Sunday, December 18, 2011

 The photography post

This post is for beginning and intermediate SLR camera users (camera with removable and interchangeable lenses). The fact alone that I just wrote that definition out should tell you that if you are an advanced camera user... you can go elsewhere for your info. :) I'm no pro - but I have learned so much in the last 2 years! I love sharing what I have learned!

About a year ago I began taking pictures on full manual mode. Believe me; it was with fear and trembling that I moved that tiny dial to "m". And I did go back to aperture priority, shutter priority, and full automatic a few times, I still do, but I am never quite as happy as when I am shooting in manual. Maybe it's my inner control freak... but being able to tell the camera exactly what I want it to do, instead of letting it choose for me,  is truly a thrill.

If you are still shooting in auto, let me just say that you need not pressure yourself to change your ways. I think it is important to know what your camera can do, but do not feel like to be a good photographer you need to shoot in manual. I know amazing professional photographers who almost exclusively shoot in automatic. If you just need to capture a shot in a hurry, and do not have time to fiddle with settings, then please, please do not feel like you have to sit there and do so. Just grab that camera, set it on auto, and shoot away! Way too many shots are missed because of the perfectionists among us.

(Geez kettle,
you are so black,
love the pot)

Moving on...

First of all, lets talk about light. After all - photography at it's core definition is all about light.

The three most important things to learn about how your camera interacts with light are:

Shutter speed




*happy sigh*

I am such a geek. Wow.

Shutter speed is the exposure time - and basically means how long your camera shutter is open.

My rule of thumb is to never go under 1/60 of a second. Pictures will be blurry if you are hand holding your camera and have your shutter open for a longer length of time than that. A tripod is great if you want a slow shutter speed. With your camera attached to that baby, you can open that shutter for as long as you wish!

A fast shutter speed stops action. So, if you have your shutter speed turned up to like 1/250 than you will get some clear crisp action shots.

The drawback of a fast shutter speed? - You are losing light. If you are having that shutter go open and then shut really super fast, light only has an instant to do its thing.

A couple of things you can do if you need a fast shutter speed and you need more light.

1) Dial up your ISO.

ISO is your cameras sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera is to the light and the brighter your pictures will be.

The drawback of high ISO? (Ha, yes, there does seem to be a drawback to every cool feature, right??)

With a high ISO, your photos tend to have alot of noise. This means your pictures will look grainy. Sometimes this is artsy and creative looking... sometimes it just looks bad.

My previous camera (which is now my back up camera), the Nikon D60, would do okay with the ISO turned up to 400, anything above that would pretty much just look bad.

My new camera, the Nikon D5100 {*heart flutters*}, can take pretty darn good photos all the way up to ISO 3400. Yes. It's amazing. That means I don't have to use flash hardly ever. That makes me happy.

Which brings me to the next thing you can do to add light....

2) Use a flash.
Not my favorite, but sometimes needed.

I invested in an external flash, Nikon SB-800, and have never been sorry! With the piece of equipment you can aim the flash straight up, and bounce light off the ceiling. This gives a pretty natural look and gives alot of light. I never use my in camera flash. I can't do it. If you have to, you have to. Such is life. But use it as a last option. :)

Another thing you can do to add light is...

3) Use a larger aperture.

What another great segue! (oh man, do I want to put segway - but that's wrong. As much as it feels right. I feel a good country song coming on)

We've covered shutter speed, ISO, and now onto my favorite.


I love aperture. Aperture, aperture, aperture. It can be fun to say too. -Especially if you are tired and/or have had alot of caffeine.

Aperture is how wide the opening in your lens is. The most confusing part? - The lower the number the wider your opening.


I know - that's what I said too. But, after a while you get used to it. :)

Most kit lenses can not open much wider than f/4 or so. I have a 50mm lens and a 35mm lens that both have wide aperture capabilities. They go down (which means wide... ) to f/1.8. I highly, highly recommend these lenses!! Well, not both. I had the 50mm first, but I wanted a wider angle, so went with the 35mm. Plus my 50mm was only manual focus. Not good for quick focusing on moving subjects!! -Anyway, for shooting in low light, or a more creative look, these are super sweet lenses!

