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Photography for Newbies – Part 1

Photo Gear Bag

Because I know there are new-ish photographers within my readership, I put together several informative posts for all ‘newbie’ photographers. Each blog post is jam packed with practical information that will guide you making the most of your photographic investment.

This introductory post will walk you through the basic settings on your camera, offer photo tips based on my personal experience, and include informative links to further your knowledge.

Take good notes and happy snapping!

Valuable info under the cut

Photo Tip #1: READ ME!

The first thing to do when bringing home your new *baby* is read the owner’s manual. I know you just want to rip open the box and start clicking away. Guaranteed you will use the auto setting and think life is grand. Take 10 deep cleansing breaths and step away from the camera while grabbing the owners manual. Granted, most manuals are quite dry; the information contained in the manual will save you time, lower your frustration level and help prevent bad photos. Most importantly – help prevent bad photos. Chances are you’ve made a significant investment in this camera. Today’s dSlR’s, even the introductory models have powerful functions that will take time for the beginner to learn. The best place to start – the owner’s manual.

Read Me!

Photo Tip #2: Find your Mentor

There is sort of an informal big brother/big sister movement among local photographers. It is important to understand that you are not alone in your struggle to understand the laws of physics in relation to your new camera. In all seriousness, it is beneficial to join a local photo club or find a Flickr meetup in your area. These are great opportunities to learn more about photography and maybe make new friends – a win/win situation.

Photographer in Action!

Photo Tip #3: Invest in a good quality prime lens. Most entry level dSlR’s come standard with a kit lens. While it is a good start,  adding an inexpensive prime lens will help you step into the world of creative photography. In short you will begin to take photos similar to the ones that inspired you to purchase the camera in the first place.  My suggestion would be as 50mm f/1.8. If you want to splash out more money, then go with the 50mm f/1.4.  When you are ready to explore other lenses such as Macro or Telephoto lenses, head to your local camera shop and rent them for the weekend. It is best to take time to find what types of photos you enjoy shooting, then purchase the appropriate lens.

Photo Tip #4: Join an online photo sharing website such as Flickr, Photobucket or Picasa.  Added benefits include; large groups of people just a jazzed about photography as you are, a wealth of EXIF data for you to study, and a great way to show off your own masterpieces. It is a win/win situation.

Photo Tip #5: Practice, practice, practice! With the advent of digital cameras, new enthusiasts can take advantage of the instant viewing of their photos to build their skills fairly quickly. Always carry a camera with you as you are constantly surrounded by unique photo opportunities.  Most importantly, have fun!

Photo Tip #6: Pay it Forward.

This is a great way to freely pass on a bit of goodwill and this world can use every bit of it. The premise is simple; whenever you have the opportunity, say ‘thank you’ by offering a print of your best photo to the subject of your photo. For example, my photo buddy Richard and I spent a Sunday photographing the main hall of  30th Street Station. We spent some time photographing the owner of Phoenix Shoe Shine stand. Here is his posing patiently for the camera.

monochrome161

After post processing, Richard helped to select my best photo to print. A few weeks later, I happily handed him his photo. The cost of sharing this photo with him? Priceless. So my fledgling photographers, while you are going about learning the craft of photography, take the opportunity to use your new skills to spread a bit of goodwill.

Basic Photography Settings

In this section, I will define basic setting found on your camera.  Please memorize these definitions as there will be a quiz.

Aperture Priority seen on your dSlR abbreviated as AV: This function controls how much light enters the camera from the lens and is represented as a numerical value or f-stop. The Aperture value is always printed on the lens. The value represents the depth of field of the image you want to photograph. A large aperture value or low f-stop gives you a shallow depth of field resulting in a sharp foreground image and a blurred background. A small aperture value or large f-stop will allow sharp focusing of both the foreground and background. When you select this setting, the camera will automatically set your shutter speed.

For example,  and f/2 lens stop has minimal depth of field, while an f/11 lens stop has considerably more.  A lens has the following printed on it: Canon Zoom Lens EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6. The f-stop for this lens is f/3.5-5.6, this information tells me that the aperture priority setting is small allowing for more of the photo, background and foreground to be in focus.  This is the lens to use when I want all the elements in the frame to be in focus.

