A Little Photo Lesson

So you got yourself a DSLR for Christmas, but have no clue how to use it. I've had a few people ask me how. I'll give you fair warning. I'm not a very good teacher. Serioulsy...I'm terrible. I am more hands on and have trouble conveying these kinds of thing through writing, but I'm going to give it a try!

You can certainly just use it on Auto. That's no big deal. Your photos still look much better with your new camera than your old point and shoot. But the only downfall to that is that your camera is making decisions for you. That means you are not getting what you paid for...sorry, but it's true. Some people think, "Oh, that's just photoshop." You may be surprised...let me demonstrate.

Here are my models Tessa and Marley. I bribed them with a bacon treat. There is no way they would just sit there like that for me. No way. If only the little kids were this easy...
First, we took a photo of them in Auto mode. In this SOOC {straight out of camera} image you may feel like it's a little drab and flat. Well, it is. The camera made the decision for me. It chose the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO (we'll talk about this soon).

I shot this next image in manual mode, which on your camera is the M on the setting dial. You can tell there is a significant difference in this image and the previous one. And no photoshop required! Bet you didn't realize the backdrop was green huh? That's because I told the camera how big my aperture should be and how fast to click the picture.

But of course when you have a session with me, I edit all your photos in Photoshop just to make the photo stand out a little more than before. I give it a little more dimension, and usually a color pop! My major rule of thumb though, would be to use Photoshop to enhance, not to fix. It takes up to five times longer to fix a photo, and still doesn't come out as great if you were to do it right the first time. When working, I find that a waste of my time, and more importantly, your money.

Okay...now that you can see the difference, I'm going to tell you how you make the difference!! Basically the biggest difference between the first two images is light, right? Lighting is KEY in taking any photo. So here we go! Let's talk about the two of the three main keys of light in photography!

Shutter speed represents the time that the shutter remains open when taking a photograph. The longer it's open, the more light you get to expose your photo.

Aperture is a hole or an opening through which the light travels through to expose your photo. Kinda like the pupils of your eyes. The smaller the number, the bigger the hole. And the bigger the whole more light that will pass through! This is also called an F-Stop. On your settings (when looking on your display) it's the number with an F in front of it.

We can talk about ISO a later day. It is very important in the triangle of exposure, but I don't want to overwhelm you! It can be pretty tricky at first. So we'll stick with the basics for now.

The aperture and shutter speed settings go in opposite directions, if you will. So, If you have a tiny opening (bigger number) for your aperture, you need to have the shutter open longer to allow the light to come in. If you have a large opening (smaller number) the shutter needs to only be open for a short amount of time.

moving from f16 to f8 is 2 stops brighter.
moving from f5.6 to f8 is 1 stop darker
moving from f4 to f2.8 is 1 stop brighter

The longer shutter speeds, like one second, give much more light to the film than a 1/1000 of a second exposure. So even though the number may look bigger, don't be deceived!

A half second exposure is 1 stop darker than a one second exposure.
A 1/125 exposure is 2 stops brighter than a 1/500 exposure.
A 1/1000 exposure is 3 stops darker than a 1/125 exposure.

Because F-stop and shutter are both measured in stops, it can be somewhat easy to keep them balanced. If you take away 3 stops from the aperture, you can give 3 stops back with the shutter. Essentially you could get the same exposure. If you shot a photo with an aperture at F2.8 and 1/250th of a second you could get the same results at an F11. You would just have to adjust the shutter speed to a 60th.

I know this is turning out to be a lot to take in...sorry. I would say the best way to learn would be to take the principles here and go try it out for yourself. The easiest way for me to learn was by trial and error...lots of errors.

If you find you can figure out one over the other, I would suggest to try using the "S" or "A" modes. These are Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority. From there you can set your shutter speed and the camera will choose your aperture and vice versa with the other mode. If all else fails you can always just go back to shooting in auto. But I highly recommend getting the biggest bang for your buck!
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