Hey guys, its been a while!! Life has been pretty crazy the past few months and there’s SO much exciting stuff happening in our lives so everything has kind of taken a back seat but I’m trying to motivate myself to get back into the groove of things!
Anyway I was flicking through old (cringe worthy) photographs yesterday and noticed how much my photographs have improved over the years and I thought it would be a nice idea to share what I have learned along my journey! Now before I get into it I am NOT in any way a pro nor do I reeeeeeally know I’m doing haha but I’m pretty confident I have the basics on lock now!!! I did do a photography course way back at high school but I don’t remember any of it anyway, so other than that I don’t really have any experience. I have always enjoyed taking photographs tho and about 4 years ago I got my first DSLR camera but didn’t have a bloody clue how to use it so I sold it and got a MILC (a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera) which I constantly used in auto mode, I loved it but hardly ever used it simply because I just couldn’t be bothered with it and it was annoying as heck to carry around!
When Cortez was born I started really getting into taking photographs of him and as time went on I started thinking more and more about getting a DSLR camera again and actually putting the time in to learn how to use it. Earlier this year I got another one and I did so much research on YouTube on how to properly use it and I learnt SO much!!!!
I swore that I wouldn’t even touch auto mode this time around and I haven’t touched it once! It all seems pretty intimidating at first but here are some tips that I have learnt for any new DSLR owners or those thinking about getting one (again I am NOT a pro nor do I think that I am even close to one!!) and i’ll try to keep it simple and less confusing as possible!! I am still learning something new everyday and have lots to learn still but this is a great start anyway and hopefully it helps someone.
Ok so if you have switched to a DSLR ask yourself what the reasoning was for this switch? I’m pretty certain your answer will be to have more control and take better photographs right?? If so then STAY OFF THAT AUTO MODE!! It defeats the purpose of getting a DSLR and honestly you’ll thank me later and your photos will be SO much better and you will have so much more creative control!! Just forget auto mode even exists and throw yourself in the deep end, you WILL get the hang of it and it will take your images to a whole new level.
So what are the other shooting modes then? The shooting modes are mostly found on the dial labelled with ‘auto, Av, Tv, P, M’. Selecting a shooting mode will determine how your camera behaves when you press the shutter, for example, when ‘auto’ is selected, the camera will automatically determine everything to do with the exposure, including the aperture and shutter speed.
The aperture is the size of the opening in the lens through which light is allowed to pass whenever the shutter is opened – the larger the aperture, the more light can pass through.
The aperture is measured in ‘f-stops’ and is usually displayed using an f-number, e.g. f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8.0 etc. Therefore, a larger aperture (a wider opening) has a smaller f-number (e.g. f/2.0) and smaller aperture (a narrower opening) has a larger f-number (e.g. f/22). Reducing the aperture by one whole f-stop, e.g. f/2.0 to f2/8 or f/5.6 to f/8.0, halves the amount of light that enters the camera.
The size of the aperture has a direct impact on the depth of field (depth of field =the area of the image which is in focus). A large f-number (which means a smaller aperture) will bring all of the foreground and background objects in focus, while a small f-number (larger aperture) will isolate the foreground from the background by making the foreground objects sharp and the background will be soft and blurry. (Every lens has a limit on how large or how small the aperture can get and it should say this on the lens)
Example: Image 1 was set at f/2.8, you can see the lipstick is in focus and the background is very soft and blurry. Image 2 was set at f/5.6 and you can see the lipstick is still more in focus than the background, but the background is more in focus than image 1 was. Image 3 was set at f/6.3 and you can see that both the foreground and background are in focus.
S or Tv= Shutter Priority : Similar to aperture priority, S (or Tv) is another semi-automatic shooting mode that allows you as the photographer to set the shutter speed and the camera will automatically determine the aperture. The shutter speed is measured in seconds (or more often fractions of a second), and is the amount of time the shutter stays open when taking a photograph. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light passes through to the sensor to be captured.
You would select a short shutter speed if you wanted to freeze a fast-moving subject, such as capturing a child running, a moving car or a bird flying etc and you would use a long shutter speed if you wanted to blur a moving subject, for example if you wanted to capture the motion of waves or water rushing over a waterfall (slower shutter speeds will require you to put the camera on a tripod to ensure the camera is held steady whilst the shutter is open).
P= Program shift or Flexible Program: is an advanced semi-automatic exposure mode where the camera will adjust both the aperture and the shutter speed to produce what it judges to be the best exposure for the photograph you are about to take, you can manually override the camera by shifting to a different combination of aperture and shutter speed. This gives a little bit of creative control, and combines that with the ease of use you normally associate with a point-and-shoot camera. You can also change the ISO settings, tweak the white balance and dial in exposure compensation where automatic mode doesn’t give you this level of freedom.
M= Manual Mode (my fave!!): Two words -TOTAL CONTROL!! Manual mode gives you full control over the exposure determination and setting the ISO, aperture and shutter speed by yourself. ISO is the level of sensitivity your camera has to available light. A low ISO has a lower sensitivity to the light and a high ISO has higher sensitivity to light. There are 3 basic things to know about ISO and this is that:
- By raising the ISO this means your pictures will have more light in them.
- By raising your ISO this also means that you will have more grain in your photo.
- The lower the ISO number the better quality the images are with less noise or grain.
If you are shooting in low light conditions, such as at night-time or in a museum and there isn’t much light available for your camera sensor, a high ISO number, such as ISO 3200, will increase the sensitivity of the sensor, by multiplying the small amount of available light to give you a correctly exposed image. This comes with a cost however, of increased noise in the image which looks like a fine grain, reducing the image quality.
Example: Image 1 has ISO set to 1600 as you can see it is very grainy and image 2 is set to 200 (these were taken in low light).
It’s important to remember that aperture, shutter speed and ISO are all part of the ‘exposure triangle’. They all control either the amount of light entering the camera (aperture, shutter speed) or the amount of light required by the camera (ISO) for exposure. They are all linked, and understanding the relationship between them is crucial as a change in one of the settings will impact the other two.
All DSLRs have an exposure meter which will tell you if the photograph you are about to take is correctly exposed or not. This will be represented in the viewfinder and on the camera’s LCD screen. If it’s reading a negative number, it means that your shot will be under-exposed, and a positive number means it will be over-exposure. The goal is to achieve a “zero” measurement so if the meter is reading a negative number (under-exposed) for instance, you will need to let some more light into your shot. Depending on the subject of your image, you can then decide whether to adjust your aperture or shutter speed or adjust the ISO as a last resort. When the meter is sitting at 0 you have a perfectly exposed shot.
Example: (these photos were taken in low light) Image 1 is under exposed (negative number), Image 2 is considered perfect exposure (measured 0 on the meter) and image 3 is over exposed (positive number).
There is also more to learn about focusing and metering but I won’t go into that incase I confuse anyone!!
So if you have a DSLR and you have been using it in auto mode I challenge you to give manual mode a shot! Go on give it a try, I can guarantee you that once you have mastered the exposure triangle you’re photographs will be next level! Keep on practising and compare your photographs and remember that the best way to learn is by just doing it and experimenting!!
In part 2 I will tell you how I take photographs (lighting etc) and how I edit them. I really hope this helps at least one person or tempts someone into purchasing a DSLR camera, they seem really intimidating at first but they really are amazing and allow you to be so much more creative!
Image 1 below was taken in auto mode (flash on my camera automatically comes on in low light situations) and image 2 was taken in manual mode. Manual mode is just so much better!!!
I’ll leave you with another photo comparison.. I’m sure you can guess which is pre DSLR and which is DSLR!