Photography: It’s Technical Stuff

I was treated with a Photography Class for my birthday this year from my wonderful husband. ¬†I asked for it last year, but it was worth the wait ūüôā Five weeks of Saturdays on my own was also a gift! Classes were near home at the San Jose Learning Center.

The first class was all about the technical aspects of photography. ¬†ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, and all that elusive stuff ūüôā ¬†I’ll not cover the details, since you can find all about that on Pinterest and the Interwebs. ¬†But I will share what I learned to be my process in taking pictures manually.

Equipment

Canon EOS Rebel T1i 15.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD and EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
This is probably a “beginner” camera, but that’s what we needed a year ago when we got it ūüôā It definitely suits our needs right now, and the investment is really in the lenses, right?

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens
We got this at the recommendation of some friends that also had young kids. They mentioned that you could pretty much foolproof take great pictures of your kids with this lens. ¬†Only challenge is that it’s a fixed lens, so you have to stand back a bit if you want a lot in your frame. ¬†It’s meant for close up portraits. ¬†Now I know the reason behind how it works – it has the capability to go extremely low in aperture – f/1.8 – which allows smaller depth of field, or more focused attention on your subject, while the background and/or foreground are blurred.

Books

The BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Photography (BetterPhoto Series)
This one has GREAT pictures that show the difference between shutter speeds and apertures.  Also explains good composition.  After my class I noticed that a lot of the images my instructor used to explain the concepts were actually from this book!  Nice that I can look back on them whenever I want.

The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi/450D Companion
Specific to our camera, and has really helped me to learn the advanced features on our camera. ¬†Helpful for when I don’t want to shoot fully manual. ¬†I’m still learning a lot from this one!

Process

So after my first class we had an assignment to take pictures with different shutter speeds, apertures, ISOs, and white balance. ¬†This really helped me to figure out my process each time I’m using my camera. ¬†Here is what I’ve come up with:

  1. When you arrive at your location, check and set your ISO and White Balance. ¬†Take a few pictures, adjust, take again, until you’re comfortable with the settings.
    My instructor advised leaving White Balance at Auto. ¬†I like this idea – but I would recommend consciously thinking about whether it is appropriate or not when looking at those test photos. ¬†It is adjustable post-edit, but its much more satisfying to have the picture turn out the right tone from the get go. ¬†If you might be changing locations, it would also be best to leave it Auto so that you won’t have to keep adjusting it.¬†For ISO, try to leave it as low as possible for your setting. ¬†I am always tempted to turn it higher to make it brighter, but you want to avoid the graininess. ¬†I believe you can fix the brightness post-edit, but not the graininess.
  2. Once you’re ready to start taking pictures, decide what Aperture you want.
    Remember, low aperture numbers mean small depth of field, while large aperture numbers mean large depth of field.  Depth of field means the area that is in focus.  So if you want to focus attention on the subject, select a low aperture number.  If you want to show the full picture frame in focus (say, a landscape), select a high aperture number.
  3. Frame your picture and focus.
  4. Hold the shutter button down half way to see the exposure scale.
    Correct the exposure by using the wheel to adjust the shutter speed.  Sometimes you will have to adjust the aperture or ISO to allow for a more realistic shutter speed.  I think over time I will learn what the reasonable apertures/ISOs are for certain settings and just start with that.  Well, I hope so! This can be a lot of adjusting!
  5. Take your picture!

Now, of course, this has to all happen before you lose your shot! ¬†It’s pretty tough for an amateur like me. ¬†I’m still getting the hang of it, and honestly, will probably only use fully manual mode when I feel like practicing.

Alternatively to the above Рyou can decide to set the shutter speed first and then use your aperture to correct the exposure.  I can see needing that in certain scenarios, but for now I will stick with the process above as I am only still learning.

So they say “a picture is worth a thousand words”… let’s get talking ūüôā

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The left image above shows shallow depth of field (aka smaller aperture number, or larger aperture), while the right shows larger depth of field. ¬†You can see the trees in the background a little more blurry on the left picture. Isn’t this guy handsome?

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Again, the left is shallow depth of field, while the right is larger depth of field. ¬†The “subject” is the tree, while you can see the trees in the very back are more blurry on the left picture.

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Now, shutter speed. ¬†You can use a fast shutter speed to “freeze time” as in the picture on the left. ¬†Or you can use a slow shutter speed to make something or someone look like they’re moving. ¬† Such a little acrobat ūüôā

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Shutter speed again. ¬†Same slide, same speed, but the image on the left makes PJ look frozen, while on the right he looks like he’s speeding down.

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Camera panning – this will take some more practice, ¬†but it’s fun to do! ¬†You move the camera with the subject to get the subject in focus, while the background is blurry. ¬†It helps you to see that they are in motion. ¬†If you look closely you can see that PJ is crying. ¬†Luckily there were quite a few other people there to help him while Mommy kept snapping away!

