I am often tempted to talk about camera and other technique issues in this blog, so rather than bore all of you with this stuff, I thought I would create separate posts for those who might be interested. I’m going to try to put these in a rough order of what I would suggest you learn first to less important or more complex issues.
Most of these tips apply only to cameras with manual controls. This usually means there is a mode dial, usually on the left top of the camera. Sometimes this is handled by a dial on the back of the camera or other method but most DSLR and Interchangeable Lens Compact cameras use a mode dial.
Tip # 1 is the big one: Take your camera out of Automatic mode. That’s the A mode on your mode dial. In auto mode you have absolutely no control over how your camera operates. It makes all the decisions for you and you get whatever the camera thinks you should have. No self respecting professional photographer uses this mode except possibly when there is no time to make manual adjustments to the camera.
For starters, choose either the A or T mode on your dial. A stands for Aperture control. T stands for time control. Choose A and you will control the aperture or opening in your lens that lets the light into the camera. The camera will control the length of the exposure as you adjust the aperture in order to let enough light into the camera to make a proper exposure. Aperture is measured in f stops and you will see a number in your viewfinder that is the f stop. The number will change as you rotate a dial, usually right by the shutter button, but sometimes in other places. Smaller numbers represent a bigger opening; bigger numbers mean a smaller opening. Go figure.
The important aspect of aperture is the depth of field it creates in your image. Depth of field is the amount of your image that is in focus from front to back. A large aperture (small f stop number) creates a shallow depth of field. This is commonly used in portraiture, flower photography, or when you want to isolate a subject from its background. This will mean that only your subject will be in focus while the background will be out of focus, encouraging the viewer to focus on the subject, not the distractions in the background.
You will choose a smaller aperture (a larger f stop number) when you want a great deapth of field (focus.) This is commonly used in landscape photography if you want everything in the frame in focus from the grasses in the foreground to the trees in the distance.
Aperture contol is the mode I use almost all of the time and I change it frequently, depending on my subject and my intended effect. Shallow depth of field to isolate a particular subject, deep depth of field to get everything in focus. Take control of aperture and you will see your photography transformed.
Tomorrow I will explain the Time control mode.