Friday, June 17, 2011

Photography 101

One of the biggest items on my to-buy list when we had a kid was a DSLR camera. I've long hated my crappy Olympus point and shoot. Now I've entered the big kids realm of photography. Well, sort of. We purchased a Canon Rebel XS. The price was right, and for the photography I had in mind, it would work. I'm not a pro. In fact, far from it. Just getting behind the camera to take pictures of my loved ones let alone anyone else has always made feel self-conscious. Like I'm about to paint a brilliant masterpiece in the time it takes for the shutter to snap open and close.

I told my sister the other day how I'm full of ideas and ambition. I just can't find it in myself to finish projects. And I know why: I'm just not able to execute that brilliant picture that I have in my head. Any project. Any craft. Ending in a big fail, and I'm sure a few shakes of my sister's head. She's the Queen Project Finisher.

And that's how I feel about photography. When I snap a picture, it always feels unfinished and poorly composed. So then I want to hide my camera away for fear of not really know how to operate it, quit blogging (because who wants to read a blog with endless words—like this post), and go back to bed. Classic Project Unfinisher.

I was hoping my fancy little camera would get me out of my creative rut, but I've been too sleep deprived for that (more on that some other time). I even leave it in my office to stare and taunt me daily. It seems to have worked because last night, I broke out the manual and read up on my little friend. I don't really get things like composition, foreground, background, rule of thirds, aperture. They all want to make me scream (into a pillow so I don't wake the baby).

So I took a step back, and thought, maybe I don't need to take the perfect picture. I just need to fake it until I make it. Or practice, but I don't see that coming first. And I get design. I like to monkey around in Photoshop. So I read online how to create actions and make bad photos look good and good photos even better.

Here's my first stab. One pic of my cuter than bunny-snuggled-up-to-a-dog niece and my darling boy.

Maybe my blogging strike will officially end. Or else I won't hear the end of it from a certain someone.


  1. A few tips since your main problem seems to be exposure. Some things that will be worthwhile to figure out (in a step wise fashion):

    1) Use spot metering. The camera will meter off your focal point, not the entire frame. This helps especially in bright sun to not under-expose your subject.

    2) Figure out how to manually set your exposure to 'over expose' your image by 1/3 or 2/3 of a 'stop'.

    3) Up your ISO if you are not getting the exposure you want in low light. Don't be scared to go up to a ISO of 1600. As long as you are not going to make a enormous print there shouldn't be issues with noise.

    4) Finally if none of this helps you probably also need to include working on white balance. Auto white balance does really well for indoor shots in mixed lighting but some of the preset settings (sun/shade) work well for other situations. Custom White Balance is more complicated but will give you more predictable results.

    Of course it always helps to get out of Auto Mode too...

  2. Thanks! I'll try all these things. I'm monkeying around with the settings to figure out which setting does what. I just need to practice instead of feeling so intimidated.

  3. I just noticed you have a Canon which meters off the center focal point and not the active focal point (like a Nikon does). You will have to figure out how to focus and recompose if you want to use spot metering and your subject is not in the center of the frame... Not very intuitive but if you are out of Auto mode I could probably help walk you through it.