The thing to remember about shooting with your aperture wide open (like if you have a lens that can shoot at f/1.4 or f/1.8) is that the lower the number (meaning wider the opening... sorry for the redundancy, but I needed it, so of course I am projecting my slow learning on you all as well *wink*) the more shallow your depth of field will be.

A good example of a shallow depth of field is this picture:

Shutter speed: 1/80 sec.
Aperture: f/1.8

See? Shallow depth of field. Very trendy right now and my favorite style of photography, personally. Where the subject is in crisp focus, but just about everything else is blurred.

A higher aperture number would result in a photo like this one:

-Where the subjects that are close to you and furthest away are all in clear focus (I also did quite a bit of editing to this photo.. so just ignore that right now. :) I will do a post of photo editing some day too).
Shutter speed: 1/100 sec
ISO: 400
Aperture: f/14

One last thing I will cover in this post is shooting in RAW vs. JPEG. Most SLR cameras have a setting to choose if the photographs you shoot will be compressed files (JPEGS's) or the complete data of your cameras sensor (RAW).

Confusing, right?

Yeah, I can't explain it all, but I will say that I almost always shoot RAW these days. 

It takes up a l o t more room on my hard drive. {alot} and it requires special software to be able to view the RAW photos. 

So WHY would I choose to shoot RAW????

There are a few reasons, but my main reason is {Wait for it... wait for it...}

I have much more control over my images.

I promise I am working on these control issues. With a cherry on top.

Okay, so, I can fix exposure, change white balance (um... another post... when I fully understand it), and really do so much more with a RAW photo. 

If you do not have a large memory card (I use a 16GB most of the time), alot of room on your computer, or if you do not edit your photos at all then shooting in RAW is probably not for you at all.

Alrighty. That covers the basics. Leave comments, questions, observations, corrections, or control issue suggestions please. 
And do let me know if you have any photo editing questions. I really enjoy this aspect of photography as well.

One guess why...


Alyssa said...


even though i don't have a fancy, nice camera, i loved reading this post.

Fairlightday said...

L.O.V.E. this! (and you!) I'm still struggling with manual mode after 4 (really??? 4???) years of my "big" Canon 40D camera.
Can't wait for the editing post. Cause I need help in that area too. :)

Jackie@Our Moments, Our Memories said...

Ok....!!! When did you get a new camera? Did you post this and I missed it? That is sooo amazing, I can only imagine how thrilled you are!!

This is such an awesome tutorial. Seriously. When I'm on Pinterest, and I see these pins for all of these different photography tips and tricks, I am literally scared to click on them, because I feel like I have absolutely no clue, and to read them would only bring out my cluelessness. ha! (not to mention I don't even have a camera, so, really, what's the point, right??) :) But this! This gives me hope that I could maybe actually one day learn about all of this stuff, and not be scared off by aperature and iso and all of the other stuff (can't wait for your post on white balance - that has always confused me). Anyway! My hope is that I'll have a camera within the next two months?? Maybe? And then I'll probably blow up your email with questions. But thank you - this was so helpful, and your passion for photography comes through so well. Love you, friend!

P.S. - what kind of special software does it require to view the RAW files?

Kristen said...

You know what I really want to do is sit over a cup of coffee (hot chocolate for me) and talk about photography with you! It's fun to share. Or even shoot a wedding with you. I love seeing how others work the art.

I was seriously LOL-ing over the whole aperture, smaller number is the wider open thing...I had to keep reviewing that one over and over myself for awhile. And yep, I did get used to it. :)

Jenn said...

Well, Wendi, you know I had to read this whole thing! You did a great job explaining it all.

How do you like your 35mm? I too, have to manually focus on 50mm. UGH! Not great when trying to capture children! Maybe 35mm is what I need to be looking into.