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Learning to use your Camera

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Haplo
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Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Haplo » Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:16 pm

After reading a bit on the forums, it seems that there is a general tendency to DSLR camera's among the forumites, and the battle rages on.... Sony, Canon, or Nikon.
I also see a lot of queries regarding which lenses to buy.... should I get the 400mm, 0r the 150 - 500mm? Which works better, wide angle or Macro.... and things like, I want to shoot portraits as well as landscapes.... and maybe some nature photography....
What can I do to improve this photograph (with aftermarket software)?....

What I don't hear is things like.......
Wow, for a sunrise shot, what sort of ISO should I choose?
Any idea why my impala has its head in focus, but not the tail?
Why should I use aftermarket software heavily in the first place if I can get the bulk of the stuff right with the shot I take right off the bat.

And my personal favourite, the camera has so many different dial settings, why do I only ever use full auto?

What is composition, and how do I go about doing it right?
Ever noticed how many photo's posted here have the animal on one half of the photo, and the animals head in the middle with a whole lot of nothing on the other half?? And if that wasn't bad enough, when is it actually a good idea to take the photo that way and not have it look as though it was a mistake.

Anyone know what perspective is, and how it changes the mediocre shot into the WOW moment?

Why is the rule of thirds such a cool rule that is generally useless in nature pohotography?

What about things like aperture, shutter speed, ISO rating, depth of field, lighting, fringing?

Maybe what we should do is create a small photography school right here and get our photo's better from the get go - and not have all the questions on how to get it right later..
An out of focus shot is one you cannot fix.
Backlit, or highly contrasted pictures can't be fixed efficiently, fringing is there for good. Badly framed images can only ever be cropped, not 'touched up'.

Anyone want to take a couple of lessons with me to improve not only their knowledge of the camera, what it can do, and by default take MUCH better photo's???

If this sounds pompous, maybe it is - but who can afford to let the opportunity go by to learn how to do something better than you already do??

Anyone know why the focal length of the lens is important when taking sharply focused images?
Why a prime lens is sharper than a zoom lens? Why they are particularly difficult if they are your only carry around lens?
Why aperture is so critical and turns a good, to a great photo?
Why Full auto setting on the camera is probably your worst enemy taking nature shots?

Anyone want to hear more??
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?
"Author Unknown"
Do-nv-da-go-hv-i
until we meet again - Cherokee language

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Haplo
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Haplo » Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:53 pm

There does seem to be some interest here, which I am happy about.... I must tell anyone here who thinks that they are in for a quickfix however, that there really isn't one available. What we all hope to achieve I think is an understanding of what your Camera is, what it does, how it does it, and what results you can achieve through doing a few things differently.

I am not a professional, I do not know everything about a camera, but I do have a better than average grasp of what stuff is and what it does. If I can help any of you guys get a better result through using a bit of the information I can give you, that is my reward.
I would ask though, that the guys who decide to read along, and try this out, actually get involved, as I can tell you what the importance of certain things are, but I can't make you a better photographer, only you can do that by doing the "homework" I can ask you to do - and seeing if you are happy with the results.

I will also only go as deep into nature photography, cause that is mostly what I know, portraits and landscapes employ the same concepts, but just do it differently.

To those of you who want to create groups in your areas - I applaud photography clubs, you guys will learn lots of things from many people if you get together, each of us at the end of the day has something to teach the other. We learn best from one another on an interactive basis.

What I pondered was - could other folks learn anything from me?
And it appears that the consensus is that there are a few folks who would like to try.
I will prepare "Lesson 1" and post later. Then you can decide for yourselves if this is going to be worth it.
I promise to use little words, and give you basic concepts and not confuse the hell out of you, as has happened to me so many times when listening to other folks who think they know more than I do, but only tell me what I already know in difficult and complicated ways.

