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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

While you wait photo tips: Coffee at Roy's Station

I've decided the best way to learn photography is to carry my camera with me at all times and whenever I'm sitting anywhere, waiting for something, I play with my camera settings and take test shots. I'm gradually beginning to understand both the principals of photography and how my particular camera and lenses work.

Results that were too dark, bright and blurry

For instance I did this exercise at Roy's Station in San Jose's Japantown to continue learning how to shoot in manual mode customizing my shutter speed and aperture settings. In total I took a couple dozen photos in less than 5 minutes while I waited for my peppermint mocha to cool a bit. Most weren't winners. But that's ok.

This was my best result: F-stop of 2.8, Shutter Speed of 1/10 and ISO 100

At first the whole manual thing just turned my brain to mush but now it's making sense.

Have you tried to shoot using your camera's manual settings before? Give it a try and don't worry if your attempts look bad. Unlike film (with digital) it costs nothing to experiment so go for it!

The key confusing thing I've finally figured out is:

Shutter Speed: Your shutter speed runs from full seconds to fractions of seconds. This used to confuse me more than anything else because the number 1 means longer/slower and a number like 250 is shorter/faster. Don't think smaller bigger, it's shorter/faster and longer/slower. The reason the larger number means less is because it's actually a fraction of a second so 250 really means 1/250th of a second. Does that make sense?

Left: Too fast of a shutter speed and/or narrow aperture
Right: Too slow shutter speed and/or wide aperture 

So a faster setting where the shutter opens and closes more quickly means your camera receives less light so if your picture looks like the one on the left above you need to slow down your shutter speed leaving the shutter open longer to let more light in. But not so long that you let in too much light and it looks like the close up on the right. Somewhere between the two is a happy medium.

I'm also beginning to get a grasp on F-stop, also known as your Aperture setting.

Aperture (aka Fstop): A smaller number means a wider opening to let in light and larger numbers mean a more narrow opening that lets in less light. So if your photo is too dark or too light you'll want to adjust your aperture to make the opening wider or more narrow to control how much light your camera receives.

There are also settings for ISO (which I constantly forget to adjust so I'm usually shooting at 100) and focal length (which I have no clue what that means yet) but I'm not going to worry about them until I really have this shutter speed and aperture stuff down. I'm guessing that'll be in another week or two so I'm getting there and if you want to learn how to maximize your camera's potential, I hope you're coming with me :D

For me it's all about better photos for the blog. For you it could also mean better blog photos, a new hobby or simply better snapshots whenever you take a picture.

BTW the peppermint mocha was good. Really sweet (perhaps a bit too sweet for my taste) but I think too sweet is better than too bitter :P

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