Hands up who has a “nice” camera but still leave it in auto to take pictures? If your hand is up read on! If you are just leaving your settings in fully automatic you should have saved a pile of money and bought a cheaper point-and-shoot. But you want to improve your photos, right?
Like most tools, your camera is only as good as the user. The more clues you can give your camera, the more your photo will look like what you want it to. We’re only going to touch on the very basics here, hopefully enough to get you out shooting more photos with purpose!
First thing, for now, turn your flash off. It only helps you if your subject is very close. Anything further than about 6 feet away and those pop-up built in flashes don’t help.
It might be a good idea to dig out your manual. It will (hopefully) explain each of the setting options on your camera. They will all be slightly different, but most will have an “aperture priority” mode (Av with Canons), and a “shutter speed” priority (Tv with Canons). Those two are a good place to start having a play. In Av mode you select the aperture and the camera will select the shutter speed and iso to correctly expose your photo. In Tv mode you select the shutter speed and the camera will select the aperture and iso to correctly expose your photo.
Some of us (ahem) will remember when cameras had film, and you could buy film with different iso - 100, 200, 400, 800 etc. When you take a photo, your camera is capturing light. The iso number is how sensitive your camera is to the light. Here’s what you need to tell your camera - if it’s a bright sunny day, you need a low (100) iso, if it’s night crank it to the highest setting your camera has. Everything else is in between (cloudy ~ 200, indoors maybe 400 etc). The beauty of digital photos is you can have a look, make adjustments and take another one if you don’t nail it the first time.
Before I leave iso, I have to mention that there is a slight trade off. Unfortunately, unless you have a very expensive DSLR, the higher your iso the more “noise” there will be in your picture. Go ahead and take a shot at high iso in a dark room, you’ll see what I mean.
Think of aperture as a window. You can tell your camera to open wide or close the window almost completely. As you would expect, wide open more light gets in, as it closes the less light enters your camera. You may have heard people talk about “F stop” - they are talking about aperture. The smaller the number (F/1.4), the wider open the window. Conversely the larger the number (F/22), the smaller the opening. When you want to take a photo of your subject and blur your background, you select a small F number, or shoot wide open. If you are taking a photo of a landscape, and want the entire photo in focus, choose a higher F number, maybe 16 or even higher. You should notice as you lower your F number your photo gets brighter, but less of it is in focus.
The third setting you can tell your camera is shutter speed. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light is let in. If you are photographing a moving subject (child!) I would suggest a shutter speed of 1/200 seconds or faster, otherwise you will get motion blur. If your object is stationary, and you are hand-holding your camera, 1/60 seconds is about as slow as you can go without blur. Any slower and you need to put your camera on something (tripod) to stabilize it.
Canon have a great little program online where you can adjust the iso. aperture, and shutter speed and see the effect on the photo. Have a look - http://canonoutsideofauto.ca/play/
The diagram below I found on Pinterest, but I’m afraid I’m not sure who created it to give them credit. It wasn’t me!
I hope that’s given you enough of a start to go and have a play, I’d love to see some of your photos! Upload them and tag me!