Firstly - Do you know what the heart of your camera is, and what it does??
This is the Sensor - 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 21, or 24 megapixel, or any other number in between. It is the part of your camera that records the captured light and renders it as an image that you can see.
Let's start with a 10.1 Megapixel sensor, you do realise I take it that a Megapixel is actually 1 000 000 pixels, or dots on a screen?
Did you know that each pixel consists of three distinct separate colour sensing units? That means that on a 10 Megapixel sensor, you are able to record around 30 million different points of light and shades in colours, the three sensors per pixel, determine the colour of that 1 dot amongst the other 10 million.
That is, I am sure you can understand an enormous amount of information to process all at once. Now think, does my camera take 3 shots per second?
That would mean 90 million points of colour to be calculated in the space of a single second......
Just to give you an idea of how complex your camera really is..... :D
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?
"Author Unknown"
Do-nv-da-go-hv-i
until we meet again - Cherokee language

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Josh of the Bushveld
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Josh of the Bushveld » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:16 pm

Another point: its very important to understand how your camera and lens work and how to configure them for the pictures you want, but remember, knowing how your camera works does not mean you can take great photos (i.e. it doesn't guarantee being creative or artistic). You can take great shots with the cheapest camera (http://www.chasejarvis.com/index.php#mi ... 5&a=0&at=0" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) and take rubbish shots with the most expensive camera. This is still something I personally struggle with, composition, lighting etc. However, know how your camera works is essentially a technical requirement, and will allow you to get the shots you want (like knowing the difference between oil and watercolours, canvas and murals etc etc)
The 'mite formerly known as joshilewis

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Haplo
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Haplo » Mon Sep 14, 2009 9:46 pm

I don’t think I need go into all the detail of how a DSLR (or Digital Single Reflex Lens) camera is built, or what makes it work, that you should be able to read about at other places on the web, I have to assume though that you know, or have heard about Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO rating.

The most basic way to explain this would be:
Your camera is a box, that through complex methods, exposes the sensor to a measured amount of light (Aperture), at a relative sensor sensitivity (ISO) for a certain length of time (Shutter speed).

Knowing this, you should be able to determine for yourselves that the relationships between those three concepts, Aperture, Shutter Speed, and the ISO (light sensitivity) are crucial to what your final shot will look like.

Let’s leave the difficult one, the ISO rating (or Light Sensitivity) out for the next example:
If I allow a certain amount of light into the camera (Aperture) for a specific time (Shutter speed), it stands to reason that if I double the amount of light I let in, (by opening the Aperture by 1), I should be able to shorten the length of time I need to expose the sensor (Shutter speed.)
Imagine it this way, if you need to force a litre of water through a hosepipe, the thicker the hose (aperture) the shorter the time time needed to get all the water through, if you use a narrower hose (smaller Aperture), it will take longer for the water to pass through.

In case anyone was wondering, this is why the camera has a Fully automatic setting – on Automatic, or P on the control dial of your camera, it does all these calculations for you, by using the Largest aperture (widest opening) of the lens, and the fastest Shutter speed possible for that level of light. It will also Calculate the required Sensitivity (ISO) based on how much light enters the camera. Your Camera does however normally use ISO changes as a last resort to calculate the Exposure value of the photo you try to take (Also known as the EV [Exposure Value]) Your camera will try to tell you when it feels that the exposure is correct by returning a EV of 0, any negative EV is under exposed – (not enough light), while a positive EV tells you the shot is over exposed, (too much light), Remember to look for the EV level in the viewfinder of your camera. You will need to know where this is for later, when we start looking at doing more manual things with your camera.

Of course the second most crucial thing is holding your camera steady!

And that is what you need to know about HOW it works. Everything else you learn about what the camera does, is all part of this simple(?) process. :)

What happens next is how you manipulate the way that the camera does it.
In order to learn and understand that, is the hard part.
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?
"Author Unknown"
Do-nv-da-go-hv-i
until we meet again - Cherokee language

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Haplo
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Haplo » Mon Sep 14, 2009 9:52 pm

joshilewis

You are so right - but knowing the basics of light, the manipulation of where that light comes from, where it goes, and as you say "configuring the camera and lens" is the hard part, because that is the part where you apply what you know about HOW the camera works, and play around with it to get the result you want.

