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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Photography 101: Those First Steps

Over the last year I have had many requests by mom's, fellow bloggers, and hobbyists for some photography tips. I have been a bit nervous to do this because I know that my way of photography is not the only way, and is not necessarily the best way. It's what works for me. Learning photography can be very daunting and I made a lot of mistakes. One thing I realized though is that their are a few things over time that finally click ( pun intended) and you have that beautiful aha moment where the mystery of the camera is no longer so complicated. So I am going to throw everyone a lollipop and try to break down some of the basics of photography so that everyone can reach their own aha moments faster then I did.

 To start I want to break down the camera. The first thing we always want to do is pick up the camera and start shooting. It is so important though to understand what you are trying to control with the camera so that you achieve the results and look you want. 

I use Canon but the basics of Nikon should be very similar and you can refer to your camera guide to understand the differences.

The first thing that will help you understand your camera is understanding the little letters that go along with it. Full Auto , P, TV, AV, M, Bulb. ( P, S, A, M on Nikon) Now these are not only on DSLR cameras but pretty much any digital camera will give you the ability to change your camera mode to one of these settings ( even some phone cameras. So let's break them down.

Exposure : 
So basically when the exposure is correct the image should look exactly how you want it to look. Whatever you are trying to achieve. It is a way of controlling the light to do what you want. To do this we use 3 things ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture ( more about these later)

When you have your camera on full AUTO ( little green box on canon) you are giving the cameras little digital brain control. You are in effect trusting it to make all decisions for you. It is reading the light and deciding what it feels needs to be done to make what your focussing on properly exposed. The result sometimes can be very good. Other times especially in a difficult lighting situation it may make a decision that you do not agree with. The first step into taking control of your camera is learning to decide how you want the camera to read the light. 

I suggest though that you don't jump in all the way at first but rather understand how to use each component that makes up exposure. 

The first way to do that would be by using the mode P ( which I will get into next time)

Cuzco was my model for this quick project. Neither image is that good actually but you can see the differences in the decisions I made to control the light compared to the camera in a semi backlit situation.

As a project set your camera to full auto and look at different lighting situations. Using your own eye decide what you would want to be bright or in shadow or how you would like it to look what you would want to focus on. For example are you taking a landscape photo and want the mountains in focus and lit correctly? Or are you taking a photo of a girl in the field and want just her sharp and clear with the background blurred out. Then try using the camera and see if your minds think alike.

Hope that helps looking forward to the next instalment of Photography 101



  1. Thanks for the tips!
    I am still trying to figure out the full potential of my camera.
    I've been taking a food writing course and the prof talked a bit about taking photos of food - he suggests taking close up shots with the "flower" or macro mode setting which allows you to get up close and for better focus on the plate/flower.
    However, my issue is when I am at an indoor restaurant where the lighting is very dim. When I try to use my "food" setting the photo looks like I only had candles for lighting, when I use an indoor party mode the lighting is too bright. I use a Nikon and have been enjoying it but this is my only frustration so far.
    Thanks again!

  2. Hey Murissa, Stay tuned and I will start going into using the other modes on your camera until the point of using manual. Those other settings ( flower, skier, etc..) all are part of the full auto experience. Your just telling the cameras brain a little bit about the subject and it is adjusting. The next section on P will help you with understanding how to set up your camera for a low light situation and help you test how far your camera can go. Once you start moving into manual modes you will never want to go back.