I posted this image at Posterous the other day:

The images that I post there automatically go to several other places and Facebook is one of them. I added the comment “From my point and shoot then processed on my iPad using Snapseed and PStouch.” That was basically the caption I used when posting the image but the captions don’t post on Facebook.

That evening a friend of mine posted a comment, “Vincent… seem to be having too much fun not using a DSLR!” I wrote back a quick comment without thinking much about it, “Freedom! That’s what it’s all about. Just create and have fun, the equipment is a distant third!” The more I thought about that comment the more it meant to me.

Getting away from all the equipment that I once carried has been liberating. Carrying a point and shoot has made a big difference in the number of images I’m making. I’m not sure why that is but I like it. Being able to process images on the go means I can post them where ever I am whenever I want to. I like that as well. I have far too many images on discs and hard drives that no one has ever seen and its time that changed!

I just posted an updated version of my reply on Twitter that has become my new mantra: “#Photography is about Freedom, the freedom to create, the freedom to have fun and the equipment should always run a very distant third!”

Taking control of your camera step by step Part 9

Finally, here we are at Manual Mode. When you are using Manual Mode you have complete control over your camera. You are 100% in charge of everything, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and everything else. You are also 100% responsible for any mistakes that you make!

Manual mode is not as scary as it may seem. Once you set your ISO and White Balance you can let those settings go to the back of your mind until you need to changed them again. It does not matter if you choose the aperture or the shutter speed first. You will find yourself choosing one or the other first in different situations. As with aperture priority you will want to choose your aperture first if you want to be sure of your depth of field. When you want to freeze or blur action you will want to choose your shutter speed first

One thing to remember about Manuel Mode is that you can overexpose or underexpose as you like eliminating the need for exposure compensation. In fact, exposure compensation for the camera does not work in Manual Mode for that very reason.

Taking control of your camera step by step Part 8

Shutter Priority

There are some situations where you want to be sure that you are working at the same shutter speed to create motion blur or freeze action. In these cases you will want to use Shutter Priority. When in Shutter Priority you choose the shutter speed and the camera chooses the aperture. One thing you have to keep in mind with Shutter Priority is that your depth of field will change when the aperture changes. Most of the time this will not be a problem. You will have to watch that the camera is not overexposing or underexposing because it needs an aperture that is higher or lower than is available on your lens.

For example, in a situation where you are working in overcast conditions, you might choose a shutter speed that requires an aperture wider than the maximum aperture of your lens. In this situation you will need to raise your ISO so that you will not be underexposing your images. You can make sure the shutter speed you choose will work by looking into the view finder and seeing what aperture the camera will choose in your given situation. If the camera says something like “Lo” or “Hi” (check your owner’s manual for your specific camera) you will need to raise the ISO or choose another shutter speed to avoid over or under exposing your images.

To be honest Shutter Priority is the mode I use least. If I want to make sure I’m using a certain shutter speed I will head straight to Manual and set everything my self.

Taking control of your camera step by step Part 7

Aperture Priority

Like I said in my last post I walk around with my camera set to Aperture Priority, well, almost all the time. I do this so that I don’t miss any images that come along unexpectedly. With my camera set to Aperture Priority I have already chosen the f-stop that I want to use and the camera chooses the corresponding shutter speed needed to get an exposure that should be acceptable. Why did I say should be acceptable? Well, the camera’s light meter can be fooled (more on this in a later post about metering).

Your camera has two different ways of controlling the amount of light needed to make a good exposure. The aperture controls the amount of light that enters the camera and the shutter controls how long the light comes into the camera. The aperture is expressed as an f-stop (also referred to as an f-number). The f-stop will tell you the exact size of the aperture if you are willing to do a little math. To make it easy lets say I’m using a 50mm lens and I set my f-stop to f8. All you need to do at this point is divide 50 by 8. Here is the math: 50 ÷ 8 = 6.25. So the aperture, the size of the hole that lets light through the lens, is 6.25mm in diameter. Simple, now that you know that you can mystify your friends at your local pub the next time you stop in for a pint!

Besides controlling the amount of light that passes through the lens, the aperture also controls the depth of field in your image. This is the main reason that I leave my camera set to Aperture Priority mode. When I’m walking around I want to have a pretty good idea of the amount of depth of field that I will be getting in my images. I usually stay right around f8 for a moderate amount of depth of field (look for more on depth of field in a future post). With my camera set to Aperture Priority I’m off to make photos!

Taking control of your camera step by step Part 6

Exposure Compensation

You have a neat little setting that you can use to help your camera make better exposure decisions. It will work in any mode that you choose to be in, expect Manual. That setting is Exposure Compensation. If you are making images and they are coming out overexposed (to bright) or underexposed (to dark) you can use this setting to help bring the exposure inline with what you expect or want it to be. You might even find that you prefer to leave it on a particular setting. For example, I leave the exposure compensation my Nikon D2x at -0.7 all the time. I like a slightly underexposed image and I find that my D2x overexposes just a little for my taste. Leaving the exposure compensation set all the time allows me to walk around with my camera in Aperture Priority mode being ready for images as they might present themselves.

Using Exposure Compensation is pretty easy. All you have to do is dial in the amount of compensation you want. The tricky part is knowing how much compensation you want to add or subtract. You will get the hang of it with practice. Start by making an image of what you want to photograph and look at it on your camera’s LCD screen. Are you getting some “blinkies” (flashing from white to black) in the highlights or is there very little detail in the shadows? If either is the case and you would like to correct that then go to the Exposure Compensation setting and dial it up or down as needed. The negative (-) side of the scale will darken your image and the positive (+) side of the scale will brighten your image. Make another image and see if you like the results. Repeat if necessary until you like the exposure you are getting.

You may have noticed that I said I walk around with my camera in Aperture Priority mode. More on that in my next post.

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