Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to take pretty pictures. (part 3)

If you haven't already, read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Last time we learned how to take photos in manual mode. Snazzy.
It's fun right? But we definitely jumped ahead a little. What good does being in Manual do if you don't understand what you're doing?

I just wanted to show you that it's entirely possible for you to master this.

So you learned that you can scroll the little wheel on top of your camera and when the arrow lands in the center of the ruler, it's a perfect exposure.

But what makes it perfect? The balance of Aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.

So how do I know what aperture I need?
That, my dears, is the question of the century. It took me months and months of tantrum throwing fits to wrap my head around this.

The three pieces work together to form a triangle.
I, personally, pay very little attention to my shutter speed.
In the top left of my camera screen there is a number that's sometimes 100, sometimes as high as 4000. That's the shutter speed.
Imagine it as a fraction. If it shows 250, you're shooting at 1/250 of a second.

I try to keep it at 1/100th or faster, but other than that I don't pay a lot of attention to it. I'm more concerned with the ISO and aperture.

If it drops too low, I'm going to have a slow shutter which can result in motion blur in my photo. To compensate for that I need to let more light into the camera.
I let more light in by increasing the ISO (which also increases the noise or grain) or lowering the aperture number.

A great resource to start understanding aperture is Pioneer Woman's What the Heck is an Aperture guide.

I'll give you the abreviated version.

In addition to allowing a certain amount of light into your camera, aperture also determines the focal depth. (depth of field)

And because the photography gods like to mess with our heads, the lower the number (something like an f2.0), the more light is coming into the camera.
The higher the number (something like an f22), the less light is coming into the camera.

It hurts the brain, doesn't it.

For shooting dark indoor candlelit weddings, photographers like to have a lens that will go down to f1.4 or f1.2 because it lets in so much more light.

If you want everything in your photo to be in focus, you need a high number aperture.

If you want a small part of the photo to be in focus and the rest to be blurred (a.k.a. bokeh), you need a low number aperture.

Take a look at these photos.
My aperture was too low, ISO was too high, and I ended up with an overexposed picture.
Too bright. I needed to have less light coming into the camera.

I lowered the ISO number, and increased the aperture number a little. (when you're talking aperture numbers, a little goes a long way.)
This time it was much better. My focal point was set in the bottom center and you can see that her eyes are pretty clear while the rest of her body is blurred.

It's still not a great photo, but definitely an improvement.

If I had increased my aperture a lot, her entire body would be in focus.
However if I'd left the other settings alone, it also would've made the photo much darker because I needed a slower shutter speed.

It's all about keeping that imaginary triangle balanced. Aperture/ISO/Shutter Speed.

I had to scroll that little wheel again which is changing the shutter speed. The camera is smart enough to know what speed is needed based on the other settings you give it.

Imagine that the shutter is the eye of the camera and it's naturally closed all the time. When you push the button it opens. It either opens and recloses very quickly, or it opens, pauses, and then recloses. That long pause is a slow shutter speed that will give you motion blur. (sometimes this is fun to play with! Look at my photos from the Martha Stewart party. I used a 3 second shutter speed to get the cool blurred traffic photos.)
The camera was telling me I was very very wrong when my arrow wasn't centered, but I ignored it and forced the slow shutter. My camera is not the boss of me.

Lost? I hope not.

Read back over it all if you need to. I'm not ashamed to admit that it took me months and months of reading the same things before it finally clicked.

You can do it!


Stacey said...

Ohhhh.... I get it!

Wait. Huh?

The Lazy Mom

Wendy said...

Yeah, I'm still stuck on the "read the camera manual" part from before.

Bethe77 said...

Thank you for walking us through taking great photos. Not sure I have the right kind of camara but I think all of this will help and when I do get a nicer camara I will have this great information and can practice on great photos. Blessings

Anonymous said...

You did a great job of explaining a very complex topic. It's tough, I tried. It does take a lot of time to catch on and I would tell people to be patient with themselves, do lots of reading, try to take a class, and try to have a friend who can walk through it with them.

Casey said...

Great post! I need all the help I can get when it comes to taking pictures. :)

Amy, a redeemed sheep said...

Ummm...Can you type a little slower. I'm confused.

I will keep read and re-read until I get this. I am determined!

Unknown said...

i like to think of the ISO like your eye, when it's dark your pupil gets bigger to let more light in. low=big. the brighter it is the smaller your pupil gets. high=small. right? makes sense to me.

Beki - TheRustedChain said...

No, the ISO would not be like the pupil of the eye, but the aperture would.

Suzanne said...

Thank you for the tutorials!!! I really need to throw myself into learning more about my camera. I love your model in the pictures! She is so cute. I have 1 dog that loves to get his picture taken and 1 that absolutely hates me to get my camera out. He just lays down and won't look at me at all. It is funny!!

Danielle said...

Thank you for your tutorials. I've been playing with my camera in the manual mode a lot more since your last post. I still don't get it but I'm going to keep playing. Keep the tutorials coming!

The Flying Bee said...

Thanks for all the info. I hate that it can be so confusing...but I am determined to learn it all!

Lisa Marie said...

Thank you..thank you...thank you. I have read about the ISO/AP/Shutter spd. multiple times, but this is the first that it actually "clicked"...yeah. Thank you for taking the time to explain it. I have always been intimidated to put my SLR on manual but I think you've given me some confidence....

Love - Lisa

By the way....your jewelery is amazing.

CalleLillyCafe said...

I have bookmarked this post & will refer back when I get my dream camera! This puppy is too precious!