Getting the most out of your DSLR

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I have always been quite passionate about photography and in my early forays spent much time looking at other photographer’s work. Not to slavishly copy, but to try and see just “how” they managed to produce the final image.

My tutor was a notebook and I jotted down all relevant details to assist me in getting good images myself. With the instant gratification that DSLR gives you, it is now possible for you to adjust and correct as you take the photos.

The first refers to the placement of the image in the frame. This is where the ability to instantly review images in digital photography is so good. Look at the image in the viewer on the back of the camera and see if it can be improved by different placement of the subject within the frame. Remember the ‘Rule of Thirds’ (place the main subject one third of the way in from either side and one third of the way up or down from the top or bottom of the picture). This is a tried and true rule of thumb and you can try it out so easily with digital photography. It may feel ‘wrong’ initially not having the subject slap bang in the middle of the frame, but try it and you will find you are getting better, more pleasing pictures. Take notice of the talking heads on TV and movies where the Rule of Thirds is also closely followed.

One of the items I learned from my jottings in the notebook, and now one of my standard tips, is “Walk several meters closer”, and by doing this you will find that you can make the subject fill the frame (to even overflowing) and get rid of horrible distracting backgrounds. Say to yourself, “Fill the Frame” as you compose the shot.

While still on the subject of the overall image, don’t forget to take each shot two ways – in the landscape (horizontal) format and the second in the portrait (vertical) format. Again it sounds strange to shoot a landscape in the vertical format, but it gives the viewer a different emphasis, which can improve an otherwise ‘ordinary’ shot. You should also take more than two frames for each subject. It is amazing just how many portraits can be spoiled by the subject closing his or her eyes.

With most digitals having reasonably good zoom lenses these days, experiment with different zoom settings and distance from the subject. A ‘tele’ setting can give you a very different photograph from the ‘wide’ setting taken closer to the subject. This ability to experiment, at the time of shooting, is one of the biggest plusses for digital photography.

You can also see the difference in the backgrounds between shooting at f2.8 as opposed to f16. The larger aperture (f2.8) gives a blurred background, which is exactly what the ‘portrait’ mode does. Many of the tricky settings are just automatic combining of different apertures/shutter speeds, and a general knowledge of first photographic principles will always help your photography too.

In bright light, try your camera’s Beach or Sunshine mode, or go to manual mode and choose a fast shutter speed to control the amount of light that comes in.

Be careful if you place your subject in front of a bright window or they will become a silhouette. Try placing them off to the side of the window instead, or facing a natural light source.

For better photographs indoors, turn your flash off. Try to maximize the light by pulling back the curtains, opening doors and turning on the incandescent lights in the room. Sure, you will have slower shutter speeds and you may have to look at using the tripod, or even just holding the camera firmly on a table, but you will get more natural photographs.

Finally, practice getting the ‘decisive moment’ by partially depressing the shutter button when taking candid shots. This means you are not waiting for the camera to focus, before the shutter fires. Or simply set the focus manually.

No, compared to camera-phones and compacts, your DSLR gives you many more opportunities to be creative, but critically review your work after downloading to your monitor.