“Would you take pictures for my workshop?”
I gulped hard. I had just landed a SLR digital camera after my point and shoot took a nosedive. I truly had no idea how to use it except for pushing the trigger and hearing a click.
But I figured, how hard could it be? I’ll leave it on automatic and fake it. Couldn’t be any worse than shooting with a point and shoot on auto, right? So I said yes.
I started clicking alright. But started struggling. The photos were a blurry, yellow mess.
“My point and shoot did better than this!” I scoffed. And I was right.
At one point, I slumped against a wall and grumbled at my camera. “I don’t get you.Why can’t I get the shots I see in my head? Why are you giving me yellow? Why is everyone a blur when they move? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST WORK?!”
A workshop attendee overheard me, and offered to help.
I really tried to listen. But as soon as he started talking, my eyes glazed over. I didn’t know what a shutter or aperture was so I couldn’t possibly understand anything related to those terms. Everything I heard was over my head. I was more lost than when I started out.
But I refused to give up. So I struck him an offer.
“I promise to listen to every word you say, BUT I’d like to ask all the questions. And if you could answer just THAT question, I’ll ask you more so it makes sense. Can we try?”
So that’s what we did. I asked every question in my simpleton ABC way and got only the answers I needed. I jotted down notes, and shot on Manual for the rest of the weekend. And know what? THE PICTURES TURNED OUT.
But it didn’t end there. I still didn’t understand what was what so I knew I had to memorize a recipe of numbers that worked together.
So with camera and notes, I started challenging myself to themed assignments. One would consist of taking shots of country roads. One topic became fall. Yet another, snow. I took on assignments for my church. Then a tough one… dusk. The junk campsite was one of my favs. No challenge was too big, I took it all on, and I clicked until I landed the shots I desired. Two of my current fav photo shoots are A Leisurely Walk through the hotspots of Franklin, Tennessee and my outdoor walk.
The more I worked that camera, the less I needed the notes. I was starting to get it. I was totally floored.
I have SO much yet to learn. But in a nutshell, my 2 top tips for learning digital SLR photography and shooting in manual are:
1. ASK someone patient all the questions yourself.
Offer to buy a friend the best dinner EVER. Or whatever. But trust me, when you ask the questions, it’s a better starting point. I can blah blah all day long about ISO but if you don’t even know what that is, you’re lost at my first sentence, right? Ask the questions.
2. PRACTICE. Quantity first. Then comes quality.
Once a day, give yourself a small assignment. With notebook in hand, practice different settings and take note of what works.
Once you get a good shot, challenge yourself and make your job harder. Try direct sunlight, diffused sunlight, shadow, a dark interior, dusk outside. Do it all. It’s only then that you’ll understand what settings work best where.
I realize this advice is super vague and for that, I apologize. So here are two recipes to start you off. They are purposely close to the same because I want YOU to figure out what works and what doesn’t all on your own.
* if your pictures come out blurry, stabilize your camera on a tripod or crank the number higher ie: 60 *
Just know, ASK and PRACTICE are the two ingredients alone that taught me how to swing an SLR. Period.
By all means, take a course if you can’t find that someone to ask! But if you find yourself getting lost in the lingo, refer back to this post and try again.
Join us for a live Google Hangout for some quick tips on lenses, stability, lighting, and staging.
Tues, Feb 5th, 6PM Pacific, RSVP on Google Plus HERE.
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If you miss it live, it’ll be taped to YouTube after the fact.
You can catch other photography tips HERE.