Category: ISO cheat sheet

Life Love Lens Wednesday | Help! What Should I Buy? {Midlothian Photographer}

I get calls on a pretty regular basis from friends and family members asking for advice on buying new dSLR cameras and lenses. I thought that laying the basics out in a {Life Love Lens} Wednesday blog post would be helpful for some of you out there. So here is the nitty gritty. 🙂

First, there are a lot of camera equipment brands out there, but the two best/most popular are Canon and Nikon. I suggest sticking to them. They are both wonderful and have basically the same cameras in each level so it comes down to a personal preference. The best advice I can give you is to go to a camera shop and hold both of them. One will probably feel “right” in your hands and the other will probably feel “wrong.” Go with what feels more natural to you. (FYI, I am a Nikon girl!) 😉

After you have chosen a side (Go Nikon!) LOL, you have to look at your budget and how you will be using your camera. For most of you, I suspect you will be shooting snap shots of your kids and documenting family events. You can pretty much spend as much as you want, but I will concentrate on the “must-have’s” (according to me.) For dSLR camera bodies, you want to look at a few key factors:
full frame vs. cropped sensor
number of megapixels
light sensitivity (ISO range)
and extra’s (video capabilities, etc.)

Most mid-range dSLR’s have cropped sensors. I could go over this for several paragraphs but instead I will give you the “cropped”version (hehe.) 😉 So, back when we used film SLR camera’s they shot in one dimension – 24mm x 36mm. The new digital cropped-sensor models crop the field of view so that your picture is of the middle portion of the shot, while throwing away the outsides. The “full frame” dSLR’s are equivalent to the old film models. Full frame dSLR’s are larger, heavier, generally better in low light and more expensive. For the purposes of photographing your kids and family, a cropped sensor is all you will need. There is no need to spring for a full frame unless you will be investing in higher end lenses and/or shooting landscapes on a regular basis. My advice: Save your $$ for lenses and purchase the cropped sensor camera body.

Megapixels: Basically, the more megapixels the better, but, here’s my 2 cents…..Once you get more than 12 mp you have enough. Unless you will be printing billboards, you don’t need 24mp. The end. 😉

Light Sensitivity: When you are looking at camera specs is might say something like: ISO Sensitivity 100-6400. If you don’t know what ISO is, check back to this LLLW post on that. The higher the available ISO the better, but you want to try to stay at least 2-3 stops below the max ISO at all times.

Extra’s: This is where your personal use will factor in. Do you need/want video capabilities? If so, there are lots of great dSLR’s with amazing 1080p video features.

Next step….lenses.
A lot of camera’s come with a kit lens or two. My opinion of kit lenses….eh. They’re usually fine, not great, but usually fine. If you want to improve your photos the biggest factor is your lens. And you can get some great lenses for not that much money!
My suggestion for your first lens purchase is the 50mm prime. It is not a zoom lens, your legs will have to do the zooming, but you WILL see the difference! It is fast and sharp and easy to use. Nikon has a 50mm f1.4 and a 50mm f1.8, Canon has a 50mm f1.2, f1.4 and f1.8. (You always want to get the Autofocus and the USA version.) The “f” number is important when looking at lenses. Ideally you want the lowest f-number possible, but as the f number goes down, the price goes up. My advice: get the best lens you can in your budget. If you don’t remember what the f-stop (aperture) is check back on this post again. The f number determines how wide your aperture will open and in turn, how shallow your depth of field is. You know that creamy background in most pro photog shots? Well, that is called “bokeh” and that is what you are after by making your depth of field smaller.

OK, so now that you have your dSLR camera and lens, your next step……practice, practice, practice. Check out these tips here and here for more info and advice on that. 🙂

I hope this helps you a bit. Please let me know if you have any questions or want some more details….I have been slacking on my Life Love Lens Wednesday post, and need some more ideas!!

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DSLR/Photogrpahy Basics – EXPOSURE {Richmond Photographer, Photography Basics}

Photography is so cool because it uses both sides of your brain. 

