Hey there, nice camera. What is that? A 60? A 600? What size card have you got in there? Have you figured out backlighting yet? Oh, you’re still shooting on the green square? That’s cool, I call the green square the Cody setting. He knows if he wants to use my camera and I’m not around to dial it around to that little hollow green box and snap away. But he also knows about the rule of thirds and not to cut people off at the ankles. I’m pretty impressed with what he’s learned so far.
He took this photo, he’s very proud of the non-ankle cutting and the thirds.
(50mm f/2.8 1/60 ISO 200)
He even held the camera straight, which is something I cannot do to save my life half the time.
This photo is kind of the perfect example of what I want to write about today, we’ll call it “What I’ve Learned From Taking Photos Every Single Day This Year” (Well, almost every single day, I can think of two that I missed entirely, today included. No biggie.) I have shot with my 50mm f/1.4 for probably 90% of the time this year. Every single photo from Paul’s birth, our trip to Florida as well as every photo I took in Utah last week (including Tayden’s birth) was taken with my 50mm. If you don’t have one, you should get one. A 50mm f/1.8 will run you about $100, if you can swing it, the f/1.4 has a much faster focus and a far more solid feel to it. If you can, take your camera into a camera shop, try them both out and give them a feel. If you like shooting big epic landscape photos I’ll refer you to my mom, that’s kind of her thing.
(50mm f/2.8 1/500 ISO 250)
So you have your 50mm and if you’re anything like me you’re firmly rooted in the belief that the lowest f/stop possible is a must. Sometimes it is. But most of the time it is not. One of the biggest problems I was having in January were these adorable photos of Vivi where nothing was sharp. They looked good enough on screen but if you really zoomed in they were blurry. I was shooting with the lowest possible f/stop and what that meant was I had a VERY narrow allowance of what was actually in focus before everything else dropped off into bokeh (out of focus.) If she moved the slightest bit I’d focus on her eyebrow, making her eyes out of focus. Or if I focused on one eye but she was at an angle the other eye was out of focus. It was infuriating. If you’re far back from your subject low f/stop isn’t such a problem, but up close and personal it matters. Rather than shooting at f/1.4 I bump it up to my new favorite, f/2.5 and turn up my ISO (usually around 400) to compensate for the loss of light with the low f/stop. Today’s cameras are so great that you can get up into pretty high ISO before noise ever becomes an issue.
(50mm f/2.5 1/800 ISO 320)
Suddenly all of Vivi’s eyeballs were in focus while the background stayed lovely and blurred (go ahead, click on ‘view all sizes’ and view it original. I DARE YOU.)
If you’re in the super bright sunlight and you shoot with Canon, keep your ISO at 100, Nikon 200. Adjust everything else accordingly. Nothing will give you better brighter colors right out of the camera as having your ISO as low as it can go for the conditions that you’re in. Perhaps there’s a better way to take pictures of a dog attacking a tennis ball, but my parents seemed pretty happy with the way I did it.
(50mm f/2.2 1/1000 ISO 800)
I bought myself a new camera in January. I didn’t make a very big deal out of it because I’m still convinced it’s the person running the camera that has more to do with how photos come out than the equipment used. I shot with a Canon 40D for years and after going to a Zack Arias workshop I decided to keep on going with my 40D until I outgrew it, Zack’s greatest bit of advice. I pushed that camera to its very limits, I know how everything works on it and I know its limits. The thing I outgrew the most was the ISO, the 40D can only make it to 1600 ISO, my new 7D can be pushed to 6400, meaning I can practically take pictures in pitch dark (not really, but it kind of feels like it.)
(50mm f/1.6 1/60 ISO 4000 (I know! SHUT UP FOUR THOUSAND!))
If you want to get better at taking pictures, learn how to use what you have, don’t just keep wishing, hoping and going into debt for the next latest and greatest camera thinking that will make you better, it won’t. It will just make you a mediocre fauxtographer with overpriced equipment. Moving from my 40D to my 7D was like moving from a 3 bedroom townhouse to a 5 bedroom home. I have plenty of room to grow, and at times it seems like a little too much.
(50mm f/4.0 1/320 ISO 200)
Learn to love your histogram. Speak its language. If your camera has one, use it. I use mine 80% of the time to tell me how I’m doing rather than relying on the preview. I used to use highlight alerts but that’s not the most reliable way to tell how good your exposure is. Here are a couple of articles that explain a histogram better than I can (seriously, I’ve tried. I’m awful at it unless you’re sitting right next to me.) this one does a pretty good overview of your in camera histogram while this one covers your post processing histogram.
Not every photo is going to be perfect every time, all that really matters in the end is that you’re there to take it and that you enjoy doing it.
(50mm f/2.8 1/800 ISO 100)
Overwhelmed? Yeah. Me too. The good news? I just typed in ‘histogram’ over at Clickin’ Moms and got 7 pages of results, which sounds overwhelming, but each question can be narrowed down to post processing software used, camera used, level of skill and just who asked or answered what. I know a few of you have signed up (I get emails when you do! It’s so exciting to see who’s drinking the learning about my camera cocktail!) but if you haven’t…
Get a free trial with the code ‘MOOSHTRIAL’
Ready to jump in viewfinder first? Get 20% off with the code ‘MOOSH20′
Hope to see you over there!
Thanks to Clickin’ Moms for having me as an ambassador and providing me with a membership to the Clickin’ Moms forums. All links to Clickin’ Moms are affiliate.