Picture This. (or, Things I’ve Learned in my Photography Class)

One reason that I’ve been remiss in my posting schedule lately has to do with a project that my mom and I elected to take on a few weeks ago – a class in photography! Maybe it’s my new-found obsession with Pinterest or the fact that my good friend Cassie is so darn inspirational, but whatever the reason, I developed a more intense interest in learning more about photography and how to handle my camera better.

I’ve always been an enthusiastic photographer at get-togethers, poring over pictures the morning after a night out, deciding which images were worthy of Facebook and giggling about the unusual moments you capture when no one is paying attention. I’ve drooled over the work of our wedding photographer, Rich Chapman, and wished that I too could help bring to life the memories of an event or occasion that people desperately cling to in hopes of re-living it just one more time!

My tools were not the best – I began the class with a very basic point and shoot camera with limited options for manual intervention. I rarely ever took my Canon out of automatic shooting mode, so I set out for my first day of class ready to learn some tricks that would help me manipulate my current camera a little better and perhaps set me up for a more involved hobby in photography. However, I underestimated my interest in the topic. The first day, I was so taken in by all the capabilities of a DSLR (most of which my camera sadly did not possess) and returned home from class, informing Dan that we would be making an investment in a new camera (for the family, of course, not just for me!) We both researched, asked expert opinion and debated the pros and cons of the popular models. The end consensus pointed us to a Canon Rebel T2I. The one I purchased came with a decent lens to get me started and the price was right, so we pulled the trigger!

I am heading into the last week of my class, and I couldn’t be happier that we decided to venture into this class! We’ve learned a LOT (albeit all VERY high-level and nothing nitty gritty) and I think the most valuable takeaway from class is the newfound curiosity and thirst I have developed for finding beautiful pictures and the new eye I am attempting to hone that is always open for a new perspective, a great color scheme … an opportunity to bust out my favorite toy. In an attempt to create order from chaos, however, below is my attempt to summarize in ten points the most important lessons from Digital Photography 101:

1. Exposure. Prior to beginning this class, this was one option I was familiar with and that could be manipulated on my little camera. Dan used to play around with it all the time, particularly when we were having trouble with lighting and didn’t want to use the flash. In this class, I learned how to control the amount of light the camera collects and in what situations it is appropriate to amend the exposure settings. This is a facet I am still struggling with a little bit, and in my daily use, I rarely mess with the exposure, but that will come later!

2. Scene Modes: to go along with our lesson in exposure, we compared the scene modes provided by our camera to see how the camera assesses portraits, landscapes, etc. We found that these options allow you to fine tune the photograph without giving up the advantages of auto-exposure.

3. Focus! As someone with a mild case of ADD, this lesson scared me a bit, but it turned out to be an option on my camera I have spent time experimenting with. I am truly in love with the auto focus option, but there are certain times when I don’t want to wait for the camera to think about the perfect formula for focus and give me the green light. Given my compromised eyesight, auto focus turns out to be the better picture in a lot of situations, but this is something my new camera has that my old one didn’t!

4. Focal Length. This is a fancier term that describes the “zoomability” of your camera. With the lens I currently have on my camera, my range is much more limited on this. I am already hooked enough on close-range photography to be lusting after a telephoto lens. I love seeing a detailed, magnified view of almost everything. I use the Digital Macro setting on my camera frequently.

5. Light is key. There are a lot of things that the camera (and the shooter) can do to change all the different lighting options in every individual setting, but I have learned that there is NO substitution for beautiful natural light when it comes to creating the perfect picture.

6. Light Metering Systems in the Camera. Usually, when you use some kind of automatic setting on the camera, you let the camera make the decision about exposure based on the available light in your scene. BUT, you can mold this option with metering. This is also the week we learned about how to use gray cards – if you spot meter on a gray card, you can end up with some pretty interesting differences in the tone and color of your subject.

7. White balance. All light was not created equal. Shade, direct sunlight, tungsten, fluorescent…the camera has a setting for each one that allows you to determine the color temperature of the light source and calibrate the camera accordingly. You could use the gray card again here to get even more accurate results!

8.Flash is … usually bad. We’ve done a lot of work that proves that flash makes a picture more two dimensional and doesn’t allow texture and depth to come alive. But we also learned that on the DSLR, you can control the amount of flash that comes out of the camera! By turning it up or down, you have at least a bit of a handle on the effects you allow flash to have on your photo. This blew my mind.

9. Action shooting! My previous camera did not have a “continuous shooting” function, so shooting objects while they were in action (aka Penny) was much more difficult. By using this feature, along with a couple of other tricks, I have been able to capture many more of her ridiculous antics on film.

10. Photo Opps are everywhere! As I previously mentioned, I was once a “take pictures during events” type photographer. But since taking this class, I have found myself venturing out more frequently with the camera and becoming intrigued by the scenery. Just in time for fall.

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3 thoughts on “Picture This. (or, Things I’ve Learned in my Photography Class)

  1. Pingback: Working with new materials | Wine and Workouts

  2. Pingback: So long, 2011 – thanks for the memories! | Wine and Workouts

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