If you read my previous post ‘The Gift of Photography’ you will know that I was recently given an SLR camera for my birthday-EXCITING. From this, you may also know that I have no idea how to use it! I decided that I would embrace my newbie photographer status and share the lessons that I learn along my little journey of discovery with this remarkable piece of equipment. Last time I ventured out into the world with my camera, I was literally just pointing and shooting using automatic mode (which I like to refer to as THE SAFE GREEN BUTTON). Although I liked some of the photos that I took, I was well aware that I could do better with a bit more ‘know how’. This weekend I had an accomplice who knows a thing or two about photography- my brother James. He showed me a few handy basics that any newbie photographer can start to experiment with. I think it is important to point out that I did not go out with the intention of taking fantastic photos, but to simply learn the basic functions of a few different settings on the camera, and the right times to use such settings. It was also wonderfully useful to have our happy friend Harvey the Labrador with us to photograph. If like me, you are first beginning to learn how to use your SLR camera, I would wholeheartedly recommend taking a furry friend along for a walk and taking shots of them. Harvey provided an excellent reference point from which to compare settings and effects. Not only this, but you have to admit he is absolutely ADORABLE. Here are a few of the hints and tips that I learnt in a bite sized nutshell- nom nom!
(Bear in mind that I am a Canon user, so other models may use different names for different settings)
APERTURE IS IMPORTANT
Have you ever wondered how to blur the background of the image you are photographing? This effect works particularly well with portraits, and is very easy to do by switching the wheel on your camera to ‘AV’, meaning Aperture Priority mode. Essentially, this semi-auto setting simply lets you choose the Aperture (the size of the hole in your lens) and tells the camera to choose all the other settings (lovely bubbly, nice and easy). To create that blurry background against your well exposed focal subject, you need to use a LARGE APERTURE. This creates a shallow depth of field, i.e. focuses on the foreground and blurs out the background. Just remember, the smaller the number, the larger the aperture (so the blurrier the background). These are listed as ‘F’ numbers on your AV setting (e.g. F1.8, F2.0 etc). As a simple rule of thumb unrelated to blurry background portraits, it is worth knowing that F11 is a good setting for landscapes as it ensures that ALL of the image is in focus. You can adjust which F number you want to use by using the scroll wheel just above the shutter button you press to take that all important photo. Hey presto as simple as that!!
AV setting options: F number examples. Photo source- Wikipedia
The easiest way to understand what AV is for and what aperture means is to EXPERIMENT. So I played about with this setting for a while, and took several photos of Harvey to illustrate the difference between aperture sizes. Here are the results:
LENSES ARE A GREAT WAY TO GET EXCELLENT EFFECTS
I already knew that there are lots of different lenses out there for the budding and professional photographer alike that can help to achieve breath-taking photos. But I also knew that they are EXPENSIVE and that there is an overwhelming choice to choose from. Where was I supposed to start? I found from research that different lenses have different maximum apertures. Those with larger ones are called ‘faster’ and one of the impacts of having a speedy lens is that you can make your depth of field smaller. What seemed like an easy solution to improving my photos had the obstacle of cost looming firmly in the way, or so I thought. My brother introduced me to a very affordable option for Canon DSLR- the Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Its super speedy and has a nice focal length for portraits. I would highly recommend giving one a go. Just look at the difference it makes to my photographs of Harvey! I think they look far more professional already 🙂
USE DIFFERENT FOCUS MODES TO CAPTURE MOVEMENT
If your subject is moving around a lot (like Harvey was), then an excellent and EASY way to capture movement in your photographs is by changing the setting. By switching to AF Mode (Auto Focus Mode) and selecting AI SERVO you can continually focus on and capture movement. Essentially, your camera constantly updates focus to keep the subject as sharp as possible. I used this setting in conjunction with AV for better results.
Look at these swishy shots of Harvey in action.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE…
Get away from that SAFE GREEN button and start experimenting with the other settings! Use a large aperture to create a shallow depth of field (e.g. F2.0), a small aperture to keep the entire image in focus (e.g. F11), invest in a decent AFFORDABLE lens, and use different focus modes to help capture movement in a far more snazzy way. I think those little pearls of wisdom are invaluable to anyone starting out learning how to take photos, and I am very grateful to my brother for having taken the time to teach me. Let’s face it, an SLR camera is an impressive piece of equipment, and as such it can feel fairly daunting to know just where to begin. There is a VAST amount of information and tutorials out there which can be as overwhelming as it is encouraging. In essence, I hope this post provided you with some helpful tips if you are interested in learning how to use an SLR. I will be posting more lessons as learn them in the hope that others will find them useful. Happy snapping!
If you know a thing or to about photography, and have any suggestions/comments about my photos and what I should learn next, then please feel free to comment below. Any advice is much appreciated 🙂
Love Emily xx