Picture This Workshop- Week 1 of 5

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Hey there everyone!  I'm so excited to be able to share my camera knowledge with all you Crazy Domestic Readers.  My name is Jenny and I'm the one behind the camera at J. Van Allen Photography.  This workshop is essentially for those with a DSLR camera, but if you have a point and shoot camera, don't shy away from us.  Many of the P & S cameras have the capability to change settings, so you too can have better pictures!

My goal for this workshop is to to give you some tips on taking better pictures and to get you comfortable with your camera so that you can take the baby steps to saying "see ya later" to the green (auto) button on your camera!

You'll need a few things:
1. Dust off/un-earth your camera manual.  (It's one of your best tools to having a good relationship with your camera, really.)
2. Your camera 
3. Patience and Practice!

To start out, here's a little Latin translation:
photo means light
graph means write

Put the two words together and photograph means to "write with light." Light (or exposure) is a vital part in taking good pictures.  

Here's some of that technical mumbo jumbo:

Exposure: capturing light with your camera to produce an image.

Here's the BIG question: how does light enter into the camera?
Answer:  a. aperture and b. shutter speed

Here's a little formula for you to ponder:

Okay, stay with me. This will make more sense I promise!

What is aperture/f-stop?
It is the circular mechanism inside the camera that allows light into your camera; more or less depending on the settings on your camera.  The larger the opening the MORE light will enter the camera. Conversely, the smaller the opening the LESS light will enter the camera.
The aperture settings are called f-stops. (This is where it gets a little tricky...)  The larger the opening the smaller the (number) f-stop is for the setting used on the camera.

f22 would mean a very small opening letting in very little light (more of the picture in focus)
f1.4 is a very large opening letting in tons of light (one area in focus while background is fuzzy)

So how do you choose what aperture/f-stop setting to use?
It depends on the depth of field you would like to have in  your picture.  

What is depth of field you ask... 
Depth of field is the range of sharpness in a photo.  When your aperture is open wide (f-stop 1.2, 2.8, etc.) you will have a greater depth of field.  Likewise, when your aperture is small (f-stop 11, 14, etc.) your picture for the most part will be entirely in focus.

Here's an example of a wide-open aperture (with a specific area of sharpness and that great fuzzy background):

f-stop: 2.8

Here is an example of having a small aperture (most of the picture in focus):

f-stop f/16
Here are some guidelines on how you should pick your aperture:
  • If photographing one subject, set the f-stop around 2.8. 
  • If photographing a couple, set the f-stop around 4-5.6
  • If photographing families, set the f-stop around 8-11
  • If photographing landscapes, set the f-stop around 16-22
So this is your homework assignment this week:

1. Set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode (AV for Canon and, A for Nikon.)  Aperture Priority Mode lets you set the aperture and the camera will determine the appropriate shutter speed.

2. Set your ISO to auto.

3. Find a well lit place with natural lighting (in front of a window, open doorway, etc.)

4. Find a subject to photograph (stuffed animals, home decor, people- if you're feeling brave.)

5. Take pictures like crazy (always focusing at the same place.)  Start by using the the smallest f-stop setting your lens will allow (ex 1.4 which means your aperture is wide open.) Then figure out "middle" setting for your f-stop (ex.  4.)  Now try a larger f-stop (ex. f 16 which means your opening is very small.)

6. Download pictures and see whatcha get!  Can you tell the difference between apertures? 

Here's an example of what you should get... 

 I have my focus on the letters and set my aperture to the lowest setting my lens will allow f 2.8.  Notice the letters are crisp and the background is out of focus.

In this picture, my focus is still the letters.  I switch my aperture to f 5.  Notice the background is still blurry, but the plant behind the letters is starting to become a little more clear.

Okay, my focus is still the letters.  This time, though, I changed my aperture to f 22.  Notice you can now make out what everything is and the background is much clearer now.

 Lastly, I would love to have a Q & A section for the last week of this workshop series.  So if you have any burning questions for me to answer, please send me an email at jennifer@jvanallenphotography.com by Monday, September 13th!
Until next time...

A Little About the Workshop Author:
Jenny has been my friend for about 4 years and I love her to pieces! She is a busy mom of 2 adorable kids and the fantastic photographer of J VanAllen Photography. In addition to capturing great memories on film, she is also super creative and an amazing cook!
We are so excited to have Jenny here with us for the entire month of September and hope you'll stop by her site to see her talent in action!

Other Weeks in this Series:
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5


Melissa said...

Good Tut.

Emma said...

Thank you so much! I would love to learn more about photography and I really enjoyed this tutorial, can't wait to go home and try it out! My one burning question would be how to take good indoor photographs of obejcts. I have a hard time taking good pictures of craft projects or food for my blog, they always look washed out if I use the flash, but dull and boring without the flash...I'd love some tips for this.



becca jordan said...

so excited about THIS series!! and tell jenny that her pictures rock. maybe i want to be her?? :)

Krista said...

Love the tutorial Jenny. It's so great for non-photo people like me. I miss you already!

Krista said...

I am going to love this tutorial series.

My question is what DLSR camera would you recommend to someone who loves taking pictures but hasn't made that upgrade to SLR yet? Maybe even list several recommendations for different price ranges.

I currently have a high-end point and shoot camera but I have had it for the almost 3 years now and I am itching to upgrade. It seems to me that DSLRs have become much more affordable, however there are so many different choices, it is overwhelming.

Natalie@Endless Crafting said...

Wonderful tutorial..My sweet hubby just bought me a Cannon Rebel T1i and I am desperately trying to learn how to use it. What kind of lens do you recommend for taking pictures like the ones in the post? I noticed that I can only go so small/large on my aperature on the lens that the camera came with and want to go smaller..any recommendations?

L Johnson said...

Thank you so much I have a new camera and have been doing some practicing. This is such a good explanation of exactly what I was trying to remember!

Kristin said...

Awesome!!! Perfect timing for me to learn a few new tricks before the holidays. Thank you so much!