Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Intro to Photography; Lesson 1: So You Want to Shoot in Manual...

...and you definitely should!

I've had a number of requests for some basic photography tutorials. I'm really nowhere near being an expert or a professional and I don't feel that I'm the best person to teach photography at this point. But I have learned some very valuable tips in the past year and I really wish that someone would have just laid them all out for me in the beginning. It would have really taken some time off my already long and awkward learning curve. So, what I thought I would do is just give you some good starting points from which to jump off of and experiment.

The pictures I'm featuring in this post are of my nephews birthday party which we attended last weekend. These pictures are very significant to me because there was a time when I first began shooting in manual mode that I thought for sure that if I were at a birthday party or some other moment to moment function that I would surely have to revert back to the automatic settings on my camera. I'm proud to say that I shot this whole birthday party near effortlessly in manual mode. I know it to be true that you will never get the specific image quality your looking for with the automatic settings. Once you can start really manipulating the settings to your specific likings, your world of photographic possibilities opens up dramatically!

So, let's get you shooting manually then, shall we? Go ahead...do it...switch that dial to M...you can do it...feel the power!

{a couple of notes: 1) I only focus manually if I'm shooting still lifes. When I speak of manual settings, I'm referring to exposure. 2) People do things different ways, and there are many ways that work. The idea is that you start getting comfortable changing your own settings and experimenting with what those changes do to your final images. You need to experiment...a lot! 3) You're going to need to break out your owners manual! 4) You may hear some people who use the metering method to determine exposure. I do not. But it's an option you may want to look into at some point as it does take some of the guess work out of finding the perfect exposure. I rely on the many images I can take with a digital camera and how the image looks to me on my LCD screen. As I mentioned, there are many ways about this. I am only offering some good places to start.}

  1. Know how to adjust Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, and White Balance on your specific camera. These settings I use and adjust all the time.
  2. Adjust White Balance for proper settings. Read your manual to know how to adjust the white balance and which pictures correspond with which conditions. {ex. direct sun, cloudy day, tungsten lighting, etc...}
  3. Use the lowest ISO possible. As the ISO goes up, image quality goes down. {remember, the higher the ISO, the more light that comes into the lens}
  4. Your minimum SS should correspond with your lens focal length. For instance, if you are using a 50mm lens, your maximum SS should be 1/50. {remember, maximum SS means smaller numbers, means longer shutter speed, means more light!}
  5. Along the same lines...Low Aperture value = shallow depth of field (subject in focus while background and foreground are blurred) = wide aperture = more light
  6. Conversely...High Aperture Value = great detail in shots in both subject and background = narrow aperture =less light
  7. I tend to value a shallow depth of field in my photographs. Because of this, I set my ISO to 200 {it's minimum value}, then set my aperture to its wide open position {usually 1.4 - 2.5}, and then adjust my shutter speed for proper exposure.
  8. If I'm at the lowest shutter speed for my lens {see #4} and I'm still either not getting enough light into my photograph or am still having blur of my subject matter, then I increase the ISO.
  9. If I'm at the highest shutter speed and lowest ISO and am still over exposed, then I increase the aperture.

Okay, these are just some basic tools to help you give you a base point from which to start. Set yourself up a still life and take a ton of shots while adjusting these settings and view the results. The more you play around and see what changing the settings does to your final image, the better able you'll be to achieve the exact image your looking for!

I do highly recommend {at some point} getting some sort of background knowledge on each of these terms. I do believe it contributes to the overall comprehension of your camera and it's functions. There are a variety of online sources offering tons of free information. Also, there are some wonderful books out there that go into great detail in describing how the camera works. I am a very hands on learner. So, for me, it was better to dive in, start shooting manually, and then go back and investigate why  A + B = C. It was important for me to know what A, B, and C were before I would be able to comprehend what they're function was.

So, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me!

Aaaaannnddd...the video blog has been shot and I am working on getting it uploaded so that I can share it here with you tomorrow!


Micheline May 4, 2010 at 1:10 PM  

Wow. These are stunning… and all on manual. You are a brave soul indeed.

It feels like you wrote this one just for me. I've been using the blasted automatic setting since I got my camera. But since it has only been a week it would probably be easiest to break the habit now. I think it's going to be a rough road, but a lot less bumpy with this amazing list.

Thank you!

andrea creates May 4, 2010 at 3:01 PM  

If only I could find the owner's manual-lol ;)
This is a great intro to photography- I really need to work on mine-
Great photos!

Alely L. May 4, 2010 at 3:10 PM  

thank you so much for posting this. i have not ventured off into manual setting at all. will definitely keep re-reading this post!

Jane May 4, 2010 at 3:51 PM  

Oh how nice of you to share your knowledge. Thanks. Looking forward to the next post.

Love your photos.

keli @ kidnapped by suburbia May 4, 2010 at 7:25 PM  

Great tutorial, M!! I really love manual mode, but I learned manual on my Olympus, where I always had to over-expose. Now that I have my Canon, I still tend to over-expose & am having to work on that. It's like starting over in manual! LOL

Beth Simmons May 4, 2010 at 10:33 PM  

Great post! Thanks for sharing!

Suzanne Jeanette May 5, 2010 at 12:58 AM  

Oh yay! This is wonderful, a great starting point for me. I really hope to be able to control the camera more and more. Thanks for putting this together!

Tera May 5, 2010 at 10:34 AM  

Thank you for all the wonderful tips!!

Courtney Corey May 5, 2010 at 2:05 PM  

Thank you sooo mucH! I have an old (non-digital) SLR that I am trying to experiment with. Your lesson will certainly be a point of reference for me. Can't wait to play!!!

Jamie May 5, 2010 at 10:13 PM  

I'm planning a tiny road trip this weekend - and I'm going to attempt a few photos with Manual - wish me luck. Thanks for the inspiration

Clare B May 6, 2010 at 3:10 AM  

Thank you! Such an excellent post about how you go about manual-mode. I'm still at a semi-manual phase (only playing with the aperture of focus at one time) - will have to experiment using your tips this week.

SweetPea May 8, 2010 at 12:37 PM  

Oh, I'm so going to enjoy this, Madeline! Thanks so much for taking the time. We all know time is precious! Thoroughly enjoy your blog/captures!

Mia May 10, 2010 at 8:18 PM  

Thanks for sharing that information, it's always good to be reminded!

I was always comfortable shooting manually for static events, but I was always pretty freaked out that I'd miss things like you said at birthday's and such. Even though I have missed a couple of moments since abandoning automatic settings, my pictures are all so much better in manual- now if I could just convince my sister to do the same...

Tasha May 17, 2010 at 9:54 PM  

Great job! I really enjoy reading your blog, I can definitely relate to a lot of what you write. I am going to disagree with this statement:

Use the lowest ISO possible. As the ISO goes up, image quality goes down. {remember, the higher the ISO, the more light that comes into the lens}

I used to think that as well when I first started out with my Rebel. I was always afraid to use high ISO and it had been drilled into my head to always keep it low. BUT here's what I've learned recently and never really believed it until I tried it myself: don't be afraid to crank the ISO high because as long as your exposure is correct, you will not get noise.

I've only recently experimented with this but was super surprised to see that it's totally true!