Basic manual-mode photography tips for the up-and-coming photographers.
In this article, we will make certain assumptions. Assumption #1, we own a camera (digital or otherwise). Assumption #2, we have taken pictures with it and know that they could have turned out better. Assumption #3, we would like for them to turn out better! Then, here we go. We will focus on digital as it is easiest to learn on due to instant access to our results via technology.
As this is a basic tip article, we will start with the basics. We consider “the basics” to be 3 things: light, aperture and shutter speed. After grasping these 3 things, we will notice a marked improvement in the quality of our photos. Then, we can move on to more advanced tips.
Light is both a photographer’s blessing and curse. When we have the right lighting, our pictures are amazing. When we have too much lighting, or not enough, it causes our pictures to turn out in a way other than we would have liked. If taking pictures outside, try to shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Also, try to position our subject so that the light plays to our favor. If our subject is a person, avoid shooting from the sun. Get at an angle so that they are not looking at us with the sun in their eyes. Try to make sure that the lighting across our subject is consistent. If our subject is a person, again, try to keep the whole body or face (whichever part we are shooting) in the shade or the light. This will help to avoid the unwanted and awkward shadows. *If we want to get creative, we can also invest in a reflector to try and further master the lighting of our subjects.
The best way to think of the aperture is to lift one our hands and form an “O” with our fingers (bring tips together with thumb-tip). This is our aperture. Now, bring it up to one of our eyes. Is it easy to see out of? Great. Now, still holding our hand up to our eye, we can start curling our fingers in to our palm along the base of our thumb. Is the light disappearing? That is the way our aperture (also known as an f-stop) works in our cameras. It opens and closes to allow more or less light into our shot from what is available to us. The lower the number is, the bigger the opening is and more light that reaches our image sensor. The higher the number is, the tighter/smaller the opening is and less light that gets in. This function is used together with shutter speed.
Blink. Now blink a few times. The time between the blinks, or the amount of time that our eyes/shutter stays open, is the equivalent of shutter speed. It determines how much light to let in and also how much action. The smaller the number is (or higher the 1/ number is, i.e. 1/1000 versus 1/30), the faster the shutter speed is. There are also specialty settings B and T for bulb (keeps shutter open for as long as our finger is on shutter release) and time (keeps shutter open until we hit release again. The fast shutter speeds only let in a little light and are pretty useful in high-light scenarios or with moving targets. Slow speeds are useful in low-lighting. Slow speed will blur if there is movement. Ever see the cool pictures with blurred car lights on the streets? Slow shutter speed. Tripods or something else was used to prop the camera on so the hand shaking would not warp the picture. That’s right. Our own hand shaking (even a little) will cause blurred images on slow shutter speed.
Taking pictures at different times of day, in different locations, should give us an idea of the different combinations of aperture and shutter speed that will work for us to get “that shot” that we are looking for. Now that we covered the basics, get out there and have some fun! Best of luck!
About the Author:
Owen Fisher writes for Nu Image Studios (http://www.nuimagestudios.com/). A Knoxville-based team of photographers who shoot weddings and portraits in the Southeast.
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