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The three images above show the difference in ISO.  The first is ISO100, second ISO400, and third ISO1600.  In this environment, either ISO100 or ISO400 would work, which means I should have had it on ISO100, since you want to use as low as possible to make the photo sharp.

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Now fun with White Balance.  Left = Daylight, Right = Shade

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Left = Cloudy, Right = Tungsten

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Left = Flourescent, Right = Flash

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Left = Custom, Right = Auto

So, looking at all those White Balance options, you can see that Tungsten and Auto both look the best.  The others are either too blue or too yellow in tone.

Wasn’t that fun? ¬†Obviously I have so much more to learn… More lessons to come!

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Book Review: The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff

The Continuum Concept: In Search Of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedloff

What an interesting read! ¬†Some aspects really good and some aspects really “off.” ¬†And it can really mess with your confidence as a parent, at the same time, building your trust in your instincts. ¬†How’s that for confusing?

This book was written back in the ’70s and I can imagine it being one of the books and concepts that really triggered the “attachment parenting” movement. ¬†It’s written by a woman that, by chance, ended up living with and studying a tribe of natives in the deep Amazon jungle. Over many trips back and forth, she learned a lot about how they raised their children and lived with each other, noticing the differences between them and us. She is a little over the top in her admiration of these people and seems to lose her ability to objectively judge the situation; also, given that it’s about 40 years in the past, there are certain observations that really turn you off (like how homosexuals are a certain way because of how their mother treated them!) ¬†But overall, her observations are something to learn from, as long as you take them with a grain of salt!¬†I can imagine that coming from the 60’s the advice she was giving was quite extreme. ¬†Nowadays we tend to practice a lot of this already, just as the trend of the times.

My biggest takeaways:

Your children become what you expect of them. ¬†If you talk down to them, they will have a poor vocabulary. ¬†If you speak intelligently and of intelligent things, you show them that you expect them to understand; and they do! Or they will. ¬†If you tell them “be careful, don’t fall” – they will do what you expect of them – and fall! ¬†Ok, maybe that one is not 100% believable, but I do agree that you want to put things in a positive perspective to give them confidence rather than add to the epidemic of worry in our society.

Live your life and take your baby and children along for the ride. ¬†So many parents today just play with their kids all day long, let the laundry slide, don’t have a social life, get utterly depressed, and then wonder why their kids feel so entitled. ¬†I like the idea that we should live our lives as we would like to, and bring our kids with us! ¬†They will learn how to behave better through example than by playing with a multitude of toys. ¬†If you’re vacuuming and they’re interested, give them a mini vacuum to help you. ¬†If you’re cooking and they’re interested, find things to allow them to help you. ¬†If you’re going out to eat, take them with you and show them how to behave. ¬†I couldn’t agree with this one more! ¬†As I think back on the really good days with PJ, they are the days when we just had to get things done and he was right alongside us helping. ¬†It makes him happy too! ¬†It also really helps me to feel that I’m setting a good example for my kids by living my life, working and going out with friends. ¬†Now, if this author were to have her way, I would take my baby to work with me and let him be a part of my whole day. Unfortunately that’s not ideal in our office world.

Ease the transition from the womb to the world a little bit better. Don’t just move your baby from crib to stroller to swing. ¬†Hold your baby. Wear your baby. ¬†Let them hear the heartbeat they have known since they’ve existed. ¬†This part really touched me and made me want to hold LJ tighter. The hard part here is the advice to keep your child in your bed as long as possible – until they’re ready to be on their own. ¬†I seriously don’t have a problem with the family bed, but with both boys, they were in their own room by 6-8 weeks. ¬†We all just sleep better that way (them and me!) ¬†Now that PJ is older, I’m sure he would LOVE to sleep in our bed. ¬†But I can’t say that it would be fun. ¬†We would all sleep horribly for some time. ¬†What this book makes me wonder is what type of lesson I’m missing out on teaching him by doing this. ¬†But alas! ¬† We can’t all do everything. If I’m to get enough sleep and work too, I need my space and quiet!

Don’t help when they don’t need it, but once they ask, help right away. This can help to build confidence and allow them to see that their needs are responded to, that they have a place in their world. ¬†I’ve always thought this, but it helps to have someone say it explicitly to believe that it’s worth it and working. ¬†It’s hard to hold back showing them what to do and how to do it better. I know it’s better if they learn to do it on their own.

I rate this 4 out of 5 stars. ¬†Mostly because the message it gives is so different than other parenting books. ¬†I’ll be passing it on to my next pregnant friend or relative. ¬†As the quote on the front says…

“If the world could be saved by a book, this just might be the book” – John Holt