Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Photography Tips

First of all, I meant to get this post done last weekend, but I had a busy day with family and then two photo sessions this week and several snows here it is finally....

I was all set to do a photoshop tutorial, but I decided do something a bit more in depth from my last photography tips post.  I wanted to talk today specifically about shooting in manual mode for dslr's.  It took me quite a while to start shooting exclusively in manual mode because I would forget to change my settings while chasing my toddler around.  I would get quite frustrated and discouraged when half of my images were either over or under exposed, blurry, or grainy.  It takes a while to get used to it, you just have to stick with it and practice!  Now I really don't even think about it, I always shoot in manual.    So, I thought I would go through the things I do to zero in on the correct exposure while shooting in manual mode.

1)First I set my ISO depending on light conditions.  If I'm outside and it's sunny and fairly bright then I'll set my ISO to 200 or less.  If I'm in the shade, then it might be 400, indoors it can go up to 1000 depending on available light.  (Keep in mind I do manual, NO flash photography 99% of the time, so ISO is very important).
2) Once I've got my ISO determined I will set my aperture.  A smaller aperture (high f-number) increases the depth of field and will bring the background and foreground into focus.  A larger aperture (low f-number) decreases the depth of field which softens the background and focuses on the subject.  For portraits you will want to work with a larger aperture or low f-number.  I don't change this much, I usually shoot pretty wide open (lower f-stop), usually anywhere from 2.2 - 4.5.
3) Next I spot meter off the skin.  I mentioned in my last post that you will need to determine the appropriate metering mode for the type of pictures you are taking. Since I do portraits I find that spot metering work best for me most of the time. I spot meter off the skin of the face primarily and it works very well in most situation.  Next (while keeping the spot meter where I want it), I will adjust my shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure.  I will spot meter and adjust the shutter speed for every shot.
4) Then I focus in and take a couple of shots.  (I use single point focus and move my focus around where I want it to be that's another thing I adjust with every shot). I then check them to see if  (a) the exposure looks correct (not too dark or too light)....{I will explain how a histogram works in a future post, but it would be worthwhile to read about it in your camera manual} , (b) my subject is in focus, and (c) the shot is sharp (not blurry).  If my exposure is incorrect I will re-adjust my ISO, aperture, or shutter speed depending on the issue and take a few more shots.  You could do these adjustments in a variety of ways and there is no exact formula....but the more you practice the easier it will get to find the right balance.  I often find that if the picture is blurry then I need to bump up my ISO and increase my shutter speed.  If the focus area is too small (like only on the eyes of my subject rather than the entire face) then I will check my aperture and adjust it to a higher f-stop number or possibly.  If the pictures appear grainy (higher ISOs will produce more noise and result in a grainy image), then I don't have enough light and will have to supplement my natural light with indoor light, or move to a difference area (for me that would be outside) in order to lower my ISO value.
I realize this might not make a lot of sense to many, but if you get your dslr manual out and read through it, then this might make sense.  : )  There is no one perfect formula....the correct exposure can be achieved in many ways, this is just how I do it.  It took me a while to 'get' the way it all works to create the correct exposure.  Also I have to put it out there that I am not an expert and I'm 100% self taught, so I may not explain everything correctly (technically or otherwise)....I have a degree in marketing, not keep that in mind.  : )

I just hope that those of you who want to learn more about your dslr and are shooting in manual will get something out of this.


Shelby said...

This is ridiculously helpful - thank you! Now I understand what that grainy quality is; I can't push the ISO too far. I feel like I'm starting to figure out how these components come together. Your posts make my camera manual make sense for the first time ever!