It is art and science. 
It is technical and creative. 
You need to “see” the shot AND be able to “capture” it. 

There are several components of a great photo, from focus to composition to subject…but the MOST important is proper exposure. Your cameras auto setting may do a decent job in most situations, but in order to ensure you can get correct exposure on every image you need to learn to shoot in manual (or semi-manual) mode. Don’t worry, you can do it!! 😉 Just keep reading….

First, you need to know what factors are involved in exposing an image on your DSLR. They are 
Aperture (f-stop)
and Shutter Speed.

Now, don’t get overwhelmed by the new vocab words 😉 ….it will take some practice, repetition, & time but once you “get it” you’ll be amazed at how simple it is!

I usually start with setting my ISO. ISO is the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light.  (FYI if you used to shoot with film, it is similar to the old “film speed” values) So, when you are in bright sunlight your ISO will be lower, when you are in a low light situation it will be higher. Below is a handy little chart I created to help you decide which ISO might be appropriate.

General advice: keep your ISO as low as possible; the higher the ISO, the more ‘grainy’ your image will be.

The next setting I usually adjust is my APERTURE (also called f-stop.) The aperture is the ring inside the camera that opens to let in light. The wider it is open, the more light is let in.  Aperture numbers can be confusing because a LOWER number means a WIDER aperture opening. So f-1.4 is wide and lets in MORE light and f-11 is narrow and lets in LESS light. 

This is where you can adjust for creativity because the aperture width determines your depth of field (DOF.) Do you ever look at a pro’s image and wonder how they get that creamy blurry background and the subject is so sharp and in focus? Well, here’s how: Use a WIDE aperture (LOW f stop number)! You subject will be sharp because they are in the “field” of focus, and everything else will just blend in because they are not within the field of focus. Does that make sense? Below are a few shots showing what different apertures do to your depth of field. The left one has a very shallow depth of field where the camera is nice and sharp while everything else fades away. As I closed my aperture the field got bigger and you can see more of the surrounding details.

I tend to shoot wide (LOW f- number) whenever possible. A good general rule is a ‘stop’ for each person in the photo. So, one person, you can shoot at f-1.4 (if your lens opens up that wide,) three people at f-3.2, five people at f-5.6. 

****If you are just starting out with a DSLR, I recommend shooting in aperture priority mode for a little while. This means YOU will set the ISO and the f- stop, but your camera will set the shutter speed.**** Once you get the hang of relating those two features (ISO and aperture) then you can add in the last component: SHUTTER SPEED.

SHUTTER SPEED is pretty easy to figure out, it’s the speed at which your shutter opens and closes to let in light. So, the slower the shutter speed, the more light enters your sensor, faster = less light. Your shutter speed also allows you to “freeze” an image or show movement. So, if you are taking shots of you sons soccer game, your shutter speed needs to be pretty fast so that all of your images don’t show streaks of kids as they run past. 🙂 See the shots below at different shutter speeds. The left one is fast and freezes the droplets as they fall, the one on the right shows a blur as the water falls. (FYI the faucet was on continuously as these shots were taken, so the speed of the water is basically the same in each shot.)

Remember in the first {Life – Love – Lens} Wednesday post where I told you to start looking for light? Well, that’s because photography is ALL ABOUT LIGHT. Each of the three main variables work together to let in certain amounts of light. Too much light will give you an over exposed image (BAD!), too little light will give you an under exposed image (ALSO BAD!) So, you have to be in control of your camera so that you tell it how much light to let in. Don’t slap it into Auto mode and let it tell YOU how much light it wants!! 😉

So to wrap it up:
ISO: low # = less light, high # = more light
APERTURE: low f-stop = more light, high f-stop = less light
SHUTTER SPEED: slow SS = more light, fast SS = less light

I hope this helps explain your DSLR and exposure a little better for you. Please leave your questions and comments below, or on my facebook page HERE and I will be sure to answer them. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful {Life – Love – Lens} Wednesday!!