Sunday, 19 September 2010

Part I: A guide to taking photos, not snapshots


A close friend of mine has recently gotten an NEX-5 with both the 16mm and 18-55mm lenses. She appreciates good photography but is not very experienced herself so I thought it would be a good opportunity to start a series of posts on how to take better photos. I now have a ready-made audience (of one) and it focusses the mind on how to present the various concepts which, after several years of taking photos, have become second nature and takes a conscious effort to explain to newcomers to the craft. I will assume that the reader is starting out with a camera like the NEX or E-PL1, GF1 etc, but may only be previously familiar with point and shoot compacts in automatic mode. Hopefully these posts will give the background which will enable the relative beginner to exert more control over the process of taking photos and allow your creativity to flower.

Getting to know your camera
The first thing to do is to understand your camera. Do get out the camera manual and study it, find out what all the knobs, buttons, and menus do. Find out what lenses are available, how to change between them. The main things to know are how to set the various shooting modes, particularly Aperture priority mode (where you specify how large the hole in you lens you want, and the camera figures out how long to hold open the shutter to allow light to the sensor), and Manual mode (where you specify both the aperture and shutter settings). You should also know how to set the sensitivity of your camera, its ISO setting. This will typically go from ISO100-200 to 3200 or even much higher. Later on we will explore how aperture, shutter speed and ISO inter-relate when taking a photo.

A pet peeve of mine is beeping cameras. Switch off any sounds, they just annoy other people. It also alerts anyone you want to take candid photos of. Another pet peeve is automatic flash, especially flash going off when it will be totally ineffectual like trying to take photos of distant objects (at sports events, city scapes). Find out how to turn off flash until you want it.

Part I Summary
  • Know your tools
  • Find out what the knobs, buttons and menus do
  • Find out how to set your camera to Aperture priority, or Manual Mode
  • Find out how to adjust ISO
  • Switch off unnecessary beeping and flash

Next Lesson:
How a camera works and takes a photo.