Sunday, June 3, 2012

Step Away from the Automatic Settings on Your Camera

I want to discuss further, a teeny bit more about photographing my projects for my blog.  It seems it is always ever-changing...

This time I want to talk about my camera and stepping away from the Automatic modes and working in the Manual modes, well one mode in particular… the AV mode

I recently took a couple of classes on how to use my digital camera.  I wanted to take all 10 classes, but they filled up too quickly.  ;)  So now I have to wait until Fall when the next classes will be offered.

But in the mean time, I will share with you what I learned in those two little classes…

First let me back up just a little to tell you what camera and lenses I use.

I have a Canon EOS Rebel T2i 18.0MP DSLR camera with 18-55mm IS lens.  I've had it for at least a couple of years now, but never took it off the Automatic modes.  

This is the 18-55mm IS lens (IS means image stabilizer) that comes with the Canon EOS Rebel T2i:

Just days before the class began, my hubby picked up a Canon 50mm lens, aka nifty fifty, for me while he was away on a trip.  I am so loving my 50mm!  I would highly recommend this lens.  It isn't very expensive (important... hello!!!), and it is a terrific lens.  Especially for my needs.

And on a side note, I've been thinking about ordering a Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS zoom lens with our Aeroplan miles.  

Now, back to what I want to share with you…

In just those two little camera classes, I learned to step away from the automatic settings and to actually use the manual ones.  I’m not going to kid myself or pretend that I know everything, because that would be a huge overstatement.  I know  that I know very little about this subject, but I do have a thirst to learn more, and as usual, a drive to share what knowledge I have, little as it is. 

What I learned was a very basic overview, but it was enough to give me a little confidence in turning those dials and pressing those buttons that were literally Greek to me before.  I was always scared to change a setting on my camera  thinking that I wouldn’t know how to get it back to “normal”.  Ha!  I see now that it wouldn’t have mattered.  I was only using the automatic modes before, so the camera did all the calculations with the settings anyways.  ;)

Grab your camera, and let's get started!  (Use the above two photos for a visual aid.)

·         Let’s start with which manual mode I am using.  I have my camera set to AV mode.  It seems to be the most user-friendly for me, with my minimal knowledge.  (I used to take my project photos with the automatic settings, usually set on Macro.)

The Manual Modes are A-DEP through to CA.
The Automatic Modes are all the ones below CA.

·         Next, let’s discuss White Balance.  On my camera, there is a button on the back side with a WB on it (top of the "circle" with the up arrow on it).  Locate it on your camera and press it.  You can adjust the white balance depending upon what your needs are.  So if you are outside, you can change the setting for bright sun, cloudy, shade,  or if you are inside under fluorescent lighting, ect, which is what I have my camera set to for taking my craft photos, you can choose that setting.  Wow, that alone made a huge difference in the photos I was/am taking.  They aren’t so dark anymore!  (There are some other settings in there, too, I just didn’t list them all.)  Snap a couple of pictures with different settings and see the difference.  Another good one to try is the AWB, which is automatic white balance.  You could try that one to see if you prefer to use it.  

·         Next, let’s discuss the F-stop.  This is how wide your lens opens, which also controls the amount of time the lens stays open when you take a photo.  The longer the lens is open, the more light is allowed to come into your photo.  If it’s open for too little time, your photo will be dark.  If it’s open too long, your photo may be a white-out, and the longer the lens is open, it will likely be blurry unless you use a tripod.  I also take my photos in AV mode because it has the option of stabilization, so your photos are less likely to be blurry.  (Some of the other modes likely have that option, too, but I haven’t learned enough about it yet.)  Keep in mind that different lenses have different amounts of sizes the lenses can open.  To adjust your F-stop, just turn the main dial – on my camera it is located just behind the shutter button (the one you push to take a photo), and it has deep grooves in it.  Try out your lens by taking a photo with the lowest number set on the F-stop, and then take a photo with it set at the highest number.  You will see the difference.  Now, just adjust it to what your needs are.  I have my camera set at f3.5 right now for taking photos of my projects in my craft room.   

