Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to take pretty pictures (part 2)

You always hear professional photographers say that a person should only shoot in manual.

But it's not just for professionals.
Do you get frustrated when your flash goes off and you don't want it to?
Do you get a lot of motion blur in your photos?
Think you can't take pictures indoors because it never works right?
You're wrong. All of these can be fixed fairly easily by shooting in manual!

You can manipulate that camera much more than you even realize. So get ready to work it, girl!

Get your camera. And get your manual.
And if you haven't already, read Part 1 of this series.

I'm not the best photographer out there. Please don't think I'm insinuating that I know it all.
I know a little and still have soooooo much to learn.
But I've been asked over and over lately for help with people's cameras. So I thought I'd try to help you too.
This is a very basic, simple lesson.

There are 3 basic pieces to a properly exposed photo - The photographic triangle. (properly exposed means, not too light, not too dark, not too blurry, not too grainy. Just a nice clean photo.)
1. ISO
2. Shutter Speed
3. Aperture

I'm not going to go too deep into the meaning of each of these, right now.
Know that aperture is the same thing as an F-Stop. You'll also see it listed as something like f2.0. The lower the number, the more light is coming into your camera. The higher the number, the less light is coming in.

Switch your camera over to the big scary M. Do it!
Find something in the room to take a photo of. (I shouldn't admit that all of my first manual pictures were taken of my big toe, in a fairly dark room at midnight. Hey, whatever works.)

One of the biggest things you'll have to learn and practice is knowing settings off the top of your head.

I'm going to say you're in an average lit room right now. So set your ISO to 800 to start off with. (This is where you need your camera manual - to learn to adjust these settings.)

ISO's at 800? Good.
Now set your aperture to f4. If you can't do f4, go as low as you can. It may be
f5.6 or so.

Put the camera up to your eye, point it at your big toe or object of choice, press the shutter button halfway down, and through the viewfinder you'll see a "ruler" at the bottom. The goal is to get the arrow as close to the center as possible.

Center = perfect exposure!

Scroll the little wheel on top of your camera back and forth until it lands in the center.
If your arrow is right of the center line, your photo will be overexposed = brighter.
If your arrow is left of the center line, your photo will be underexposed = darker.

Now push the button. Do it! Congratulations, you just took a photo in Manual!

Now play with the settings a bit. Drop the ISO down to 400, take another shot and see how it looks. Up the ISO to 1600, take another shot and see how it looks.

Drop the f-stop lower and see what happens. Raise it and see what happens.

Go outside and find a twig or flower, lower your ISO (since you have much more natural light outside, you don't need such a high number ISO), and shoot it.

Pretty, huh?!

And you thought it was hard to take pretty pictures...

If you live local to me, I'm going to be doing a photography day soon.
No charge, of course!
Just a day to come hang out on the farm and I can help you in person with your camera. If you're interested, let me know.

It's big and scary, but I promise if I can learn to do this, you can too!


Rebecca Ramsey said...

How fun! I wish I was close enough to drive up and spend some time with you. I can't wait to try all these good directions out with my camera. Thank you!

Maple Memories said...

I would love to come to your photography day!!! PLEASE let me know when it is!!! YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!

Jody said...

I want to come!!!!

Elizabeth @ My Life, Such as it is... said...

I have a point and shoot digital camera. There is a manual mode (I think) somewhere but I can't find my camera manual anywhere. Thanks for the info though.

Decorchick! said...

Beki this was so helpful to me!! I've been taking my photos in manual, but I had no idea I could turn the wheel when I press the button down half way to make it in the center. I never even looked at that! Thank you!!

Learning Spanish at 41 said...

Good info! Diving into using manual mode is when photography goes from "just a snapshot" to "I love photography". My tip: Anyone that's misplaced their camera manual can find a new copy online...almost all camera manufacturers have pdf files available to download and save or print. :)

Ruth said...

how about a photographic world tour?? :)

i laugh every single time i see "i like pig and i like cake' in your sidebar... you crack me up.

merlin said...

I am afraid to try to follow your instructions for fear of failing ONE MORE TIME at taking pictures. I have never been more frustrated by anything in my life than this blasted camera. A middle aged woman tantruming like a 2 yr old over blurry, over/under exposed pictures is ugly.

I see what I see, but the picture NEVER looks like what I see. So, do I take the leap of faith and follow your instructions, or run and hide under the bed? Maybe some folks could comment in their personal experience to boost my confidence....could you shout out that the instructions will work, even for me? Thanks.

Beki - TheRustedChain said...

Merlin, you have no idea how many tantrums I threw trying to figure it out!!

I just kept reading and practicing until it clicked... and it finally did!

With enough practice you'll be able look around and know that a certain situation needs an ISO 200 and f3.5.
But it definitely took a long time for it to click in my little head!

Wendy said...

Not the manual! Can't you just come out here and show me what to do? I have a lovely guest bedroom... And chocolate.

Sara said...

You have to read my last post!

I took a crash course in photography...had a Groupon for a $69 class/photo safari....

Figured...why not?

They started by telling us..."this is a 16 week course"...and we had 6 hours.

I am SO overwhelmed...

Why do you have to live so far away?

Trasie Bressler said...

I want to come!!!!! Woo Hoo!!!!!

Danielle said...

Just dug my manual out. At first, I could find only the Espanol version. Now I'm reading English. I wish you would have written my manual. Your instructions are so much easier to read and understand.

I REALLY want to attend your photo class!!!!

Stacy said...

Great advice. Thank you for this post!

indywriter said...

I'm gonna have to play with my camera now :). Whenever my kids are in programs or recitals, I can't get a good picture. Either the flash goes off and the lines are crisp, but so dark you can't tell who is in the picture; or I don't use flash and while I can see the subject, it's all a blur.

Thanks for taking some of the intimidation out of manual settings. :)

Tara said...

thank you sweet thing for the time you took to post these helpful hints:)

Southern Traditions Boutique said...

Thanks so much Beki! My new monster camera came with just a teeny-tiny manual, but I went online and found the extended version! WOW! I was playing with it today and I LOVE the bokeh effect! Can't wait to take the kids downtown and play with some cool old backgrounds! Wish I lived closer, as I'd love to attend your class! :)

The Vintage Kitten said...

Great post and so helpful. Thankyou for sharing your tips X

Lisa Holman of XSBaggage and Co. said...

Thanks for the tips Beki! I've been playing around with my camera all weekend. I LOVE the shots you got with the Baby & Puppers!

amy d said...

yay!! i need all the help i can get!
thanks for the pointers!
...and now to the difficult part: your snow pictures are pretty, and you know how much i dislike snow! the white up against the red barn is fantastic! there i said it! (pretty and snow in the same sentence) happy?

Anonymous said...

found your site on today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

Amanda said...

oh, I would LOVE to come too! I know SOOO little but so desperately want to know more. I try to shoot in aperature when I can - but sometimes I get frustrated! Thanks so much for your tips - I can't wait to try them and just play around more!

Stacey said...

Okay, I just played around with it again. I can't get it to not be blurry! UGH. DARN YOU!

The Lazy Mom

Anonymous said...

Wish you best luck for the current and next year!There's always room for more thing.

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to looked over way more of your current well written articles, have a pleasant day!