If you’re a knowledgeable photographer and comfortable shooting in manual, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you haven’t picked up one of the Canons since MCOM 257/258, or if you’re ready to progress beyond shooting in auto mode, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Auto mode: Avoid. This might be convenient in a pinch, but ultimately you’re giving up control over white balance, metering exposure, and other nifty camera features that aren’t accessible in automatic mode. Also, the flash will keep popping up, and generally you want to use ambient light.
Flash off mode: If you must shoot in auto mode, start here first. The camera will keep the flash from popping up and automatically adjust shutter and aperture speed to adjust for conditions.
ISO: This determines the sensitivity of the camera sensor. The higher the sensitivity, the less ambient light you’ll need to make a picture. Experiment with ISO so that you’ll be less likely to need a flash, especially when shooting indoors. In general:
100: bright, sunny days
200: hazy days, or outdoor shade
400: cloudy days, or under indoor lighting
800: late night or under low light
1600: very low light, events where no flash is allowed, candlelight
3200-6400: extremely low light
Shutter priority mode (Tv): In this mode, you pick the shutter speed and the camera will find the aperture setting. Use fast shutter speeds to freeze the action, slow shutter speeds to gather light or movement over time. Examples: slow | fast
Aperture priority mode (Av): One of the most useful modes. You pick the aperture and your camera will find the shutter speed. Aperture controls depth of field. If you want your subject to be sharp but the background to be blurry, shoot in this mode. Aperture explained.
For more information on the Canon’s specific settings for each mode, or on how to set the ISO, pull out the manual and spend a few minutes going over it. Also, here’s a great Canon tutorial from the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. Go check out a camera, sit down with the tutorial, figure out how to change between modes and take some test shots.
Here are a variety of exercises that can help you develop more familiarity and comfort in using a DSLR. Pick one that seems appropriate for your experience level to work on in class. (Ask me if you’d like help choosing.) To further develop your skills, consider experimenting with the other exercises at home.
- Exposure tool: Use ExposureTool to understand the effect that aperture, shutter speed and ISO have on the photo. In manual mode: 1) Adjust the shutter speed to either freeze or blur the image, and then adjust aperture and ISO to balance the photo. 2) Adjust the depth of field to either blurry or sharp, and then adjust the shutter speed and ISO to balance the photo. How are these settings related, and why?
- Auto/Flash Off modes & the 5 shot sequence: If you’re a complete beginner, start here. First, check out what the manual says about the Canon’s settings for Auto/Flash Off modes. Then, in auto mode, practice the 5-shot sequence. The point here is to get familiar with the camera and to begin working on composition, specifically filling the frame and the rule of thirds. Once you feel comfortable, begin working in flash off mode. To compare the two modes, try shooting a few shots in both modes under varying light conditions: somewhere bright and somewhere dim.
- Flash Off & ISO: Look up ISO in the camera manual, and figure out how to adjust the camera’s settings. Then, go scope out a picture in a bright or outside location. Start at the lowest ISO setting and shoot successive pictures at each ISO setting until you’re at the highest. Repeat the process in a dim or indoor setting. The point here is to understand how to use ISO in birght/dim conditions, and indoors/outdoors.
- Portrait mode: Sometimes the camera portrait mode can do a good job both selecting for aperture and softening skin tones. Check your camera’s manual for specific info on the camera’s auto portrait settings, and tips on using it. Then grab a classmate and take a few well-framed portraits in auto, flash off, and portrait mode. The point here is to understand how your camera’s portrait mode adjust the image. If you have time, begin the aperture priority mode exercise below to get an even better feel for your camera’s portrait capabilities.
- Aperture priority mode: Check your camera’s manual for specific info on the camera’s aperture priority mode, and tips on using it. Then set up three items at varying distances from the camera, as in the Orange Crush gif higher on this page. Focus on the middle item and set a large aperture (remember: large aperture=small number, like f/3.5). While focusing on the middle piece, start shooting with smaller apertures until you are at the smallest f-stop. The idea is to get a feel for how each aperture setting affects your depth of field. Once you feel familiar with your camera’s f-stops, try taking a portrait of a classmate in aperture priority mode and again, experiment with changing the f-stops to see how it affects the picture.
- Shutter priority mode: Check your camera’s manual for specific info on the camera’s shutter priority mode, and tips on using it. Then ind a moving object, such as cars in the street or someone riding a bike back and forth. Start with a slow shutter speed (perhaps 1/30) and then start shooting with faster and faster shutter speeds. The point here is to see at what speeds you can freeze the action, and at what speeds you can blur the action. Next, find something that isn’t moving, and work down from a fast shutter speed (like 1/500). Don’t brace the camera. The point is to see at what speeds you can hold your camera before you start shooting hand-shake into the image.
Editing your photos
If you don’t know how to edit your photos, you’ll find help in chapters 7-9 of the Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency. We’ll practice some basic Photoshop skills in class using one of your photos or this photo. Here’s my workflow for editing photos:
- Save as: Save a copy of the photo and give it a descriptive name. Do this for two reasons: 1) so that you’re not editing the original, and can go back to it if you need, and 2) to improve the photo’s SEO. Nobody searches for “DSC345433.jpg” on Google images. File->Save As
- Crop: I tend to prefer tight crops for use on the web and blogs since many readers are looking at photos on mobile screens. Use the crop tool (the fifth tool down in the left-hand toolbar) and keep the rule of thirds in mind.
- Tone: I first adjust levels (which simultaneously adjusts brightness, contrast and tonal range). If needed, I’ll individually adjust these settings or adjust the photo’s curves (which adjust the contrast and tone). In chapters 7-9 of the Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency, you’ll find some good links to Photoshop tutorials for more detail.
- Resize: Big pictures take up lots of space. And the column on this blog is only 420 pixels wide. So why should I upload a photo that is 3000 pixels wide that will take up lots of server space? I resize to 1,000 pixels so that if a reader can still click on the photo and get a larger view, but yet the photo won’t take up too much server space. If you’re exporting to Final Cut Pro, MediaStorm advises exporting at 2880 pixels wide. Tip: be sure to preserve your photos proportions! Image->Image Size
- Sharpen: I find that sometimes details are lost after I resize photos. I do a gentle sharpen to preserve the original quality. MediaStorm advises skipping this step if you are exporting to Final Cut Pro. Filter->Sharpen
- Save as a new jpg or png: You want to save it as a new, separate copy so that you preserve the original. Keep the descriptive name, and at the end of it, add the file size, as in “TUPRgroup_1000.jpg”. File->Save As