(photo credit: Reuters)
Twenty years ago, when I taught photography in London, every student had a
metal-bodied SLR film camera equipped with the standard 50mm lens. These cameras
had only a few simple controls: A ring and collar around the lens adjusted the
aperture and focus; dials on the top of the camera set the shutter speed and the
ISO rating of the film; and there was usually some simple way to adjust the
exposure to make the shot brighter or darker.
Since there was very little to
learn about the camera, I could concentrate on teaching basic photography: How
apertures affect depth-of field and sharpness; how distance affects the look and
feel of a picture; how to control contrast by altering positions, using
reflectors or flash, etc: Simple, basic and practical information that is just
as essential to understand and put into use today as is was back
Back to basics
The instructions that came with my first
professional film camera were on a single folded sheet. Today’s digital cameras
have become so complicated that manuals can run into hundreds of pages and
enthusiasts have to spend much more time learning how to use their cameras.
a fraction of all the features stuffed into modern cameras are genuinely useful
to working photographers. Every shot still requires the selection of an
aperture, shutter speed, ISO, exposure and white balance. The truth is that
cameras, whether digital or film, can only take snaps. Computerization is
useful, but to take a good picture still requires knowledge of basic
photography, experience and some talent.
By learning practical, basic
photography you will begin to understand what settings and modes are essential:
You can then concentrate on what’s important, taking a good picture, instead of
fiddling about with the menus.
Here’s a tip on how to
shoot like a professional and use your camera as a simple tool. DSLRs and many
compacts have a dial that you can turn to P mode. Program mode is the advanced
version of Auto mode that gives you more control over your camera.
called Professional mode because it has an extremely useful feature usually
called “Program Shift.” By simply turning a thumbwheel (or using a button) you
can alter the combination of aperture and shutter speed without affecting the
exposure. Many professionals use P mode because they can quickly choose a wider
aperture (and a faster shutter speed), or narrower aperture (with a slower
shutter speed) without even taking their eye from the viewfinder.
Wider apertures create less “depth of field” – useful to make
the backgrounds more blurred for portrait shots. Narrower apertures create
greater “depth of field”, good for landscapes and deeper group shots. Faster
speeds are necessary for freezing movement and preventing camera
In P mode the pop-up flash will not fire unless you want it to,
and you have control over the ISO and white balance. You can also use the “+/-“
Exposure Compensation feature to brighten or darken the picture.
This one mode can handle most types of photography and will
replace most scene modes once you understand some basic photography and know how
to use it.
Fortunately there is no shortcut to using your camera creatively. If
you want to develop as a photographer you could do no better than to spend your
time learning and practicing how to use P mode. It is a steep learning curve
because it requires a good, practical understanding of basic photography.
technology of image capture has changed dramatically in the last 20 years but it
is still just as difficult and rewarding to take a good picture in any situation
and make your camera work well for you. Send me an example of how you have used
P mode creatively and I may share it with our readers.
you would like to develop your photography skills, you are welcome to send to me
one of your pictures that I may publish with some constructive feedback. Upload
your picture here: http://www.clinic.langford.co.il
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