So you got a new camera... CONGRATULATIONS! Now. How to make it make those amazing Pinterest inspired pictures you've collected over the years and dreamed about taking. All those buttons, all those settings, all those weird symbols and knobs - there has to be a magical setting built in some where in all that foreign language.
Bubble buster.... Nope. There's not.
BUT!! That doesn't mean you're out of luck - here are 5 tips from our Tips for Better Pics class on camera settings 101
Tip #1: Fill the Frame
When you're trying to get a cute pic of your kiddo, BFF, your cat - Fill the frame of your picture with the subject! It seems obvious, right? But so many times professionals and recreational photographers will take photos with too much space around their subject making it difficult to determine what is the point of the pic. When the subject is large in the frame our brains stay happy and interested.
Zoom in - we want to see your cat not your cat + the trashcan + and the laundry waiting to be folded.
Tip #2: The infamous "Blurry Background"
The amount of blur in the background (called Bokeh) is determined by the Aperture setting (aka F Stop or f/) . The range of this number is determined by the lens. Most kit lenses that come with a starter kit range from f/4.5-f/22, though some professional lenses open down to f/1.0.
Inside lenses are petals of metal or plastic. They are arranged in a way to open wider to allow more light in and close down to allow less light in to hit the sensor. The more open the petals are the higher the aperture (f/4.5 for example) and the more bokeh background will be, the less they are open the lower the aperture is (f/22) the more in focus your background will be.
Tip #3: Getting People Frozen in Motion
It never fails...
You are at your kiddo's rec game, they are in the zone about to make a big play, the excitement is up as is your camera. You're ready to get the winning game shot! They shoot, they score - you shoot, you end up with a blurry moving blob! OHHH NOOO!!! Not again! You're saddened and ready to run your camera over with your car. BUT WAIT! It wasn't your camera's fault, it was the settings! Here's how to never miss an action shot again...
For frozen motion your Shutter Speed has to be fast enough; this starts about 1/250 of a second for people. The faster the subject is moving the higher the shutter speed needs to go up to freeze the action. It starts at being that simple - speed up your shutter speed!
Your other settings of aperture and ISO affect this number, more on that later when putting it all the settings together.
Tip #4: Simple yet Important ISO
The ISO's solo job is to control the light sensitivity of the sensor, the inner part of the camera body the light strikes to record the exposure of your pic. If you ever shot with film you had film speeds 200, 400, 800 and so on; this it the exact same idea with digital. With digital comes more refined sensitivity in between the whole numbers.
Set the scene...
You're at a magical theme park about to go on a ride you're kiddo has been waiting to go on "FOREVER". Before you go in your snap a pic in the brightness of outside, if you're on auto settings your camera has selected a low ISO. Finally, you're about to be to the front of the line - your kiddo's expression is priceless with excitement. You want to take another quick pic before you get on the ride but no flash photography is allowed in the dark room. If you're using a camera or a cellphone without low light capabilities you can override the auto settings to adjust the ISO to a higher sensitivity to allow as much light as possible in.
The general rule of thumb is that the brighter the surrounding the lower the ISO setting. Assuming you're just shooting on the go without flash a sunny outside scene would be set 200, a cloudy day would be about 400, and a dark room like in the ride above would be about 800.
A side effect of ISO is called "noise". It looks like grainy texture all over the image - the higher the ISO the more noise is introduced. Some people don't mind the noise, others prefer to reduce it by lowering the ISO and adjusting the aperture and shutter speed to compensate the difference or using specialty software to reduce it.
Tip #5: Using Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO Together
The 3 problem solving areas, blurry backgrounds, blurry motion, and pics in a dark room used 3 of individual aspects of your camera's basic settings. What we haven't covered is how if you change one, it'll affect the other two. They all work together and can be adjusted to create the variety of pics you dream of creating.
Not only does Aperture control how much of the pic is in focus, it also allows a set amount of light to hit the sensor. The shutter speed not only determines if action is frozen or not it also dictates the amount of time the sensor is struck by light, The sensitivity of the sensor is controlled by the ISO.
Setting No. 1:
You're outside at a city park having a picnic and want a creamy bokeh background with little of the trees in focus, you'll want to open your F Stop to a low number. This can cause over exposure so you may need to speed up your shutter speed so light can't strike the senor too long or lower your ISO to reduce your sensor's sensitivity.
Setting No. 2
You're at the magical park with your large family - everyone is there! You want a pic in front of the famous landmark and you want everyone and the attraction in focus. You'll want to reduce the size of your aperture by going to a higher number f/11 or higher for more. After you adjust the F Stop you're pic is underexposed and dark. You may either have to slow down your shutter speed to let light strike longer or raise your ISO to increase your sensor's sensitivity.
Setting No. 3.
You're inside a gym and your kiddo team is doing great! Once again, they are about to score. The excitement goes up and so does your camera... they shoot, they score! You shoot, you get a frozen in air action shot! CELEBRATE YOUR AWESOMENESS!!! What did you do differently this time? You understand how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO work together. You open the aperture to a lower number to allow more light in, you use a faster shutter speed to freeze the action, and you've adjusted your ISO to a higher sensitivity to compensate for the short time you've allowed the light to expose the pic on the sensor! AND to top is all off, you remember to fill the frame with the important subjects, GO YOU!!
The easiest way to see how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO work together is play with the settings outside of "Auto". Auto is not your friend, it's tight, it's restrictive, it thinks it KNOWS it all. Play with the Aperture Priority setting to see how your F Stop adjustments affect the other settings - you control the aperture, the camera controls the rest. Then switch it up and play with the Shutter Speed Priority setting - you control the shutter speed to see how speeding up or slowing it down will affect your pics. Eventually venture into manual mode and set all 3 independently for maximum creative control. Good luck and have fun!