Learning To Use Your Camera: For Debbie

Last week a friend asked me how I learned to use my camera. I know so many people who have bought digital SLR cameras and get so overwhelmed by what those cameras are capable of that they just keep them set to the green square Auto Mode. This is tragic to me. Maybe tragic is too dramatic a word for camera use, but learning how to use my camera and other elements of photography have become a passion for me over the past few years.

When I got my first SLR for Christmas in 2007, I took advantage of a few resources that really gave me understanding of what I held in my hands:

First, Because I’m a chick, I read the manual cover to cover. Not much of it made sense to me, but this is pretty much how I approach anything new. I Read the instructions. (now that I understand what I’m doing I still refer back to my manual occasionally when I read about a technique or trick, to figure out how to do it on my own camera)

Rick gave me my camera for Christmas. My kids gave me a photography class at Bellingham Technical College. Tore Oftness taught the class, and somewhat like reading the manual, it didn’t all make sense to me. I often felt discouraged in class because he never really liked any of the photos I brought in for assignments. I look back at those photos now, and I can see what he was saying. At the time I loved what I was shooting, but I was the only one that was impressed. Lucky for me, I was determined to develop my eye and didn’t give up.

My father-in-law began passing me a magazine, Popular Photography that didn’t really speak to his manual camera any longer. After his subscription ran out he subscribed for me as a gift, and once that subscription ended I subscribed myself. This has been one of the most practical resources I’ve come across and I have piles and piles of them in my home office downstairs. The how-to tips are super practical and easy to follow, the contests are creative and the pros columns are inspiring.

Other than these resources I learned to use my camera by using my camera. I was determined to get off the Green Square Auto Mode from the beginning. Never having taken a photography class before digital, and not understanding all the components, aperture, ISO (or film speed), focal length and shutter speed and how all those things work together, I because experimenting:

When figuring out what ISO does, I just starting taking a picture, the same picture, but changing the ISO for each one to see how it effects the outcome.

I just snapped these while sitting here writing this post for the sake of an example. I figured this would take less time than looking through my old files for the ones I took almost 4 years ago.
My camera’s settings are:
Manual Mode
Aperture 5.0
shutter speed 15
No flash

Then I changed ISO as follows:
100
IMG_7001

200
IMG_7002

400
IMG_7003

500
IMG_7004

600
IMG_7005

800
IMG_7006

1000
IMG_7007

2000
IMG_7008

I think the one shot at 200 ISO is the best, and maybe the 400. I’m sitting in an unlit room with a window at my back, so the light you see on the cup is coming from the window.

I’m not the first one to write a little tutorial about how to use ISO. There are thousands of blogs out there you can search that will help you understand your camera, (in fact, that is how I found Pioneer Woman, and only read her photography stuff for a very very long time) and I’m still learning, myself, but since Debbie asked, and I know she reads my blog, I thought I’d add mine to that number!

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3 thoughts on “Learning To Use Your Camera: For Debbie

  1. Hey, this is great! Thanks! I’m going to get started practicing now that I have a “starting place.” I’ll let you know how it goes. I appreciated knowing you didn’t “get it” right away either. Maybe there’s still hope.

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