Wednesday, May 15, 2013

WotW: Learn Photography Basics Without Feeling Stupid

Being married to a photographer, I often feel ridiculous when she hands me her digital SLR. It has a gazillion settings and I panic whenever it migrates off the auto setting. I understand the basics of photography, but for some reason I forget them all when I get a camera in my hands.

Perhaps you're like me in knowing a little about photography, but would like to improve your skills. Today, more people than ever before are taking pictures. Unfortunately, this also means the number of truly terrible pictures has increased exponentially. This is especially true when I see more and more people buying digital SLRs because they are pretty affordable. The problem is, most people don't know how to use them.

While I can't claim to know everything about cameras, the good folks at Canon can. For most photographers, there are only two names in the camera business: Canon and Nikon. Personally, my wife and I like Nikon, but Canons are dang good cameras too. And the brilliant minds at Canon have found an easy way to help people understand how to use a camera.

The site Canon Outside of Auto provides a very quick and easy to understand overview of the basics of a camera:

  • Exposure - the amount of light a camera captures when a picture is taken.
  • Aperture - the size of the lens opening.
  • Shutter Speed - how long the shutter stays open, allowing light to pass through to the camera sensor.
  • ISO - available light settings.
Photography all comes down to light, and understanding how your camera interacts with light is key to getting good pictures. By going through the quick tutorial, I was able to review the basics in less than five minutes.

Once you feel good about your knowledge, Canon lets you test it out with a virtual camera.

Here you see a moving image through a camera viewfinder. Then you can mess with your aperture, shutter speed, ISO and exposure meter settings. You see how adjusting one setting affects the others and the outcome of the shot. You can take a number of shots and get a feel for it. 

Once you really get good at it, you can participate in the photo challenge.

Hopefully you'll be as surprised as I was at how fast I learned the concept. It felt good to get nice shots too. While I still don't think I'll be quite as lucky with a real SLR, at least I have a bit more confidence in my photography skills. Give it a try!
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