Getting a new camera is always exciting but getting the most from it requires a little help
I love a good gadget, I have far more photography kit than I really need but I can’t help myself when the sales or trade shows come along. Getting a new camera makes me feel like a kid at Christmas – I hope you have felt the same way with your new toy. Our beginners courses are full in January of excited new photographers all eager to get the most from their camera yet who share the same tales of disappointment and frustration when trying to get to grips with all the buttons and features.
Its very easy to get frustrated by all the terminology and advise magazines, friends and family will give you. Don’t panic – do a little research and have a play. Photography isnt that hard really – photographers just like to try and make it sound complicated.
Here are my top ten points for getting the most from your new kit.
(1) There is no wrong way to shoot– Don’t let anyone tell you what is the right way and wrong way of taking pictures – more than any other subject I know people have very strong opinions on photography techniques and kit and are keen to share them (forcefully). New photographers seem to think they are doing something wrong and end up getting confused and bewildered. You will find your own way of taking pictures and how much kit you want or need.
(2) Shoot outside – where possible try and shoot where there is lots of light and by that I mean outside. Modern cameras are wonders of engineering and can do a host of clever tricks however in many ways photography hasn’t evolved all that much. Cameras still struggle when taking pictures anywhere other than under natural light (daylight). Shooting indoors or at night is challenging and there is a good chance your pictures will come out a little blurry – try and move your subjects outside if possible (unfortunately it is the winter so your subjects may take some persuading). If you cant get your subjects then look at point number 3
(3) Use window light – if you have to stay inside then use all the light available to you – this means windows and doors. Many people go wrong here and put there subjects in the windows with the light (window) behind them – this will result in your subjects looking like silhouettes – you need to wedge yourself into the window and get your subjects to come towards you so that all the light falls onto them. If that still doesn’t work then read points 4 and 5 for a bit more help.
(4) Move away from fully automatic – fully automatic is a very limited feature on most cameras that by default presents a couple of tricky problems:
(a) If shooting indoors there is a good chance the little flash will fire – this results in your subjects looking like extras in a vampire movie (red eye,bleached out white skin – horrible shadows also appear on the walls behind – not so vampish!).
(b) Many manufacturers disable your ability to make changes to the way the camera is set up
(c) Many cameras will only focus on the nearest object!
I would instead suggest starting out in P mode (Programme) – this is a kind of semi-automatic mode without the above issues.
(5) Learn about ISO – ISO is a means by which we can shoot indoors or where there is less light and avoid camera shake. Your camera basically becomes more sensitive to the light that is available – or to put it another way your camera can work with less light and therefore it takes quicker pictures if you raise ISO thus avoiding the blurry pictures resulting from camera shake.
(6) Don’t be scared of ISO and noise – there is a price you pay for raising ISO and that is a loss of quality to your pictures called noise which manifests itself as speckling (often noticeable in dark areas of your images). Now many photographers love to go overboard about the problems of noise and raising ISO. Modern cameras in my experience as great at dealing with this problem so I wouldn’t loose too much sleep especially if you stay under ISO 3200 (and that is high). New photographers always ask for “optimum’ ISO numbers and I say that outdoors on bright days I use 200-400 and when going indoors 800-1600 – these are really broad guidelines but should get you going – if you still get camera shake raise the ISO higher.
(7) Don’t sit and learn the manual – I never understand why new photographers start by sitting down with the manual and try to learn every feature on their camera. Now I am now technical wizard but when buying a new care I dont sit with the manual and learn how to change the oil and the service the gear box. Just work out the type of pictures you want to take and research that.
(8) Learn to edit – for some reason editing gets bad press – its either seen as cheating or a long drawn out process. neither of these arguments holds true and editing is a vital part of the whole process by allowing the photographer to finish the “look and feel” of the image. in general terms images straight from a digital camera are a little ‘flat’ looking for many peoples taste who want a bold, punch image.
I recommend Adobe Lightroom as the editing tool of choice – it is quick, powerful and reasonably priced however any software that came with you would allow you to make the following changes – give them a try:
(a) Crop and straighten your images
(b) Fine tune your exposure or brightness – play to see if you want the finished image a little brighter
(c) Give colours a little boost – saturation or even better vibrance if you have that tool available
(d) Boost contrast to make your images a little more three-dimensional
All of the above are general tips but hopefully will lift your images.
(9) Look at the background – As a professional photographer I spend more time actually ignoring the main subject and considering instead the backgrounds. It is this focus that ensures I get beautiful images, clear of background clutter and distractions which in tern allows the main subject to shine. Just taking a step left or right before taking the image can sometimes make all the difference to how great an image looks.
(10) Consider more kit – there is an argument that a good photographer can take an image with any camera – now this is sort of true but not the whole story. You cant take all images of all styles with a single piece of kit. different lenses allow you to take images of varying styles and ‘looks’ – if you have bought an DSLR camera with a kit lenses for example you don’t get that much zoom so trying to get a great picture of a whale out at sea when you are on dry land may prove beyond a reasonable challenge for example. i am not suggesting that you have to run out and splash the cash however at the same time appreciate that some images may be beyond your reach without further expense.
Well we packed a lot in here, hopefully it helps send you on the right path – if you have any comments or thoughts then please do send them to me at [email protected]
About the author:
Nick Wood is a professional photographer based in Chelmsford, Essex covering portraits, fashion, social and sports photography. Nick also runs Unshaken Photography Training providing digital photography courses for beginners and professionals across Chelmsford, St Albans (Herts), Maidstone and Rochester (Kent) and Cambridge. Visit www.unshaken-photography.co.uk for more information or call freephone 08008199379.