The vaguely interested man’s guide to using a camera

  • See below for more details
  • See below for more details
Date:15 June 2012 Tags:, ,

By Rachel Sturtz

HOW TO OPERATE YOUR CAMERA
1. HELPFUL BUTTONS: A VISUAL PRIMER

1. VIEW Look at your photos.

2. MENU Where you’ll find controls for things such as ISO, white balance and noise reduction.

3. AUTO-EXPOSURE LOCK/ AUTOFOCUS LOCK Locks the autofocus and exposure, keeping the focal point on the mountains and not the smudge on your car window.

4. RECORD Begins video-mode capture.

5. DELETE

6. TIMER Useful if you want Dad to be in a few pictures.

7. EXPOSURE VALUE COMPENSATION An easy way to brighten or darken your pictures without going into the camera’s menu.

8. NIGHT MODE Lets more light into the sensor and uses ˆ ash to brighten dark pictures.

9. MACRO Focuses on the tiniest details of the tiniest subjects. Best for: people familiar with words such as pistil and stamen.

10. ACTION Freezes fast things such as cyclists, sprinters, and the guy who’s running away with your lens kit.

11. LANDSCAPE Increases f-stop to capture the entire scene in detail.

12. PORTRAIT Softens the background slightly (by decreasing f-stop) and focuses on the person.

13. AUTOMATIC Everything is set for you.

14. MANUAL Should also read: expert. If you know you need an ISO 200 f/5.6 with a shutter speed of 14 seconds to shoot a great night-time cityscape, and you can find the buttons to make that happen, go for it. Best for: photography class.

15. APERTURE PRIORITY You control aperture; the camera selects shutter speed. Best for: portraits, still lifes.

16. SHUTTER PRIORITY You control shutter speed; the camera selects aperture. Best for: sport.

17. PROGRAM The camera controls aperture and shutter speed; you control the rest. Best for: nearly everything.

18. POWER SWITCH

19. FLASH A general rule: turn off the ˆ ash. Especially if you are more than 2 m away from what you’re shooting. Use the ˆ ash only to freeze action, in dimly lit rooms, or if you’re determinedly pro.

20. ATTACHMENT LOOP Not a button. The place to hook a lanyard, if you’re into such things.

OKAY, NOW TO THE NITTY GRITTY
2.HOW TO SHOOT
… A LANDSCAPE
Shoot within 20 minutes of sunrise or sunset, when the Sun doesn’t cast harsh shadows. And never centre the horizon: it cuts the picture in half and makes it a lot less interesting.

… AT NIGHT
If you can adjust your flash, aim it toward the ceiling or a wall: bouncing the light off another surface diminishes shadows and creates a softer light source, kind of like those umbrellas they use at photo studios. If your flash is fixed, place a napkin or a piece of paper over it. And if you have a tripod – or a very steady hand – a slower shutter speed will bring out more natural light.

… A PORTRAIT
To make it interesting, mess with the lighting, the framing or the pose. One safe bet: always focus on one of the subject’s eyes.

… A NAKED WOMAN
Use soft, comfortable lighting – natural, if possible – until you really know what you’re doing. Harsh light will only bring out imperfections. Pick her best feature – her legs, her neck, her lower back – and focus on it. Or just cover the lens with a thin coating of Vaseline to get a dreamlike, sexy picture that most people can’t screw up.  And don’t perve.

THE VOCABULARY
Aperture (f-stop)
Measured in numbers from f/1.4 to f/22. The lower the number, the wider the lens opening. The wider the opening, the more light let in and the more shallow the depth of … field.

Depth of field
The number of planes in focus. HELPFUL TIP: Picture a row of fence posts going into the horizon. At f/2, two will be in
focus, with everything behind them blurred out. At f/11, eleven will be.

Exposure
The amount of light let through the lens. Determined by aperture and shutter speed.

Shutter speed
The amount of time the shutter stays open. The faster an object is moving, the higher you want your shutter speed. To capture a football mid-‹ flight, 1/2 000; for grandma standing next in front of Table Mountain, 1/125. HELPFUL TIP: Don’t set your shutter speed slower than 1/60 without a tripod.

Tripod
What people who are better photographers than you use to take their pictures.

ISO
The sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. When you have good light (anything that doesn’t set off the automatic flash), use a lower ISO. HELPFUL TIP: Setting your ISO over 1600 often leads to noise.

Noise
Graininess in an image.

Rule of thirds
A way to take better pictures. Imagine a noughts-and-crosses boardacross your view…finder. Position the people or things
most important in your photo on one of the four intersecting points of the board. Never centre.

Temperature
The colour balance in an image. Warm photos are heavily orange and red; cool photos are blue and green. Good photos are neither.

Cellphone
A device for calls. Not a camera.

Raw file
An unprocessed image. Gives you more ‹ flexibility in changing colour and exposure in the editing process. Unless you are paid for your photography, you will never use this.

The post-click assault
The overwhelming urge people get to inspect a picture immediately after it is taken.

Automatic
A setting on your camera that obviates the need to know most of the terms above.

With special thanks to Kevin Fleming of Kevin Fleming Photography.

‘For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.’ – Richard P Feynman