If you don't understand Apertures, you're gonna be sunk on that one. So if we get everyone on the same page, to understand what the camera is doing and the rules governing photography, doing the set up you talk about will be much easier.
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?
"Author Unknown"
Do-nv-da-go-hv-i
until we meet again - Cherokee language

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Josh of the Bushveld
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Josh of the Bushveld » Mon Sep 14, 2009 10:13 pm

100% My point was more 'don't expect to suddenly start taking brilliant artistic photos once you know how a camera works', simply because that's the technical knowledge, not the creative side of it.

But yes, apertures, depth of focus and field of view (as well as metering and white balance) are crucial to know.

I've struggled a lot in the past to explain the laws of reciprocity (relationship between ISO, aperture and shutter speed) to other people. I've actually come up with the water hose example on my own as well :)

For those of you wondering what the term 'automatic camera' means, it means that the camera can automatically select values for sensor sensitivity (ISO), aperture and shutter speed.
The 'mite formerly known as joshilewis

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Glen Reenen TR

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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Haplo » Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:11 pm

Ok - If no one has any questions on the basics I defined, it is time to start understanding what your control dial on the camera can do for you....
For those who own point and shoot camera’s this will require a bit more manual study of the book that came with your camera (still know where that is?? :lol: ), as each camera has separate and defined settings.... but you will find them somewhere in the basic menu on your treasured photography implement.... :) All you need to do is find the menu button grab your manual, and take it from there,

For DSLR owners, your control dial is going to look pretty standard, and it is going to have a number of settings:
Auto = Automatic
P = Program mode
A = Aperture priority mode
S = Shutter speed priority mode
M = Full manual mode

You should also have a number of other little pictures depicting specific modes, a flower for macro, and so on, you will have to look at your manual to see which each is. In there somewhere you will have portrait mode, night portrait, sports mode (fast moving objects), sunset (perhaps) and more thn likely landscape - now that's the next dial to tackle.

You need to have an understanding of what each setting is for.
Let's start with Auto -
The Automatic setting for your camera will set everything required to take a photo automatically, the shutter speed, the aperture of the lens and the ISO (Sensitivity to available light). But that's not all! It will also set things like how the camera reacts to what it sees, and how it processes those millions of points of light into a useable photo, and it will set one other thing which even now, I have difficulty with. The White balance.

The white balance setting of a camera determines how the camera sees and uses white light... White is not always white, for reference look at a bright white sheet of paper in direct sunlight on a sunny day, and then again on a cloudy day.
Image

For that matter early morning or late afternoon. White light is measure by the scientists in different temperatures. Absolute temperature mind you, not celcius or fahrenheit.. but Kelvin.
So white light can be reddish, bluiesh, bright white, greyish....
So what your camera is doing is reading the white light it sees and interpreting that into a hue or a shade of white which when you look at the photograph, looks either reddish or blueish, or whatever else the camera calculates...

I normally recommend people to leave the white balance on auto, as the camera calculates this is a much wider range than your eye, and trying to set that manually is difficult because I can almost guarantee that 90% of the time you are not going to get it right. For now, leave the white balance on Automatic.

HOMEWORK:
If you want to see how this works - take your camera, set the dial to automatic, take a photograph of anything in a well lit area - now using the manual for reference, manually change the white balance setting to tungsten or any of the other WB settings and take another photograph of the same thing, go through all the WB settings, and take a photo with each new setting - compare the images to see how they have changed.
Image

So while your camera is setting everything automatically for you to take the perfect shot, you need to remember this, the camera will always default to the largest aperture setting of the the lens. This means by default, the most light being let into the lens, which means the fastest shutter speed possible with the available light.

Now although this sounds like a good idea, for nature photography, 9 times out of 10 it is a disaster! With the maximum, or largest aperture selected, you camera focuses on a very narrow band at the point of focus. This is called depth of field, this means that by using your autofocus, everything that is exactly the same distance from the lens will be in focus, but anything slightly nearer, or further away will be out of focus. For example, taking a picture of an impala facing you with his rump at right angles to you, (facing the other way,) will result in his face being in focus, but his bum will be out of the focusing depth of field, and will be blurred.

