options; not knowing which settings are available on EVERY camera made me not want to try to explain them all.

I do plan on going over the A, M, & TV, AV, & S settings…basically, two of these are saying the same thing as two others, it just depends on the camera you have.

Have fun.

B - We'll address 'the breath' soon; that is what is bringing your blurring problem. Heck, I'll just tell you now…take a breath before you snap the photo and hold still. In low-light conditions the camera DECREASES the shutter speed so that it has enough light for the shot. However, this means the shutter is open LONGER so you need to be still when you take the shot. Also, many people push the entire camera down slightly when they take a photo instead of just the button. Try to keep the camera in one place.

A better camera will still yield better results, but even a midline or a cheaper camera can give you some good images.

Hope this helps.

E - I'm flattered. Truly. I hope that the things we go over are able to help you become a better photog. I still learn new things all the time.

Chrissy said...

Practice makes perfect-or close to it...I've learned to take millions of shots and from the most unusual angles- it works and so far I like what I get... and yes I do have a lot to delete and its worth it..Good lesson for newbies....

PMC said...

cool. i will practice this today then. how often will you post these? i hope you give us a few days to practice each thing you teach. i really do want to learn about my camera. it is a nikon d80. it should be talking to me and teaching me itself it was that expensive..but it just hasn't said a dang word to me so far. your post is very helpful! ;)

tiburon said...

I told Avery to show me sassy this morning and then I had to wash her mouth out with soap.

I hold you responsible ;)

I am soooo clueless when it comes to my camera. It has one of those dialy things but I just keep it on A.

Rachel said...

I'm laughing at Misty's post. EXACTLY! They make cars that park themselves. These cameras should shoot perfection each time and take the angles that are perfect.

You're teaching us on a Canon...I've a Nikon........is this going to be a problem? ;)

Farscaper said...

About the "breath" issue. It can be a problem even with a tripod. When I use the tripod I get great pictures when I put the camera on a 2 second delay. If I don't, I would get a jiggle from pressing the button down.

For my hubby's 3D/CG work we have to take 5 pictures. One with the correct exposure and 2 stepping down a couple of stops and 2 stepping up a couple of stops. Each image needs to be exact to the one before (no jiggle) so I decided to use the 2 second delay to remove that element.

Corine said...

Hey...Cool! Glad I came by and saw this today to discover your new photography tip blogs (since your blog archive is gone...sigh). Thanks! :D

Question is, if I peak in here now and then (not the daily blogger), looking for tips, how will I find the posts I'm looking for?

Richard & Natalie said...

I learned something already! Thanks for putting it in clear, easy to understand ENGLISH! My last camera's instruction book came in only Portuguese and Spanish. Not very helpful. But that is what you get for a $100 on KSL.

You also cleared up my metering questions I didn't get to ask the other day. Now if only the UPS man would hurry up with my new camera! I am anxious to practice.

Teachinfourth said...

C - That's some of the advice I offer up as well. Professionals don't just take one or two.

T - Wow, I guess 'sassy' gets really sassy in your home.

M - I will probably do them as often as I have time…a few a week, perhaps? I'm glad that the posts are helpful so far, too.

R - I do prefer Canon over Nikon, but the stuff we'll go over works for just about any camera…pinhole cameras might not work out quite so well though.

FS - Tripods can take care of that problem quite easily, but sometimes it's hard to set up a tripod for each and every shot you want to take. I will use that option when I'm doing night shots sometimes, it works well.

C - The archive is still there, just pick the month you want from the drop down menu. It's the ticket that says "Your Ticket into the Adventures."

I will have these posts tagged as well, you can click on the links below and it will take you to each one.

Gotcha covered.

N - Glad that it's helped out so far. I'll try to keep it in language we all use and understand. I'll expect to see some great photos from your trip!

Corine said...

Oh... I see. Nice. :)

What is this about "tagging" posts? Is that where those cute little boxes come from bellow the post? And how do you "tag?" (I know... I am such a hight maintenence commenter - LOL) Lucky you, it isn't too frequent. ;0

tammy said...

I'm glad you're going over this
s-l-o-w-l-y. I'm gonna need it.

Just SO said...


My camera is a point and shoot. Albeit and very nice point and shoot. With MANY presets but I cannot go in manually and change anything. It is very frustrating.

My husband bought it for me as a surprise for Mother's Day last year. I wish he would have consulted me about what kind of camera I wanted but he didn't. So for now I'm working with what I have.

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