29 March 2015

Making the most of your DSLR

Almost every time I meet a new client for a family photo session, one of the parents tells me about their DSLR and how they, either never use it or, only ever use it on the Automatic setting and then, 9 times out of 10 find that they are disappointed with the outcome.

And every time I tell them that, although there are lots of simple techniques they can use as a beginner to improve the quality of their images, one of the most important things is to use the creative settings on your camera.

The creative settings on your DSLR are usually marked Av, Tv and M on a canon and A, S and M on a Nikon. 

These manual settings - Aperture priority, Shutter speed priority and (once you are at an intermediate level) Manual, give you far more creative control over your images than any of the automatic settings. They allow you to select what and how much you want in focus rather than the camera deciding for you.

Here I will explain a little more about using my favourite setting, Aperture Priority, which I would suggest, at a beginner level, you should be using 95% of the time.

This photo of Jessie May was taken at f/3.5, this allows her to be in focus and the 
background to be blurred. 

Aperture priority setting (Av or A) means that all you need to change is the Aperture (otherwise known as f-stop), and the camera will determine the correct shutter speed in order to take a correct exposure. Aperture priority mode is perfect for the beginner/ hobbyist because it is amazingly simple to use but also allows lots of creative control. 

Let me give you an example of the uses of AV… 

If you want to take a portrait photograph of your little one playing, eating, laughing, pulling a face, etc. etc. but the background is really busy with people and things that you don’t want visible and you decide you want a blurry background then you simply set your camera to Av for canon or A for Nikon and select a low aperture number of about f4. Regardless of whether your child is sat in the bright sunlight or under a tree in the shade, the camera will then set the correct shutter speed for a good exposure without you having to fiddle with or change any more settings.

Next you want to take a photo of your child on a beautiful beach and want the whole scene to be in focus. This time you set your camera to Av or A again but set it to a high number such as f16, which will give you a full depth of field, again the camera will select the correct shutter speed for you.

Try turning on your camera and setting it to Aperture priority mode. Next take a photo of an object, anything, a mug, or an ornament, or if you child is willing to sit still then your child. Firstly take the photo at a high aperture, f/22 or f/16 and next at a low aperture, f/2.8 or f/4. Can you see a difference?

 These photos of Nam Fon were taken on Aperture priority mode with the first one at f/18 and the second at f/2.2, Can you see the difference in the sharpness of the background with the gym clearly in focus in the first and completely blurred in the second. 

Try to use Aperture priority for the majority of your pictures for the next 6 months, your skills and photos will dramatically improve as you begin to understand how light, aperture and shutter speed interact to create perfectly exposed images.

If you found this helpful and want to learn more about using your DSLR why not book onto my photography for parents workshop on the 17th April? Read more about it here and if you have any questions or want to book get in touch

Lianne xox

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