Ally, me, and Brooke
Garden of the Gods
Colorado Springs
December 6, 2008

Yesterday I went for a walk in the Garden of the Gods with my friend Brooke. She mentioned to me at our book club meeting last week that she is interested in taking an introductory photography class, so I suggested that we go take photos together. We took my doggie on a walk to the Siamese Twins rock formation, where I taught her some handy tricks regarding aperture and exposure.
Here are some of the tricks I showed her, and other photos from our walk:

Here are the before and after photos that I took to demonstrate concepts to Brooke. All photos are straight out of camera (not adjusted in photoshop).

EXPOSURE
Brooke was wearing a white shirt, which was perfect for demonstrating how the camera’s auto-exposure system works. I took this photo of her standing in direct sunlight, using the camera’s fully automatic settings:


As you can see, the automatic exposure made the photo too dark. The camera’s meter assumes that each photo isn’t supposed to be dark or light, instead it aims for an exposure right in the middle. Usually that technique works just fine, but Brooke’s shirt looks middle gray instead of white here. In this situation we need to brighten the photo’s exposure.


Here I used the camera’s P (automatic) setting again, but this time I manually adjusted the exposure to +1 stop. Most cameras let you do this, but you might have to look in your menu options to find it.

This is a great tip for snow photos! Have you ever noticed that snow photos often look dull and gray? That’s due to the camera’s adjustment to middle gray. You need to tell your camera that you intend for the photo to be really bright, by increasing the exposure manually.


It was convenient for our demonstration that Ally has black fur. I took this photo fully automatically. As you can see, the camera’s auto exposure lightened her fur to middle gray. It didn’t understand that I wanted this photo to be dark.


This time I manually changed the exposure to -1 stop. You can see now that her fur is black instead of gray.

DEPTH OF FIELD

Brooke was interested in learning about depth of field and how to control it. Depth of field is the portion of a photo that is in focus. For some photos, you want lots of depth of field — for example, a landscape with flowers in the foreground, a tree in the middle ground, and mountains in the background. For other photos, you want to draw attention to your subject with a narrow depth of field — for example, you may want to blur the background to emphasize a flower or a portrait.

Depth of field can be controlled by changing your camera’s aperture. If you set the aperture to open as wide as your lens can (say, f2.8), you will have a narrow depth of field with a blurred background. If you close your lens down to a small aperture (say, f22), you will have great depth of field with just about everything in focus.


I took this photo of a branch at an aperture of f32. Everything is in focus, which is not an asset to this photo. The eye doesn’t know what it’s supposed to look at.


I took the same photo with an aperture of f4. It’s still not an interesting photo, but at least it’s clear what you’re supposed to look at.

This is a good tip for flower photos. Try taking a close-up photo of a flower with two very different apertures, and see which one you prefer. I love to photograph flowers with a very blurred background.

OK, here are some pictures from our outing!

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COMMENTS

I’ve had this camera for over 5 years, but a good digital at that time was way out of my price range. When I was watching my grandson and didn’t have time to set up a shot anyway, I didn’t mind the camera wouldn’t do anything fancy.

When I’ve wanted more control, I’ve had to photo shop it with gimp. I got a good picture when my daughter got her masters with her and my grandson wearing her hat. Since I didn’t have depth of field control, I lightly blurred the background.

I agree! Your style is exactly what I wish my photos would look like, and I’ve learned a lot just by looking at your blog already. I’ve studied a lot of photography on my own, but I would enjoy reading your thoughts!

Aw, that’s so nice!! I would definitely love more tips in the workings of my DSLR — like adjusting the exposure to attain great white/black pictures you mentioned in your post.

And I, personally, am interested in tips for children photography since I mostly take pics of my constantly moving 18-month old. 🙂

Thanks!!

I sometimes miss the days when you could buy a good camera and it could serve you well for decades. Now my cameras need to be replaced every 2 years, which is a total drag.

So your digital really doesn’t let you adjust any of the settings? I haven’t seen one like that. It would drive me crazy!

Actually I’d really love to give lessons, and I think about doing that often. I just haven’t gotten around to organizing that effort. Thanks for the support… maybe I’ll put something together later this winter.

You’ve got to practice to reinforce the concepts!

Ha! I’m glad it was helpful!

Mike’s perspective could be really interesting, because his artistic perspective is mostly self-taught, but with a strong background in the technical aspects of digital photography.

And I want to go out with her another time to do it all again!

I was very proud of that dog when she decided to go stand in the aperture. She didn’t stay for long, but I got at least one semi-decent tourist photo of her.

Thanks! Maybe I’ll write more tips during my slower season this winter.

A weekly tip… that’s a great idea, thanks! Is there anything in particular you’d be interested in reading about?

Ally’s So Cute!

……And she’s also such a patient model for her Mommy’s teaching of photography.

Your photo lesson made me remember how much fun it was to have a good camera. I had an SLR with manual everything. After 25 years, it was starting to fail. (It wouldn’t do 1/1000 of a second any more.) I now have a digital with automatic everything. (The only automatic setting is the effective ASA.)

Aside from the book suggestions above (and not that you don’t already have enough work to do), have you considered giving lessons? I know a few people that would probably be interested (One of which is getting a new digital SLR for Christmas)

Thanks for the tips! I taught myself those tricks when I first got my camera, but I had long since forgotten. Maybe I’ll actually take out my Nikon D50 this Christmas! =)

I liked how you said “and it is not an asset in the pictures” I thought that was hot!! I learned so much in this post!

Write a book and illustrate it, I’d love Mike’s two cents too! You guys are a great team!

She got to learn some practical stuff AND got great photos of herself. What’s not to love about that?

Nice portrait of Brooke! And nice shot of Ally in the aperture! It was a great day for pictures. Tamera

Gorgeous photos!
And you’re such a great teacher.

Great pictures and GREAT tips!! You should do a weekly tip or something — you know, in ALL of your spare time. 😉 You have a great way of explaining things in “laymen’s terms.”

no joke. you have a knack, Charlotte, for explaining the same thing as my high school photography teacher did but in such a way that it actually makes sense. that’s something you should harness; make work for you in the form of a book. no joke.

Great Photos! Thanks for the tips. If you write a book, I’ll buy it! 🙂

Charlotte Geary

CHARLOTTE GEARY

I photograph fascinating people, and I teach other people how to do it, too.

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