{ Easy Camera Tips } - Lesson 1

Ever wished your photos were a little better? Had a bit more sizzle? More pizzaz? Want your photos to go POW! BAM!

Whether we run a style blog, a home decor blog, have an Etsy shop, are an aspiring photographer, or just want some really great family pics, this series post is for you!

We're going to break it down for you, nice and slow, into bite size portions each week. After a month of mini lessons, I promise you're images will be brighter, crisper, and worthy of your blog, family photo wall, or shop. Really!


Your Camera - A First Name Basis

I cannot stress enough the importance of getting to know your camera well. Nikon? Canon? Sony? It doesn't matter, really. It's sort of like asking an artist what kind of color pencil they use to sketch. Or asking a writer what kind of computer they use to create their stories. Yes, invest in the best camera your money can buy, but remember that pictures are only as good as the photographer.

Don't be afraid of your camera! Digital cameras offer a fantastic way to practice and play with different settings without the added cost of film. Switch to "M" or manual mode and try a little cause and effect: Does your image get crisper or more grainy when you shoot with a higher ISO; do you hear a difference when you slow down the shutter speed; how does the same aperture (f-stop) affect your image when you take a picture outside vs. indoors?

Play with the settings. Read the manual. Be comfortable handling your camera. You don't have to prove anything before it will give you good results. It already likes you, I promise.

Please, Turn Off the Flash!

You may have heard this one before, or at least noticed that your built-in camera flash blows out, or over highlights, your image (ghost-face, anyone?). Turning off your flash and relying on natural or fill lights (soft, out of focus secondary light) is your friend. How many home decor magazines have overly bright, washed out photos (i.e. How many home decor magazines use a built-in flash)? Uh...yeah. Not a one.

Is your image a little blurry or too dark now that your flash is off? Check out the "Learn Your Terms" section and practice adjusting your speed and aperture.

Learn the Terms

Aperture. ISO. F-stop. Exposure. Shutter Speed. Is your mind swimming with scary, unknown photo terminology? Don't fear! The "exposure triangle" illustrates what action creates each effect.

Shutter speed is how long your camera lens will stay open in terms of fractions of a second (ex. 1/15, 1/100, 1/800). The slower the shutter speed, the more time light has to enter the camera.

Example: 1/15 is one fifteenth of a second and is a slow shutter speed. 1/800 is one eight hundredth of a second and is very fast.

Faster shutter speeds are better for moving objects or bright light. Slower shutter speeds are good in low light if you're able to use a tripod, table, your knees, etc. for stabilization, otherwise you have a risk of blurry images.

Aperture, or f-stop, is how wide your lens opens when taking a picture (ex. f/2.8, f/11). The wider your lens is during a shot, the more light enters to create your image. The tricky thing about aperture is remembering that the higher the number, the smaller your lens opening. Think of the number in terms of a fraction, not a whole number, and it will make more sense working the numbers in "reverse".

ISO is your camera's sensitivity to light, and will create a lighter or darker photo depending on that number (ex. 200, 400, 1000). Think of ISO as your "film speed"; just like film, the higher the number, the more your camera will pick up while shooting moving objects or in low light. But be careful, this will also make your images grainy and have more digital "noise".

Unless you're going for an "artsy" photo, aim to take your shots in ISO 800 or lower (I usually aim for ISO 200). Try adjusting your aperture and shutter speed before compromising image quality.


Whew! You still breathing? Eyes crossed yet?

Don't worry, we'll review next week, and I promise it's will get easier. If you follow the instructions and aren't afraid to try new things with your camera, you're going to see a big difference in your photography right away! See you next week for Lesson 2!

P.S. Although this lesson is geared toward those with a DSLR, the principles in understanding how your camera operates is the same. Whether you use a digital, film, or disposable camera, your photos will benefit from this series. The remaining lessons will have more focus on composition and lighting, so stay tuned!