Japanese Tea House

Example #2: My favorite lens is the Canon 50mm f/1.8. The lens lowest f-stop of f/1.8 is noted on the lens. This tells me that this lens has a large aperture priority. This allows for focusing on a narrow area in the foreground. I use this lens when I want a shallow field of focus and desire the rest of background to be blurred.

Diva!

In summary, the higher the f/stop more area will be in focus; the lower the f/stop means less area in your frame will be in focus.  The choice of which to use is dependent upon the you and your vision of the photo you want to take.

Shutter Speed: This is the time the shutter is open when taking a photo. This definition is less confusing than Aperture Priority. Shutter Priority is abbreviated on your camera as “TV” (Time Value). The values reflect the time the shutter is open, the larger the value the longer the shutter is open. Conversely, the smaller the value, the shorter amount of time the shutter is open. TV allows the photographer to freeze or blur moving objects such as flowing water. When you select this function, the camera will automatically set your AV

TV shutter open for 4 seconds the water in the illuminated fountain looks quite blurred.

Philadelphia at Night

TV shutter open for one four hundredth of a second (1/400), the water looks frozen in place.

Longwood Garden

Both AV and TV perform the tasks of regulating the amount of light entering the camera. These are tools for you to use to create good photos.

ISO - The ISO sensitivity characterizes the sensor’s sensitivity to light, you can think of it as the ‘film speed’. The most common ISO speed settings are: 100, 200, 400 and 800. With digital cameras, the ISO can range from 50 through 6400. Lower ISO numbers (50 through 400) require more light to get a good exposure, while higher ISO numbers (800 +) require less light to get the right exposure. Unlike film, you can change the ISO at will, dependent upon the scene.

Exposure compensation, abbreviated EV on your mode dial. This feature allows you to adjust exposure as it is measured by an inboard light meter. The range of adjustment goes from +2 to -2 EV in 1/3 steps.(-3 to +3. Essentially, you are telling the camera to either allow more light in (positive number) or to allow less light into the camera (negative number).

White Balance abbreviated on the mode dial as WB. This feature allows you or the camera to remove unrealistic casts due to lighting issues. Basically, it makes your whites a true white on the camera – sort of like Tide. This has to do with color temperature represented in Kelvin. Your manual reviews the numerous choices you have in adjusting the white balance of every photo. See Tip#1.

Manual control abbreviated by the letter ‘M’ on the mode dial. Selecting this function allows you to set every parameter I’ve covered and then some. The user is in full control of every setting. It is not as daunting as it seems at the moment.

P mode is one step down from manual – when you focus your shot, it will set all the parameters for you, however, it does allow you to change individual settings as you see fit. This is a great place to begin as you progress towards full manual freedom.

Auto setting – Just pretend it doesn’t exist. Using it will stall your progression towards photography nirvana – you don’t want to deny yourself the experience.

JPEG - Stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group, the committee that developed this photography format. It is a compressed file format that is best used in color digital photography. You have the option of setting this type of file for your photos. JPEG images are retouched by the image software in the camera before being viewed by user.

RAW - A file format that has minimal processing before viewed by user. Basically, what the lens ‘sees’ is what is produced. A very ‘raw’ photo that will need post processing to bring out the beauty of the image. Many dSlR’s offer the option of RAW file format.

EXIF Data – Stands for EXchangeable Image Format. Each photo you take has a small file that contains all the camera settings used to take this photo. Many photo sharing websites allow you to display EXIF data. This information is an invaluable teaching tool. Below is an example of the EXIF data displayed by FLICKR

exif

Rule of Thirds – Using this technique will help you produce well balanced, easy on the eye photos. You can read a great review of this technique HERE.

I believe there is enough stuff on this post for you to review and practice. Using what I’ve explained in this post the following won’t look greek to you:

CanonXT + 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6, 1/250 @ f/8 ISO 100 EV 0.2.

Yellow & White Tulips..part 2

Let me know your thoughts or send me a link to photos you have taken.

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Tania

3 responses to “Photography for Newbies – Part 1

  1. says:

    That is one awesome essay!

    Thanks Tania. Will work something up myself! And love the pics. That fountain shot is killer!

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