Use every setting you can find
The features built into some cameras nowadays are astounding. One example is extreme ISO speed where you can set the sensitivity of your camera to see light that essentially can’t be seen. The ISO speed in a digital camera is no different to the film speeds we used to use many years ago. Remember from your local supermarket or department store you could buy Kodak 100, 200 or 400 speed film. Well digital doesn’t use film, cameras now come with an ISO speed setting built into them, where you can adjust the sensitivity to suit your needs. This is especially good for parties. Here’s my tip – FREE to you. Turn off the flash at a party and push your ISO button and move it from the standard of 100 or 200 up to 1600 or 3200 and see what you get. I bet you’ll be surprised that without the flash you can actually see all the colours of the party, making for a much more interesting shot. Try it, along with all the other buttons and settings, and experiment.
Look at what makes a good photograph… and remember it
I am always looking at the work of other professionals. This gives me the ability to assess my own work against industry standards and what trends are being sought by clients. Amateurs can do exactly the same, especially if they are planning of taking their photography to a professional standard. In a previous article on photographic awards and competitions, I wrote about two organisations, the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) and the PPA (Professional Photographers of America). Both these organisation have a history of past winners on their website. Take the time to see what’s the best in the world and take note of their way of doing things.
I’m not saying copy them, but take note of the fact that aspects of their images don’t have a tree branch poking out of a persons ear in the background, they don’t cut off the tops of people heads, they don’t have a crooked horizon etc. I think you get the drift.
Become friends with your F-Stops
F-Stops are often identified on a camera’s LCD screen or aperture adjustment wheel, as numbers in decimals, e.g. f4.5, f5.6, f8. f11 etc. They are also known as the “aperture” of your camera, which dictates two things in your photographs: How much light is let into the camera to allow for an exposure and how much of your scene is in focus, referred to as “depth of field”. I’ll start with the first, which is fairly simple, light control. Choosing an “aperture” of say F16 or F22 will generally minimise the amount of light in your exposure, and require a longer time to expose the photo. But choosing F4 will let in a lot more light. That said and done, your chosen aperture, will then dictate your “depth of field” as well. An easy way to remember whats happening is this example.
If we choose F22 for an image, then we will have the equivalent of 22 metres or a “long” focus and we will have turned off 22 of our light bulbs, resulting in a picture that has everything in focus from right in front of our camera to the far off horizon, but we will have a very dark image. Choosing the opposite end of the aperture range, say F4, will give us exactly the opposite (in general terms), I.E., only about 4 metres or a “shallow” focus and with only 4 light bulbs turned off, a much brighter picture. I hope I explained that well. F-Stops are not difficult, and the above should help you get a better understanding of how they can affect your photos.
Practice, practice, practice
This is by far the most important, but it must be done consistently and with a concentrated effort. It took me a long time to understand the relationship between each of the crucial settings on my first camera, but the more I practiced and experimented, the quicker I understood, and then once it just clicked and I no longer had to think about it.
Practice costs nothing other than time, especially now that we are in a digital age with a delete button, to erase our mistakes!