Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How-to Shoot in Manual Mode: Part 1

I LOVE to take pictures. I am always taking pictures of my family and friends and rarely ever in the pictures. Since my daughter was born, I have been taking pictures non stop of her, and of her and my husband. I now realize that there are very few pictures of me and my daughter, besides the few on my husband's iPhone.

My mission now is to teach my husband to use my DSLR and thus this series begins.

What is a DSLR?
DSLR means digital single lens reflex, or the big clunky cameras you see photographers and tourists use. Lugging around a DSLR is not as convenient as pulling out your phone, but the picture quality is unmatched.

I made the jump to a DSLR after falling in love with the beautiful blurred background I would see in professional photography.I purchased my first DSLR about 5 years ago. It was the Nikon D3000 which is a lower end model and can be purchased now for around $160. The newer models offer great features like live viewing, video recording, and better low light performance, but the D3000 was a great place for me to try photography out before deciding to upgrade.

After researching online, I quickly began shooting in "Aperture Priority" mode. (Aperture is the feature that causes that blurry background.) Using this setting, you select the aperture, and the camera adjusts everything else automatically. It worked well sometimes. However, I would often get very dark pictures (underexposed) or pictures that were so light it was hard to make out what was in the picture (overexposed.)

I didn't know how to fix my problem, and camera lingo was very overwhelming. I put it off for a long time. About a year ago, I decided to learn how to shoot in manual mode, so I could control all of the settings myself. 

I have learned...
  • Light is what photography is all about. You need to adjust the settings to get the light to do what you want it to. Taking pictures in diffused natural sunlight is the most powerful and easiest thing you can do to make your photos look great. (Studio lamps and external flashes help, but nothing is as good as natural light)
  • A good lens is the second most important thing, but the choice is very personal. Think about what you're photographing, how blurry you want the background to be, how close you want to be to your subject, and if your okay with moving around to take pictures. Your camera model may also influence the lens' functionality. My old D3000 and most cameras that are under $2000, work using a crop sensor. ( For Nikons the camera will be labeled "DX") That means that the image you take will look like it's cropped, or you will be able to see and photograph a smaller area. Using this type of sensor, my 35mm lens works more like a 55mm lens. My 50mm lens crops out so much of the surroundings that it is hard to take pictures indoors, which is where I take most of my pictures. That lens only gets used outside where I have the space to back up far enough to capture it all.

You can get lucky with photography and capture some beautiful shots while in AUTO mode. However, you will miss plenty of moments because the pictures are too blurry or too dark or too light. If you want to have control of your images, you MUST shoot in manual mode.

In this series, I will attempt to pull out my inner kindergarten teacher and teach you what I know about photography and taking control of your pictures.  In the following posts, I will explain aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This will include why they matter, how to adjust them to get the shot you want, and how to balance the three to get perfect exposure. 

If this post interests you and you really want to learn photography, I suggest you check out Megan Weaver. She is an amazing photographer in Dallas, and one of the nicest people I have ever chatted with. She is launching a free online photography course in the Spring that you can be a part of. I was lucky enough to get a chance to preview her course and it is definitely worth your time. She is so helpful and genuinely invested in your success. She also gives some great tips on shooting indoors on her blog.

If you have any questions leave them in a comment & I'll do my best to answer them.

1 comment:

  1. Jen thank you so much for sharing this with your readers! I so appreciate it! You're so sweet :)