Sunday, January 20, 2013

January: Basic Photography Class

ISO: 200 Aperture: f/5 Shutter Speed: 1/60

A Swing at the Neighborhood Park
July 19th, 2012

Every month this year I want to do one thing to improve my photography. These things will include taking classes, being mentored, purchasing a new lens, photo expeditions, and photo shoots of people.

I had some credit from classes I missed last year, and I finally had a chance to use it by taking an all day "boot camp" on basic photography skills. If you're nervous about taking a photography class, January is a great time to do it because so many people just received cameras for Christmas. The lady next to me had not even taken her Canon out of the box.

Here are a few things I got out of the class. Please remember that I am not a professional and I could be misunderstanding something - again here is what I got out of it:

1.  Aperture (the number after the letter f) has to do with what is in focus. And since focusing out the background (making it blurry) is one of my favorite things to do, I am about to become a student of aperture.

2. The lower the f number, the less of the background is in focus. The higher the f number, the more of the whole picture that is in focus. I think of it like this to remember: lower number, lower background quality. (Although I think a blurry background is actually beautiful quality). My picture above is an f/5. 

3. Putting the camera on A or AV mode will let you choose the f numbers. 

4. The lower the aperature, the higher the shutter speed. 1/4000 is a HIGH speed, and anything with quotation marks after the number is LOW speed. More about that later . . .

Shutter Speed

5. Putting the camera on A or AV mode let's you choose the f numbers AND makes the camera choose the shutter speed! Woo-hoo! Or, you can put it on M (manual) and choose both. 

6. When looking at shutter speed, the “ (quotation mark) after a number means actual seconds. So, if you set it to 15” it’s going to take 15 seconds to take your picture. Low speeds like this are needed for those neat night shots. Again, 1/4000 is a fast, high speed.

7. If you go slower than 1/60, you should be on a tripod. 


8. Messing with the ISO (light sensitivity) will let you get lower and higher aperture and shutter speed numbers. 

9. The default for ISO is 400, but if you're indoors you can crank that up

10. The better (and newer, and more expensive) the camera model, the more ISO choices it will have. This where my lovely (old) camera is weak, but because I love to shoot with sunlight indoors and out, it's not a big deal.


11. Vertical shots are often better than horizontal

12. A shutter speed of ½ and lower will get you some silky shots of water moving, but be sure to be on a tripod

13. Macro shots are not an ability of a camera. It is the ability of the lens.

14. A prime or fixed lens (meaning it can’t be zoomed) can take wonderful macro shots. I am looking at getting a fixed lens at 50mm. 

15. BUT, they make different 50mm with lower and lower f numbers. The lower the number it can reach, the more expensive the lens. So, this little guy is under $150 and can go down to f1.8 but this guy is $350 and goes down to f1.4. I have no idea what the difference between f1.8 and f1.4 looks like. 

16. And finally, something ALL teachers tell you: use the rule of thirds. I need to get some technical stuff down before I start thinking about this every time I take a picture. Some rules are: water can take up 2/3 of the frame, and the remaining 1/3 can be sky (or vice versa). Fill the vertical frame with a person, and make sure their eyes are 1/3 of the way down. Basically, think like there is a nine square grid on your frame and use it to your advantage. 

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