Look at this photo and you will see that the mongoose in the front is in focus, while the one behind is not - disaster, and almost a throw away shot.
Image

We’ll look at the next setting - Program mode - later...
Please ask questions if necessary :rtm:
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?
"Author Unknown"
Do-nv-da-go-hv-i
until we meet again - Cherokee language

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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Switchback » Wed Sep 16, 2009 8:08 am

Haplo wrote:Look at this photo and you will see that the mongoose in the front is in focus, while the one behind is not - disaster, and almost a throw away shot.


Disaster? :hmz: I don't think so. I shoot most of the time with a big apperture (small number) to have a fast as possible shutter speed and to have a very shallow Depth-Of-Field (DOF) to create such pictures.

What your shot does for me is immediately putting the focus on the front mongoose - you gave him some space to look into which greats a mistery of what has caught his attention. Then, with the one slightly out of focus in the back, you get the sense that he is thinking: "what are you looking at bro?" without taking the focus of the one in front.

In my book, yeah maybe not the best, but definitely not a throw away shot... :thumbs_up:
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Switchback » Wed Sep 16, 2009 10:48 am

Here is a picture of the effect I like to create with a big apperture setting to have shallow DOF and effectively putting the focus on the subject:

Image
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Haplo » Wed Sep 16, 2009 12:38 pm

You guys are charged up!

Switchback - I hear everything that you're saying, and I agree, just remember what I am trying to do. Showing the folks what the camera can do first and foremost, then taking that knowledge to the next level with composition.... Let's face it people, and I mean everyone, all the knowledge in the world about what your camera can do is useless in the end if you can't apply it, and get the artistic side of you into play.... Bad composition is the first thing that kills a photo... the very first. (That and it being fuzzy and out of focus!)

So SB what I am saying is not that narrow DOF is bad, just trying to illuminate the point of remembering to keep the DOF within boundaries. For the record, and this will come later people, but your aperture and DOF will be affected by the focal length of the lens you choose.

For the folks who know more about their camera's than the other folk who may want to learn, I can understand the first 10 lessons may be not what is expected - but it is the basics. Will get to extending and decreasing DOF later. For the record SB, I usually shoot on a 300mm lens around F8, and on the 500mm around F10 - F11, I like the narrow DOF myself, but like it to be a little more than a band of around 6-8cm deep.
I try to go for around 40cm, or slightly more, still gives you brilliant isolation, but allows more to be in focus... that's why your trained eye picks it up, but DOF is going to be two or three lessons in itself.....
You need to assess the shot and decide in the moment where your DOF needs to be, and make the adjustment on the fly as you take the shot. Depth perception is everything. I have the opinion that the depth perception of the photographer probably plays about 40% of the final shot. If he gets it wrong the shot is crap... even on a portrait.

Sprocky, tried to get out and move them onto the grass.... but they runned away!!!!

Big5spotter - did the info help at all on that lens??
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?
"Author Unknown"
Do-nv-da-go-hv-i
until we meet again - Cherokee language

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Haplo
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Haplo » Fri Sep 25, 2009 11:01 pm

I see I was up to Program mode....

I have decided against going into depth on that, as I know it is going to be more confusing than not.... Every camera brand is going to have a different way of doing this... Suffice it to say this:

The Program function will set the 3 points on your Photography triangle - remember them? (ISO, Aperture, Shutter speed?) but will allow you to do manual setting on just about everything else.....
Your camera will also retain all your settings as you change them under this mode, which unfortunately means that if you set them up wrong the last time, every shot you take under The Program mode until it has been taken back to default - or had the settings "repaired" - will be taken with those settings - and chances are give you crappy shots....... :slap:

I would like to recommend that unless you actually feel sure and secure in your own ability - to avoid shooting using the P Mode for the time being...

Hopefully we'll soon have all of you happily setting up camera's and changing all the settings and getting great shots. But for now, please don't shoot in Program mode if you can help it.

