My second journey into photography – what did I learn?

This time around I was ready to really understand the basics of photography: depth of field, shutter speed, aperture etc. 
What I needed was someone talking me through the different elements of photography and I had more realistic expectations than those during my first journey (see previous post). I wasn’t going to be the photographer I may have dreamt about in my younger years.
 
My main subject was going to be the little baby that has taken 
centre stage in my life. Because he is growing fast and time just flies, I wanted to capture all the beautiful moments, his cheeky smile, his first claps (the first time he clapped he was really excited)


… his first time in the sea, etc. 


So we decided to invest in a Canon 650D and I decided to enroll in a course: Introduction to digital photography. A friend wanted to do the same, so we both signed up for it.
 
The start was quite slow, we kept coming back to the same points (aperture and shutter speed) as they are a little bit counter-intuitive and difficult to remember. But perhaps the repetition was good for remembering!
 
As photography is quite technical and has a long history of adapting to different technologies, the way things work doesn’t make much sense to the modern user. So it is important to structure the course so that the technicalities don’t become a barrier. The best way of learning was by practicing and sharing images in the class. After the course which allowed me to understand the basics, it was important to practice which I did.
I took photos everywhere, on holiday, at the park, at home. Some of the holiday photos were overexposed, especially those taken on the beach as it was really bright. And on a few occasions I missed the moment, while deciding on the settings.
So two lessons so far, be careful about overexposure and use automatic mode when need to capture quickly. 
 
But what else did I learn from the course?
 
Before you start, using the camera in manual mode, start by checking the ISO values first. I then set my aperture and last shutter speed. 
 
The triangle
 
The triangle of exposure is key. Aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the three elements which can be used to control the amount of light coming in through the camera and the effects, one wants to achieve.  
 
Aperture (or the f stop) – an easy way to remember  
 
The way I remember this, avoiding the technicalities is: when I want to take a picture that focuses on a subject and I want to throw everything else out of focus, I use a small number for the F stop (fsomething like f3.5, f4 or F5.6; for other lenses it can be different and the smaller the number the better the effect, the lowest being f1.4).

When I want to have everything in focus and not lose any details I use higher numbers (f16, f22). The values in the middle produce a bit less of each effect and a bit more of the other.
 
ISO values
 
The ISO sets the sensitivity of the sensor (the modern version of the film) to light. So on a dark day, indoors higher values of ISO (400-1600 and over 1600) will increase the brightness of the picture. On a sunny day and outdoors the lowest values will be enough (100-400).  
 
Shutter speed – an easy way to remember 
 
For values of shutter speed at about 1/60, 1/125  a lot of light comes into the camera. For values of 1000 and more, less light goes through. What’s important is to have a high enough shutter speed to freeze the moment and have a sharp image – values above 1/125. 
 
Depth of field 

One thing I remember well because I like using it, is depth of field and how you can make an image have different layers. This is like using various values of aperture but in addition you decide how close you want to be to the main object of your photo and make the rest looks unimportant. I like images with shallow depth of field, where an element is clear and the rest out of focus.


I also like taking landscapes and again with shallow depth of field, focusing on a flower or a leave.

Also street reporting is interesting but also difficult to do unless you have a really good long lens so that you don’t have to be really close to people’s faces. 

 

 

The rule of thirds 

The rule of thirds stuck with me as an aesthetics general rule to keep in mind. It seems that images are more pleasing to the eye when the subject is in one or two thirds of the image frame rather than dead in the centre. I really like using this as it gives me something to focus on when I take a picture and have to decide framing my image. Which bits matter most, what should I keep in, leave out?  

So here is my resume of a photography course and lessons from practice. I am hoping to keep practicing and perhaps will share more tips in the future! 

What about you, do you use your camera in manual mode? What are your tips? 

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5 thoughts on “My second journey into photography – what did I learn?

  1. Three bits left out are…Pratice, practice, practice!There's a saying in photography that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. In essence, we have to go through the process of taking one naff photo after another until it starts to gel. On the one hand it might seem a bit depressing, but actually it takes the pressure off. Otherwise we start thinking we should be getting superb photos by the time we've filled the memory card, and then get disheartened when we haven't.It's a bit like taking a look at a spectacular view from the top of a mountain. You will have had to take many, many steps to get to the top – and often one step feels very much like the last one and you can't feel much progression. But each one is building on the last and eventually you reach a point where you can see all those previous steps were really important to getting you there.I wish you every success on your journey, Laura 🙂

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  2. Tried to respond in LinkedIn but not working! Here's my comment to your issue posts three days ago: I had a baby and then bought an mpe 65mm macro lens and an mt 24ex flash unit. It got me though the first 6 months of my daughters life as with macro you can shoot in your back garden and the world is your oyster! Then when they start to grow up you can start taking more portraits of them and make them your new subject! It's very frustrating I know not being able to do photography. Read lots on the web, take lots of shots when you can and learn how to use photoshop to make incredible images from what you have. That way you are still taking part and practising your passion without having to leave the house much!

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  3. Hi Murray, thanks for your suggestions, all very useful. You are right I need to make the most of want I have, even if it can translate into repetitive subjects or photos. The LinkedIn discussion has been very useful with practical ideas so I have a different outlook and am using every opportunity. Thanks and all the best laura

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  4. Thanks for linking to your post when you left a comment on my blog post. Great post. I agree with you: once the basic principles have sunk in, all you have to do is practise, practise and practise some more! Just like you, when I try to capture something cute the kids are doing, I’ll use the automatic mode, but I’ll then switch to manual straight after to try and get the focus & exposure I really want.

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