Photography has been around at least since1837 and we have fallen in love with taking photos ever since. Over this time, families, donned in their best, have traveled to studios to take pictures. One of the treats when visiting family and friends those years ago, was to flip through albums to enjoy memories of the distant past all captured in pictures, black and white or color. Photographers then put a great deal of effort in mastering the technique of photography and turned it into a delicate art.
The smartphone today has made taking photos commonplace, rendering technique almost unimportant as everyone points and shoots at themselves (selfies), family and friends. Even the person carrying a dslr (digital single-lens reflex) camera will set it to auto and leave the rest to the instrument as they “point and shoot” a picture and marvel at the result. Rarely do such people set the camera dial to “manual” to take full control and enjoy the art of taking pictures.
It is the purpose of this site to return that joy by sharing my journey into photography and share the skills I gained peering into the camera. We begin this journey by charting, in three paragraphs or so, the importance of good technique in taking photos, improving your technique by simply knowing your camera well and some tips to improve your technique.
The Importance Of Technique In Taking Pictures
Taking pictures has become an integral part of our daily life. The smartphone has given us this freedom to set it to camera, point, shoot and, viola! A picture has emerged that we are proud to share with friends and family on Facebook; pin to Pinterest; or paste on Instagram. Often we do not care about the technicalities of the picture: rule of thirds; composition, exposure and so forth; the camera takes care of that. We care that the photo looks beautiful.
The smartphone camera has somewhat taken over in the quest to take a quick picture; to snap away as quickly as we can. But for those of us who love the conventional camera, producing a perfect photo has the most exhilarating feeling. That requires not only a thorough knowledge of your camera, but also the knowledge of what you are doing. So, technique becomes important; so important as to become second nature.
Knowing, therefore, the basics of what you must do with your camera in hand, be it a dslr, a compact, bridge or mirroless, gives you the confidence to take photos in every situation or moment that presents itself. But it also gives the joy of creation, of creating memorable images that will be there for eternity, even if the force of modernity, or the passage of time, changes that image forever in the future.
In the next section we explore some tips of how you might improve your technique if you are just starting out, beginning with the importance of knowing your camera.
Knowing Your Camera: Essentials For a Beginner
I recall the day I bought my first dslr camera, a beautiful Nikon … As soon as it was in my hands, after admiring it for a while, I was eager to be out taking pictures of everything: people, plants, the horizon out there, or anything else that came my way. I did not take the time to “know my camera” by studying its features, knowing where every other button is, besides the on/off one. It was important to know where all the others were too: the shutter speed button; the aperture button; the menu button; the back button; the delete button; the display button; and all the other features that will enable a smooth process in taking pictures; no hesitation.
What all this means is that it is important to read the manual that comes with your camera in order to have some idea of what it can do. Every camera I have bought since, I make sure to read the manual.
Features Of Your Camera To Pay Attention To
There are four features of my dslr camera that I pay attention to and try my best to know well. They are:
- The Shooting Modes. There are three.
- The Shutter Speed Priority Mode, S on the dial atop the camera. Set the Shutter Speed value, say 1/1000, and the camera works out what the aperture should be. Great for shooting fast moving objects.
- The Aperture Priority Mode, A. Set the aperture value, say F/16, and the camera works out what the shutter speed should be. Great for shooting landscapes.
- The Manual Priority Mode, M. I set everything, the A, S and ISO (International Standards Organization) values. It has been a great mode for me in learning photography. This is my preferred mode when I am not under pressure to take a quick picture.
- The Focus Modes. There are also three focus modes to pay attention to and I make sure to be on the right one.
- AF/S (Autofocus one shot or single-servo). Great for shooting portraits and stills of all sorts at close range.
- AF/C (Autofocus continuous). Great for shooting moving objects.
- AF/A (Autofocus assist). This mode shoots by choosing between AF/S and AF/C to detect whether an object is stationary or moving.
- The Metering Modes. There are two metering modes which, as a growing photographer, I have come to learn about and appreciate. I experiment quite a bit with them in order to get the best result. They are:
- The Matrix or Evaluative Mode
- The Partial Metering Mode
- White Balance. This is the fourth important mode that I have come to appreciate as my photography improves. The correct white balance just tends to give the picture the right color for the place and time it is taken. I experiment a lot with what the camera offers to obtain just the mood I prefer.
Some tips on how to use these for wonderful effects is considered in the next section.
A Beginner’s Tips to Improve Photographs
As we all know, to develop any skill requires a lot of practice. When I got into photography, my uncle photographer took me our on a photo shoot to practice. It was before digital photography and we shot in black and white. We chose a spot where there was a pond surrounded by trees and other objects reflecting in it. We took many photos, experimenting not only with the settings of the camera, but with different angles as well as we snapped at the reflections of everything around the pond. Here are some important points I had to consider as a beginner, which I still do.
- I experiment a lot with my camera’s settings
- I carry my camera everywhere I go whenever I can
- I take photos as regularly as I can
- I use a tripod whenever I can
- I make use of free tools online
- I invest time in learning and
- I get feedback on the photos I take whenever I can
Pick Up Your Camera And Explore
These tips and techniques should, as they did for me, help you improve your photography. The important thing to do from there on is to pick up the camera and put them into practice by exploring. As I did when I started off, you may want to pick an interesting spot and start snapping away until you are comfortable handling your camera.
I think anyone who pays attention to these basics should not only become a good photographer, but will also enjoy the art. The satisfaction of reproducing in a picture what you see before you is indescribable. That, you only get by consistent exploration with your camera. Enjoy the journey!