Are you a new DSLR owner? Or have you had a fancy camera for a while but never quite known what to do with it? If not, you might be interested in skipping over today’s post. But for those who are into photography and have a DSLR, I wanted to talk about how I often find myself struggling to turn off the full-automatic mode and get my creative juices flowing by experimenting with the manual settings—it can be intimidating! Here are just a few tips I’ve discovered along the way to get myself moving toward manual:
- Turn off the autofocus. No really, this is one of the easiest things to start with, and it can still give you a lot of creative license. The point of focus in a scene, especially one with a well-defined foreground and background can dramatically change its look and feel. So play around with it, do close and far focuses and see what you like best for each shot. Plus, fiddling around with the focus control makes you look like a pro out in the field.
- Shoot more pictures. You know that point where you snap the shot and you think “Got it!” in your head? Now go back and take 5 more shots of the same scene. Pick a new angle. Try a new focus. Practice holding the camera really steady so you don’t get any blur. Lots of minor defects in photos show up when your at the computer screen reviewing what you shot, so you might as well have a lot of material to work with.
- Turn on exposure bracketing. The exposure bracketing feature will cause your camera to take several photos in succession when you snap a shot (both above and below aperture or shutter speed settings you set). This means that even if you are playing around with some of the fancier features of your camera and mess up the amount of light going into a particular photo, chances are that one of the exposure bracketing images corrected for your error. It’ll help give you the confidence to try new techniques without worrying so much about “losing the shot.”
- Change from color to black and white. A lot of photographers say not to do this, because you can always edit your photos in post-production to come out black and white, while you can’t go back and add color to a black and white photo. But I find that shooting in black and white occasionally sparks my creativity and helps me to get over feeling uptight about whether I’m putting all my settings on the “correct” level or not.
- Play around with the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You knew this was coming right? This is the part I tend to get most nervous about and feel like I have a hard time getting right. But practicing some of the other techniques above should help give you a little more wiggle room, and here is a blog post to help you out in understanding and experimenting with those settings. Believe it or not, you’re actually smarter then your camera sometimes in figuring out these levels, and remember that it’s normal to have a lot of over- and under-exposed photos as part of the learning process. It really can’t be avoided.
- Forgive automatic. Last, but not least, remember that it’s okay to shoot in automatic when you feel like it. It takes a long time to really get the hang of shooting in manual (I’m certainly not there yet). Also, most cameras also come with semi-automatic settings, where you can experiment with the aperture for example while the camera sets the shutter speed for you. To be honest there will probably always be some shots that I switch over to full-automatic for, simply because I want to make sure that I capture the moment. As long as you’re happy with how you experiment you shouldn’t feel guilty for switching between automatic and manual modes.
That’s it for now! Hopefully some of these tips are helpful as you grow and experiment with your camera. I’m looking forward to getting out again soon to keep going with my own trials!