Have you ever found yourself frustrated when you upload a set of vacation pictures because all the outdoor picture are washed out and all the indoor picture are yellow? Have you ever wished that you were better able to take advantage of your camera's settings, but found all the terminology in the manual confusing? If so, today is your lucky day, because I have just completed a month-long Photography for Dummies (not the actual title) course! And now that I have
wasted spent the past four Monday evenings suffering through two-and-a-half hour classes learning how to skillfully operate my own camera, I am going to share my newfound knowledge with the internets! Grab a pen and paper and get ready to take notes.
The first thing you need to learn is the basic photography terms, such as F-stop, aperture, White Balance and ISO. You don't need to actually know what they mean, but be prepared to nod like you know what's going on when your instructor throws them around in class. You should definitely avoid asking if aperture and F-stop are the same thing during the third class session so that the teacher doesn't think you are stupid (even if the answer is YES THEY ARE THE SAME THING!) F-stops have numbers like F2.8 and F11 and those numbers mean something, but that's not important. All you need to remember about F-stops is the following phrase: "small number, big opening!" Even though handout says right there that a small F-stop corresponds to a shallow depth of field, it's important to remember "small number, big opening" because that's counterintuitive and that means it makes you sound smart. It will also be the answer to every question the instructor asks, so don't forget: SMALL NUMBER, BIG OPENING. Got it so far?
Next up: ISO. ISOs have numbers like 200, 400, 800. My camera goes up to 1000, which is apparently pretty good, especially since Joel bought our camera from a his credit card RewardPoints catalog. A higher ISO setting enables you to take pictures in dark places. I remember this because there was a cute boy in the class and he is a freelance food writer and he has to take his own photographs of the food he writes about. Often these restaurants have low lighting, and he asked the instructor how he could get the pictures to come out better, and she said he should use a higher ISO. I asked the teacher why I shouldn't just leave my camera on 1000 all the time if that's so totally awesome, and she gave me a look sort of like my dad gave me when I asked him why I couldn't just hold the clutch down all the time in my new manual transmission car. So, you know, don't do that. I think.
(Oops, I just remembered that I was supposed to ask Cute Boy the name of the bar he works at in Federal Hill when he's not busy freelance writing so that I could set him up with my friend Liz. Sorry, Liz! I forgot because I was too busy
going home early to watch Girlicious paying attention in class.)
ISO also stands for something, but don't worry about that.
So now we know all about F-stop and ISO. The next thing you need to know about is White Balance. White Balance has something to do with light, and by adjusting it you can take a perfectly nice picture like this:
and make it look like this:
When you look at the pictures on your computer, you should note which settings you used for the good pictures so that you can remember to use those settings again in similar circumstances. This is called "using metadata". In order to use metadata, you need to have some sort of photo editing program, such as Photoshop Elements. Or, if you're too
stupid to figure out how to download an illegal copy of Photoshop Elements using your without having your stolen wireless internet crap out on you cheap to pony up $99 for Photoshop Elements, you can just keep using MS Paint. In that case, you might want to try writing down all the settings you used on each picture on an index card for reference later. Just don't accidentally throw the index card out with your empty Starbuck's cup. Also, make sure you turn off the camera while you're carefully noting down all the "metadata" so that your battery doesn't run out an hour into the two-and-a-half hour field practice.
Now, you may have noticed that all the good photographers like to make the backgrounds of their photos blurry. This is called "making the background blurry" and it serves to keep the background from "competing" with the subject. To make the background blurry, you need to use a small F-stop, which gives you a shallow depth of field. And don't forget: small number, big opening, because to be a good photographer you need to be able to confuse people. Of course, this is all assuming that you did not purchase your camera using credit card RewardPoints and thus YOUR CAMERA ALLOWS YOU TO ADJUST F-STOPS. In that case, your camera probably also has a portrait setting, and why don't you just brag some more, asshole?
So the lesson here is: if you want to make your pictures look all artistic and professional with blurred out backgrounds and everything, you should probably do some research before you buy your camera. And maybe you should not limit your choices to those available in your credit cards RewardsPoints catalog.
BUT! If you are already
screwed the proud owner of a camera that will not allow to adjust your F-stop, all is not lost! You can still take artistic portraits, just like all the fancy photographers. The secret is to change your settings to Black and White. Witness:
Boring picture of
my some crazy lady's cat:
This picture is bad because
someone's finger was covering the bottom corner of the lens the flash is set too high it's a picture of a cat it's in color. Fortunately, this problem is easy to correct once you've taken a class on photography. You simply move your finger off of the lens turn the flash setting down find something more interesting than a cat to photograph go to bed already change your camera's setting from "Normal" to "Black and White". Viola!
(This picture is my new desktop wallpaper. It replaced a picture of Max in his Santa suit)
You are now a professional photographer. But don't just
go to bed because it's after midnight for the love of god, stop there! Don't limit yourself!
For instance, you can try some action shots. Here I've caught a my
cat subject as he's eagerly awaiting the toss of his beloved toy prey.
See how interesting that is? You're really starting to catch on now.
Below we have an example of a common problem with action shots: the shot has come out blurry because
my cat the subject is whacking around that poor Aflac duck that Joel picked up at his last benefits fair devouring his prey.
To correct this, you need to use the stop-motion setting on your camera. This is feature is often noted by a sports icon and increases the shutter speed. Alternatively, you can increase the shot's ISO, which lets more light into the lens. ISO and F-stop balance each other, so you can adjust either one to create the desired stop-motion effect. And shutter speed relates to one of them. Since my camera
has an extremely poor setup lacks the ability to adjust f-stop, instead I increased the ISO by setting my camera to the little golf icon stop-motion setting.
As you can see, the motion is perfectly frozen.
But don't stop there! Get out and find a variety of subjects to practice on! For instance, here is another
one of my many cats subject I encountered in the wild:
See that glint in his eye? That's really good, according to my instructor (who has actually taken pictures of real wild animals, and her pictures have been in National Geographic and OMG SOME OF THEM HAD PONIES IN THEM). I accomplished this by
accident getting down on the floor. It's a really good idea to get on the same level as your cat subject. Especially if you've just vacuumed really well because your mother was coming to visit.
While I was
lying on the floor in my hallway at midnight-thirty down on my subject's level I was fortunate enough to catch another cat wild subject passing by on his way to drink out of the toilet the local watering hole. In instances like this, you should do anything necessary to get a blurry great shot even if it means losing your slipper and jamming your elbow against the wall because you never know when the opportunity will come around again.
Take as many shots as you can to ensure that you get at least one that's
not blurry exactly what you want. You can always use MS Paint photo editing software to black out touch up any slippers rough spots when you're back at home.
If you're limited to using a the same
cat subject for all your shots, you can always experiment with different angles:
(I wanted to make this on my desktop wallpaper, but I was afraid people would think I'm weird or something)
But always put safety first. Never antagonize a wild animal in order to get a shot.
If the unthinkable happens and you find
that your cat demands to be petted and won't sit still any longer yourself being charged by a wild animal, throw a toy mouse down the stairs create a distraction and immediately go to bed and shut the bedroom door retreat to safety.
Now that you've got the basics principles of photography down, get out there and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. And if all else fails, don't forget: small number, big opening!