Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Getting to know my camera - 101

"To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them." – Elliott Erwitt            

I love taking photographs.  Always have.  There is something about capturing the details of a landscape, a sunset, a leaf.  I have a 35mm camera that I bought when I was in college.  I used it quite a bit, and I still have quite a few rolls of film to develop.  In fact, there may still be a roll of film in the camera!  I should probably check on that.

But when digital cameras became available and a little more affordable, well, that was a perfect fit for me.  I was always stingy with my film.  I couldn't just snap a picture on a whim, I needed to really try to zone in on what I wanted to convey.  (Or maybe it was indecisiveness - I don't know.)  With a digital camera, you can snap as many photos as you like, and if they don't turn out, well that is what the delete function is for, right?  And of course with the introduction of smartphones, they have quickly become a quick way to snap a picture and upload to your favorite social media app.

Anyway. . . I upgraded a couple of years ago from a point-and-shoot digital camera, to a DSLR.  Now, I am not going to get extremely technical here, I just want to learn what I can, to understand what I can, and will share the different places I find my information so you can investigate further if you need! 

To begin, I investigated some terms that seem to be basic "photography-speak."  I share them here, because you may want to know, and for me, writing it down helps me to remember and understand:
  • DSLR
  • ISO
  • Aperture
  • Exposure
What is a D-S-L-R? It stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. Basically this has to do with the way the camera reflects the light that comes through the shutter when you press the button to take a photo.  If you need more detail, here is just one of the many places you can find schematics and descriptions:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_single-lens_reflex_camera

What is I-S-O?
For a digital camera, this is the sensitivity of the light sensor.  In traditional film, it was stated in numbers:  100, 200, 400, 800, etc. also indicating the film's sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the less light you need to capture an image, and the more "noise" or graininess you will have in the image.  There is much more information on ISO here:  http://digital-photography-school.com/iso-settings

What is Aperture?
(This is the one that always confuses me...)  The word "aperture" literally means "hole," or "opening."  So the aperture on a camera is the opening in the shutter created when you press the button to take a photo.  There are settings that can be adjusted to set how small or large that opening will be, letting in less or more light as the situations dictates.

The confusing part is that this setting is measured in f-stops, and the larger the number, the smaller the opening.  This will take some getting used to. It also affects something called "depth of field," which simply has to do with what parts of your image will be in focus.  The smaller the f/stop the smaller the depth of field - so the object closest to your camera might be in focus, but something right behind it will be blurry.  (http://digital-photography-school.com/aperture)

This determines how light or dark your captured photo will be.  This is directly related to ISO, aperture, and shutter speed settings (known to some as the "exposure triangle").   More info here:  http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-exposure.htm.

This is the beginning of this process.  Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I will experiment with different settings on my camera, using the manual function to see what I can figure out.  I will share some of the photos that result (this is the good - bad - and ugly part) as I tinker and explore.

Here is something else I will be trying! 

**I also have a Pinterest board of Things to Learn, where I am collecting photography cheat sheets and sites with tips, (and other things I want to explore...) Check it out! 

There are so many websites with tips and tutorials on digital photography.  If you have one that you especially like, or have found really helpful, or if you have learned any tips by experimenting, let me know in the comments!

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