As many of you know, Matt has become my Instagram Husband by default. He isn’t professionally trained in photography but he is professionally trained in the phrase “happy wife, happy life“. Which means, he’s had to pick up a few skills he never wanted. If you’re reading this thinking that you wish your man would do this for you, trust me, it can be done. It takes millions of blurry photos, learning a lot about how to work together as a couple, and a superhuman amount of patience. But first, he has to know how to take a photo. So, here are 5 photography tips from a guy’s perspective.
Written by Matt…
The first time I picked up a DSLR camera I was very overwhelmed. So many buttons. So many knobs. So many settings. The only thing I could figure out was how to turn it on. Of course the camera saga started as a task from my wife, “figure this thing out.” I held it in my hands rattled and frustrated.
“Why can’t this thing just take the photo automatically like my iPhone?!”
“My point and shoot in college didn’t have all this shit on it!”
“Life was simpler with disposable cameras.”
Fast forward four years and tens of thousands of photos later, how do I feel now? Still overwhelmed! I’ve probably tapped into 5% of the camera’s capabilities and that’s enough for me. Photography is a complicated art and these cameras don’t make it any easier, but don’t let it scare you.If you’re reading this article I’m assuming you’re in one of two situations: a female looking for ways to convince her spouse into taking photos or a man whose already gotten that pitch from his wife and feels the pressure mounting. In today’s Friday Five, I wanted to share 5 tips for beginners. Had I possessed these starting out, I would have made the transition from novice photographer to Instagram Husband a lot easier.
1. You don’t need the most expensive camera.
Our first camera was a Nikon D3200. As I alluded to in the introduction, we had no clue what we were doing! At that point we weren’t sure of the longevity of Visions of Vogue, so we bought the starter pack from Costco. Because if you’re just starting to take guitar lessons, you don’t need the same one Carlos Santana uses. Cameras are like cars, the cheap ones have all the same basic functionalities as expensive ones, it’s just that expensive ones do them better. Every camera is going to have white balance, aperture, shutter speed, and various image quality options. Just like every car has a steering wheel, accelerator, brakes, turn signals and window wipers. Learning the basic functionalities is pivotal and you don’t need a top of the line camera to master them.
Currently we are shooting with a Nikon D750, with a Sigma Art 50mm lens. Ultimately your photos will vary depending on the quality of your lens as opposed to the quality of your camera. So even in the event of buying a starter camera, you always have the option to upgrade the lens down the road for better photos. Moral of the story, learning how to drive with a Lamborghini would be nice but a Ford Focus will suffice.
2. Use your camera when you’re not “using” your camera.
This was one of the biggest mistakes I made when getting acclimated with photography. Each time Jenna and I went out for a shoot was also the time I was practicing my craft. This led to less efficient photo shoots, sub-par quality photos, and an immense amount of frustration. This would be like trying to learn to play baseball/softball but only playing in games. May want to play some catch with your friend or take some swings in the batting cage before jumping back into it.
One day after yet another photo shoot of bad lighting and blurry pics, I just fired up the camera while sitting on the couch. I played with different f stops, practiced focusing on the television set, and started exploring with settings and camera modes I had always avoided. The next time out, the improvements were apparent. Try grabbing yourself a cold one from the fridge and take a couple snaps of the can in between sips for some practice. It pays dividends.
This point is also corroborated by the very popular learning and development model of 70:20:10. This is the belief that when learning something new or developing a skill, 10% of your knowledge will come from formal coursework or reading, 20% will be learned from others, but 70% is gained by hands on experience. So getting hands on with your camera is going to do more than twice as much benefit compared to reading some loser’s recommendations on this blog.
3. Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO simplified
I’m not going to lie, this shit scared me more than seeing Pennywise down a sewer drain. These three factors are the most important to the quality and brightness of your photo. So I’m going to do my best to simplify shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
Shutter Speed is quite straight forward. It’s basically how fast the camera takes a photo, and how much light is being let into the lens. The higher the shutter speed number, the darker the photo is going to be. For example, 1/2000 is going to be a faster (and darker) photo than 1/25. On normal conditions, you’re going to sit around 1/250. If that photo is too bright, continue up towards 1/400 and so on. Also keep in mind, the faster (higher) the shutter speed, the less blur you’re going to get. Remember that shutter speed is the speed the lens is taking the photo, therefore if your subject is moving around and you’re shooting at a low (and slow) shutter speed like 1/50, there’s a good chance you’re going to get some blur. I hope I didn’t just lose you.
Aperture is a bit more complex, and often referred to as f-stop. Aperture is also how you obtain that “blurry background.” I’m far from an expert, but here is what I can share. On the camera, the aperture is read with examples like f/2.8 and f/4. Aperture is your field of view, and works very much like your own eye balls. You can be focusing on a particular point of view, or you can relax your eyes to take in the entire landscape. The lower the f stop number (i.e. f/1.8) is like focusing and the less you’re going to take in. Lower f stop numbers are really useful for close ups and achieving that blurry background, but beware as it often leads to less fine photos and higher likelihood of a blurry subject. If you’re looking to capture a photo of your subject and a beautiful background, sitting upwards of f/5 is where you’ll want to be. Also keep in mind that aperture, like shutter speed is tied to the amount of light in a photo. f/2 is going to get you a lot brighter photo than f/5.
ISO is the simplest of the three. The higher the ISO number, the brighter but more grainier your photo will be. Think of it like Instagram filters. The more filters you use, the more detail, but you will gain distortion and will likely have a grainy photo. And nobody wants a grainy photo. Sitting between ISO 100-500 should always do the trick.
4. Shoot in M.
The best way I learned how to take high quality photos was by shooting in Manual (M). Because if you want something done right, do it yourself. M isn’t to be confused with manual focus, shooting in M simply means manual settings. I did a quick tutorial of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, and by shooting in Manual mode allows you to set these yourself. Intimidating? Kinda. But have no fear, you will be a pro in no time. Start out with a shutter speed around 1/250, f/5, and ISO 100 and explore from there. The best way to sure up that your lighting is on cue is to utilize the light meter. Every camera has this feature, and it will look similar to this +2…1…0…1…2- . Always make sure it’s lined up to the 0 and your photo will come out perfectly lit.
5. Sometimes the iPhone is just better.
Don’t disregard your phone just yet. Digital cameras are great, but there are certain times and places where the iPhone gets the job done better. For example, low light and very bright light are two times where I feel like the iPhone is the better option. And tapping that screen is just so damn easy! Sometimes you just can’t get the lighting right, and that’s totally fine. Save yourself some time and frustration, and save the Nikon for another day. Let’s face it, the advances in digital photography have stalled in comparison to the changes we’ve seen in the quality of Mega Pixel lens’ in our phones. Sooner or later, we may find standalone DSLR’s are completely obsolete and the technology will exist right within our cellular device. Until that day though, make sure you carry both of them around with you.
I hope these tips help and I’ve put you in a better position for success than I started my journey in. The good news about cameras is that unless you cause blunt forced trauma, no matter what setting combinations you try or as many ugly, grainy, out of focus photos you take, you can’t break the camera. Trust me, I have tried.