It was 6 months ago today that I bought my digital SLR. In that time I’ve taken over 1800 photographs and tried a number of different techniques and tools.
I guess some have worked better than others.
So, what have I learned?
Probably the first thing I learned when I turned the camera from its seductive automatic mode was the aperture setting. Controlling the amount of light that gets through the lens it has a major effect on the length of time needed for the exposure and the depth of field in focus in the image. I also learned photographing a washing line in the rain will get you some strange looks from your wife…
If aperture controls the amount of light, then shutter priority controls the shutter time. Useful when taking pictures of fast moving objects or for intentional blurring effects and maybe something to remember when taking pictures of remote control racing cars (my brothers one comment on 100 photos I took one Sunday – “Why are they all so blurred?”)
Shutter Priority versus Aperture Priority
These work together. The smaller the aperture, the longer the exposure time needed. Simple as that. Except it’s not is it? Basically you seem to trade these off against each other to get the effect you want. Want a large depth of field (for some panoramic stuff), then you’ll need a long exposure. When working in one of these modes, the camera will always manipulate the other setting. you can use a little under exposure or over exposure to help get the effect you want.
When in manual mode, you’re on your own kid…
Basically how sensitive the sensor will be to the light presented. The higher the ISO, the less light needed. But, the higher the ISO the more potential for noisey pictures (unwanted grain). Mostly I learned it’s important to reset it to 100 after you’ve been using it on a higher setting or you can end up in a pickle.
The value of a good tripod is becoming more and more apparent. something sturdy, quick to erect and stable is essential for all but the most simple of snaps. And something you can trust is good too. The tripod I have is fit for purpose, but will probably be the first piece of kit I change as I find it impossible to get level.
When I started out on this, I’d feared I would be a purest in terms of post processing, demanding all photos were as is out of the camera. But image manipulation is a seductive mistress. (I’ll try to show you in the next post I make).
It starts simple a little cropping, maybe some straightening and then before you know it you’re in there burning shadows, cloning out annoying artefacts and generally making all manner of changes. Fair enough I say. Go for it.
I’m sure there are other technical things I’ve picked up over the past 6 months but what’s amazed me is the emotional or artistic side to it.
I don’t want to come across like one of those “no one understands my pain, here’s a poem” people*, but…
I’ve also started to appreciate the impact of properly framing a picture. Using things like the rule of thirds and perspective (which I’ll try to explain when I understand it a bit better myself) to make a landscape jump out at you. Or making sure a persons eyes are in focus to improve a portrait.
The thought process that goes into a single photograph amazes me. When I’d looked at a finished picture in a magazine I’d never considered that the photographer had maybe spent hours waiting for the perfect light, moving around to get the perfect line and spent hours puzzling out the perfect settings. Even one of those things wrong and a great photo ends up just a good one. (and if I could even get a good one I’d be delighted).
These days I’ve a habit of finding myself walking along framing things in my head, spotting abstracts and pictures and wondering if they’d work. I also find I never quite manage to capture what I thought I was capturing, either emotionally or artistically. Still, it’s a learning experience.
Hopefully I’m improving. I guess as long as I’m having fun, that’s all that matters.
*I have nothing against artistic people or poets. I quite like a good poem. I just can’t handle teenage angst very well. Oh, and Goths. I tried to be a Goth once, but it was so depressing…. And being ginger meant I could never quite pull off the look…