Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Week 2: 31 Days to a Better Photo

14 days down, 17 to go in my journey through 31 Days to a Better Photo! I'm having so much fun seeing my pictures get better right before my eyes. What a wonderful tutorial Darcy put together. I'm so excited to stay on track with this through September so I can follow along in real time for her 31 Tips this October. Maybe I'll even be able to link up!

Day 8: The exposure triangle
OK. So I love how she explains getting the right balance between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Comparing it to a suntan = genius! Made perfect sense to me. I knew that each different factor impacted the photo but never got how they worked together. I just pushed buttons and rolled dials willy nilly.

Day 9: Scales
I'm not sure how much of this info I'll actually think through when taking my photos (half what? double who?), but I like that she pointed out that with practice, just like playing the piano (or typing on a keyboard), it will become second nature to adjust the settings. I'm already noticing how much more quickly my finger finds the shutter speed dial or ISO button!

Day 10: Meter Maids - In camera metering
This was HUGE for me!!! I guess I had noticed that little numbered bar on my screen and at the bottom of my view finder but I'd never really NOTICED it. Maybe I assumed I was never going to be good enough at using my camera to worry about it, or thought that having an expensive camera alone was enough to get better pictures. I'm not sure. But now that I know its there, WOWZA!, have my shots improved. Even if I have to turn on the flash inside because my girls are too quick, I'll know it before the moment passes by seeing that the pic is too dark even before I take it! A.Mazing.

Day 11: Tips for Shooting Manually - Link up
I practiced putting all the tips together and I think its going great. Here is a sample shot that I took:

ISO 200 f/4 1/8s

This was taken inside with NO flash. Usually my indoor shots are horrible (not that this is awesome but its much better than my usual stuff) unless I open every window and find the most well-lit (with natural light) spot. The key was leaving my ISO at 200. In the past that was the first thing I adjusted...upping that baby to 800 inside. But my pics always had a lot of noise (that's right, before Darcy I would've said they were "grainy" but now I know the dotty pics have "noise" with digital). It was so frustrating. Now, I did use a mini tripod which made the image clear and I won't always be able to do this (when shooting a lightning fast 3 year old), but it should be great for getting better pics for the blog! Adjust aperture or shutter speed first! Shoot slow to let in more light. Got it.

Day 12: Whats White Balance?
I recently started adjusting the white balance on my camera using the preprogrammed settings so this wasn't as much of a shocker as it would have been a month ago. Check out my birthday party pics from last month, then look at old indoor pics from the blog to see how much difference it made. Seriously awesome change with just a tiny bit of work. But here's a sample using all the white balance settings on the old Canon.

For all images: ISO 200 f/4.5 1/8s

The Auto, tungsten, and custom are by far superior to the other settings. I think tungsten is the best, as it should be, since I was under regular household bulbs. Auto looked good and the custom is pretty good, but I just used whatever custom setting was already on the camera. I hadn't done anything to set that myself. Yet.

Day 13: Setting Custom White Balance
I was SO excited (and nervous) to try this after reading Darcy's post. A Canon is harder than a Nikon? Uh-oh. Now, I'm a Canon owner and she had me skeered! But, instead of watching the you tube video she talks about, I turned to my trusty manual to set my custom white balance. And I didn't think it was that hard. Maybe I'm doing it wrong? It only took me about 30 seconds to a minute to set it. I kinda feel like I HAVE to be doing it wrong if she says its supposed to be hard. Now my confidence is shakey. Bah. Anyway, here are the shots I took:

All images: ISO 200 f/4 1/10s

Both the Auto white balance and tungsten images are OK. At least I would have thought they were OK before setting my custom WB and getting that last shot! I am stunned at how "white" it looks. The other photos seems so orangey-red in comparison. I used a plain sheet of white paper to set my WB but will be trying grey paper as soon as I can get my hands on some. I thought about using a grey shirt but went with white this time, as my manual suggested.

Anybody notice a theme here? Playdoh food. Crayons. Lightning McQueen. I wish I had pretty pictures of artfully arranged flowers or styled bookcases but thats just not my life right now. And I'm OK with it. I'm loving my time with my girls. Especially while their daddy is far, far away.

Day 14: Histo-huh? What's a histogram?
I'm pretty excited to learn how to use the funny little chart on my display. Even with screens as big as they are now (our old digital camera had a 1.5" screen) its so hard to see the picture until its on the computer. I always think of earthquakes when I see that feature on my camera. But, you'll have to wait until next week's update to see if I figure it out...

So. On to week 3. I'm really pleased with all I'm learning. Hopefully you'll see the improvements I'm making, too.

I'm linking this post up to Darcy's Sweet Shot Tuesday party! First time for me and I'm a little nervous...

Sweet Shot Day

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