The Digital Photo Guy

Monday Morning Tip – 6/29/09

by on Jun.28, 2009, under Monday Morning Tips

As digital SLRs become more ubiquitous, there are more users who have no real understanding of the photographic power and flexibility in their hands. Most readers of my blog have more than a passing interest in learning how to use the full complement of features on their dSLRs but the majority of new dSLR owners still use their cameras in Auto “Point & Shoot” mode.

This week, we’re starting a “Back to Basics” series of MMTs. For the more experienced photographers, this may be exceedingly boring but it gives you time to go back and review the older, more advanced MMTs without missing anything.

This week, we start with shutter speed, aperture and ISO. These are the fundamental building blocks of what we call “exposure.” By balancing these three variables, we determine how much light strikes the sensor. This, in turn, controls a host of variables such as depth of field, motion blur, noise and low light capability.

There’s also an older MMT titled Adjusting Expsoure, Step-by-Step from 3/31/08 that you might want to read as a companion piece to today’s MMT.

Quick Tip

Today is a two-fer. I was following a thread on the Photoshop Elements Techniques forum by a lady who couldn’t get accurate focus with her new Nikon D80. It seemed to me that the whole photo was out of focus so I suggested she check her active focus areas. It also occurred to me that many people didn’t know about selective auto focus points so here’s the first tip.

Most dSLRs have anywhere from 3 to 51 auto focus points and most dSLRs come from the factory with a default setting called All AF Points Active. In this mode, the camera decides which AF points to use and can be fooled by objects that get between the subject and the camera. To be sure of which AF point is in play, set the camera to only use the center AF point.

A second thought I had was Minimum Focus Distance. All lenses, including our eyes, have a Minimum Focus Distance, the closest that it can focus. If you are inside the MFD, the camera can’t focus and all photos will be blurry unless your camera is set to not allow the shuuter to be released without focus confirmation. You can find the MFD of your lens by referring to the Canon Camera Museum lens page. You can also find this information at sites like B&H Photo Video where specifications for each lens are listed.

Bonus Quick Tip

Learning photography requires a plan and direction. Flitting from one thought to another like a fly in a cow pasture can be slow, frustrating process. Posting questions on a forum is OK if you have a specific question such as, “How do I set AEB on my Nikon D300?” but can be next to useless if you ask an open ended opinion based question such as, “Which is better, Canon or Nikon?” And, always, always, know your goals before asking questions. If you’re a snapshooter with no interest in the art of photography, say so in your post. If you’re an advanced amateur with a desire to take your art to the next level, say that in your post. Otherwise, you’ll get answers that resemble blind men describing an elephant.

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