My family has had a DSLR for a long while now. Mainly I use it but I’ve only ever really bothered to use the Auto mode. I remember watching an exposure tutorial video back in high school but I couldn’t quite learn anything from it. I watched a couple more last year but still didn’t understand it. This year however, I decided to actually pick up the DSLR, put it in Manual mode and see what effects took place when I changed the aperture, shutter speed and ISO values.
If you guys are interested in photography and would like to learn more, read on. I’m more than happy to share the knowledge I’ve gained in the past couple months 🙂
I don’t actually think I’ve put this much effort into anything since… well, forever. Every minute on my laptop, I’m researching camera lenses, watching video reviews, learning new techniques. I’m on eBay looking for the best deals on vintage lenses (which I’ll talk about later; it’s a great way to get good manual lenses on the cheap). My YouTube homepage is full of photography-related videos because that’s all I watch now.
Okay, now I’ll put everything I’ve learnt so far into a readable format.
Cameras all have sensors in them. The size of the sensor determines how much light is let in to create the image. DSLR sensors are often (all?) APS-C or Full Frame sized. APS-C (also called crop sensors).
APS-C sensors and smaller and therefore cheaper to make. Canon have DSLR and mirrorless cameras for beginners and enthusiasts that have APS-C sensors. The family Canon EOS 550D is a beginner in the EOS line of Canon cameras. It uses an APS-C sensor.
Because of the smaller sensor, any lens used on it will give a more ‘zoomed in’ view. For example, I use a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens.
On a Full Frame camera, it would have a focal length of 50mm, but on the 550D, it converts to a 80mm. It’s pretty confusing, but there’s lots of articles to help you understand sensors and lenses. I am terrible at explaining.
The three most important things to help you get the correct exposure for your photos are:
- Shutter speed
Canon has a very useful ‘simulator’ here where you can learn how each function affects the outcome of a photo.
My favourite settings include a wide open aperture. The lower the f-stop, the wider the aperture blades open. In this photo, my lens’ widest aperture (lowest f-stop) is f 1.7 and its smallest aperture (highest f-stop) is f 16.
Not only does this allow more light to get in your sensor, it creates a very shallow depth of field. A shallow depth of field creates that blurry, creamy look and causes light sources in the background to become pretty circles. This effect that everyone loves is called bokeh.
JPEG and RAW
Most, if not all, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have the ability to shoot in a file type called RAW. I shoot in JPEG + RAW usually, which means I get a copy of the photo in JPEG and in RAW.
What is RAW? I’m not totally sure how it works but RAW files contain more data than JPEGs as they are lossless. JPEGs on the other hand compress the images captured by your camera to save space. A JPEG file could be 7MB whereas the RAW is 28MB. RAWs contain so much valuable data that could totally save your photo from being unusable. An underexposed or overexposed photo could potentially be saved by shooting in RAW.
There are two types of lenses. Primes and zooms. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, which means you can’t zoom in and out. The advantages of these is that the image usually ends up being sharper. Of course, this depends on the quality of the lens itself but generally, prime lenses are sharper than zoom lenses. I prefer shooting in prime lenses and own 4 myself. I still carry around a zoom lens however as they are more versatile and allow you to get close to a subject that you might not be able to with a prime lens.
A reason why I prefer prime lenses is because they force you to get close and as a result, you are required to think about positioning and composition more. Constraints make us more creative.
Vintage lenses are old out of production lenses. I think some may have auto-focus but most don’t. I own two and they’re both manual focus lenses.
I love them. They have M42 mounts which means I need to use an adapter to be able to use it on my Fujifilm X-E2. I couldn’t get the hang of manual focusing on my Canon 550D as I could never tell if everything I wanted was in focus. In a lot of newer cameras though, they have a feature called Focus Peaking which is extremely good for anyone looking to get into manual focusing. Now I can focus on anything perfectly.
Currently, I’m learning to use a film camera. This means there are no second chances. Once I’ve taken a shot, that’s it. This will force my to learn the fundamentals of photography without having the aid of a LCD screen to help me. That’s the goal anyway.
I’m really glad I’ve found this hobby. I had a DSLR for so long and never bothered to get past Auto. I highly recommend learning to use Manual mode if you have a DSLR. I haven’t touched Auto mode since. I can’t wait for the opportunity to travel again and really put my skills to use. I’m still learning and haven’t specialised in a particular type of photography yet, so I’m excited to see what I’ll delve into.