·         Okay, so you may have heard of ISO before.  The ISO is the camera’s sensitivity to light.  The most important thing to know is that the higher the ISO number, the more grainy the photo you will take.  So it’s best to try to keep your ISO at or below 1200 if possible.  I currently have mine set at 400 for my craft room.  I find I almost don’t need any other special lighting with these settings.  On my camera, the ISO button is located just behind the main dial we used to adjust the F-stop. 

·         With the AV mode, you can also adjust the exposure compensation.  My camera has a AV button with a + (in black) and - (in white) on it.  It is located near my viewing screen on the back of my camera.   You will want to play with this a little too.  It can be used for bright outdoor images (like pictures in the snow), with an exposure setting of +1 or more.  And for darker photos/subjects (like a black horse), with an exposure setting of -1, for an example.  I currently have my camera set to the dot (.) just past the +1, for my craft room.  So if your photo looks a little washed out, you can adjust it to pull some color back into your photo.

Well, those are very much just the basics.  But it is a good start.  The more you play with your camera, the less scary it will become.  J

For a quick overview, this is what my settings are currently set at for my craft room (keep in mind, that I have a bunch of overhead pot lights for lighting in that room), and your needs may be very different than mine (I've written these down and keep them at my photo-taking spot in my craft room):

                Manual Mode:  AV
                WB:  Fluorescent (or AWB)
                F-stop:  f3.5
                ISO:  400
                Exp. Comp:  1+.

Of course, you will need to adjust all these settings for all of your other photography needs, as these ones I have discussed are more specifically for taking indoor photos of my projects for my blog.  

I am starting to get a little more comfortable taking photos manually now.  Playing with all of my camera's buttons and dials, snapping photos indoors, and outside, with differing lighting, even action shots.  If you have difficulty for the first little bit, you can always use your Automatic modes if you can't get your settings right, right?  J

Let me know by leaving a comment if you found this post helpful.

*** If you have a different camera, please refer to your user manual to figure out its differences.
*** All above camera and lens photos were found online:  here, here, here, and here


Kim said...

Great post!! I have the t3i and love it! You will love the 50/250 lense. This camera has quickly became like my right arm....always with me!! Thanks for the tips and tricks!!

Tamytha said...

YES!! I absolutely loved this post and look forward to more. I love the fact that you are sharing while you are learning. It probably helps you to explain it to people like me in terms I can understand. :) I've had my camera now for almost a YEAR and have never really taken it off the automatic mode...except for videos. LOL Kind of pointless to have all those buttons and only keep it on one setting, huh? At any rate, your post inspired me to pull out my camera and play around and I'm so excited! My camera is able to do things that I had no idea it could do. I can't wait to take pics of my next project using your tips. Thanks so much for sharing with us. :)

Nancy Ball said...

My photography life drastically changed when I took a class that explained what AV mode was. I used to only ever use the "running man" mode, when I got my first Canon digital SLR. I don't think I've ever used that mode again, since my class 7 years ago! You put all of this in great, easy terms to understand.

Tiffany Cheney said...

I have that exact camera and all three of those lenses! LOVE the 50mm and my EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS zoom lens!

Threekids said...

Vicki, I love your blog! I too, have the T2i. I took a class when we lived in VA (military - hubby, CTMH - me), but I had an older Canon. I have a couple of books, but they are just over my head. I would love to take another class on photos. Thanks for sharing!

Lori said...

Thank you Vicki! I have been reading a little about my camera and trying to take it off Manual more. I really appreciate your version, much easier to understand! I wanted to ask about your 50mm lens... is it a f/1.2, 1.4, or 1.8? I am debating about getting one because I've heard from a few people about them and wonder which to get...the f/1.2 can be pricey though. Thank you so much for all your awesome artwork and posts. I love reading your blog!

Cristiana said...

Wonderful explanation! Thanks for taking the time to share!!


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