For anyone out there with a A900, or a 1DS mark II, or the Nikon (D3X is it?) you guys carry on with what you're doing - you don't need this lecture - Just an introduction to me - I need friends who can bequeath me cool equipment like that, after an "unfortunate accident" with a leopard........
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?
"Author Unknown"
Do-nv-da-go-hv-i
until we meet again - Cherokee language

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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Switchback » Tue Sep 29, 2009 11:04 am

Haplo wrote:PS Switchback, Awesome shot of the weaver - Just one quesion - Do you shoot auto, or Aperture priority?
Could you tell me what the Focal length, and the aperture was for that shot?

I see that your DOF is so narrow the Weavers leg is out of the focus depth.
I would guess it was shot around 300 - 350mm focal length, aperture 6.3 or thereabouts?


Sorry for the late reply, quite busy lately...

Yes, I always shoot on AP unless I need some special effect, then I shoot in full Manual. Reason why I shoot in AP is that I always want control over my DOF. I also choose my ISO - the Nikon D90 has two control dialling wheels so one is assigned to setting Apperture and the other the ISO. Between the two I can keep an eye on my Shutter Speed and control my DOF.

The weaver was shot as follow:

EV: -0.3
Apperture: 5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/1600
ISO: 200
Focal Lenght: 300mm
KNP: 14 June: Skukuza Camping
15 -21 June: Letaba Camping

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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Haplo » Thu Oct 01, 2009 9:47 pm

I will get around to writing a bit more soon, just wanted to finish up on your Weaver SW, Taken at 1/1600 - now that is an impressive shutter speed, and it really did come out well.

I know everyone has their own way of thinking and doing, but I am of the older school who believe in shooting at a slightly higher Aperture, to get a couple of extra inches DOF. Not everyone is going to agree with me, but if I am shooting full stretch of a 300mm lens - I will do so at around F8, to get a DOF more than an inch deep. If I use the monster lens at 500mm I will invariably pick that up to afound F11...
That way I can achieve a DOF that is narrow enough to completely isolate and hi-lite the subject, but deep enough to have the whole subject in focus.
Unless I want half the subject out of focus, in which case I will go down to around F6.3 @ 300mm
This photo was taken as follows -
500mm at F11, shutter speed 1/100 - ISO 800...
For the effect.
My whole bird is in focus, not just a 2cm band, and he is still beautifully isolated.
Image

Just goes to show, depending on what you want to achieve, playing with settings is useful.

I do still however recommend shooting at around F8 at 300mm though, sorry SW, not that I disagree with you, I just prefer having a slighly deeper depth to focus with. (And yes, that's a personal thing!)
People will decide what they can live withy thenselves as they go along I guess.
A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren't we like that wise old bird?
"Author Unknown"
Do-nv-da-go-hv-i
until we meet again - Cherokee language

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Josh of the Bushveld
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Josh of the Bushveld » Thu Oct 01, 2009 11:24 pm

I think that's a reasonable technique. Remember, focal length affects DoF (in ways I don't yet understand).

I need to stop shooting at F2.8 on my lens (especially since I'm focussing manually).

My only concern with F11 at 500mm is the amount of light you're letting through? Can you still autofocus etc? Isn't your shutter speed too low (slow) ?
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Re: Learning to use your Camera

Unread post by Switchback » Fri Oct 02, 2009 7:29 am

I agree Haplo, it is a personal thing. For me, when shooting wildlife, I tend to open up the lens quite a bit for another reason - shutter speed. Yes I know I can up the ISO, but I love working at ISO 200 as fart as possible.

The reason I want to achieve a high shutter speed is because of the nature of animal - they move all the time. :mrgreen: If action is happening, action is what I want to capture and to "freeze" the shots, I want at least 1/1000'th of a second.

Maybe closing the lens a little will not be such a bad thing, I'll have a think about it next time I'm out there and just keep an eye, as always, on my shutter speed. Also, under exposing the shot a little also helps with the shutter speed.

Josh, you'll definitely still be able to autofocus up to the smallest your lens can close - it doesn't affect the amount of light comming in prior to the shot taken. I've got a DOF preview button which will close the lens's apperture to "preview" the DOF I can expect. You will, however, need to watch your shutter speed.

Nice shot btw Haplo! :thumbs_up:
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