Bill's Crash Course in Photography
Rule of Thirds and Leadroom
I would read these two links, as they mention two of the most important rul..er.."suggestions" in photography, and they explain the two concepts better than I could.
Depth of Field
This relates to how space along the Z axis is represented. (Z being the axis that goes straight away from you to the vanishing point on the horizon)
You can either make a picture look flat and painting-like, or you can make it look like there is a lot of depth. It's up to you how you want something to look, but this can't be changed later so plan accordingly.
Short distance from subject
Long focal length
Good distance from subject
Short focal length
What does this mean?
is the distance between the film or sensor on your camera and the rear of the lens. Zoomed-out you have a very short focal length. Zoomed-in, the lens is extended out away from the film or sensor and you have a long focal length. That's it, really.
is what controls the light entering the camera. It's located behind the lens, but before the shutter and the film or sensor. It's setting is determined by what is known as an F-Stop
. An F-Stop is simply a number that tells you how wide or how narrow the aperture happens to be at any given moment. 2.8 would be a wide-open aperture and let in a lot of light. 8.0 would be very narrow and let in very little. It's a bit counter-intuitive that the larger the number, the smaller the aperture, but you'll get used to it.
Telephoto lenses will flatten the depth of field, while wide-angle lenses will increase it.
This relates to the speed of the film, or the imagined "speed" of the imaginary film in a digital camera. This is good to keep in mind when determining the other settings.
The smaller the ISO, the faster the film, and the less light it will pick up. For example, 80 ISO would be best for bright sunny days, and 400 ISO would be good for late night exterior shots.
the higher the ISO, the more image noise in each shot.
The shutter is what controls how long each shot is exposed for. It is measured in fractions of a second. 1/3, 1/4, 1/200, etc.
The smaller the fraction, the faster the shutter. You can usually capture a shot of a train moving at a decent speed at 1/200 or above, for example. This varies, so play around with it.
A long-exposure shot is good for taking photos of moving objects where you want the objects in motion to be blurred, and the stable objects clear and sharp. This usually requires a tripod to do properly, as the subtle shaking of your hands will tend to blur everything.
Another long-exposure tip is to either use a remote trigger for your camera, or set your camera to a delayed countdown of at least 1 or 2 seconds. This is important as the pressure of your finger on the camera alone can be enough to ruin a long-exposure shot.
This is something that a lot of people overlook, and when it's overlooked, the results are pretty bad. Light has what is known as a color temperature
, sunlight is very cool blue, while incandescent lights tend to be a warm yellow/orange.
The human eye adjusts to changes in color temperature rather well. Your camera may not - or at least not as well as you would like it to. This leaves a tint every shot. It can be subtle, or pronounced.
To overcome this, you should always, always, always remember to set the white balance before shooting. The method of doing this varies a bit with each camera, but basically you aim it at something you know to be white, and tell it "Hey, this is white". It adjusts everything else accordingly.
Order of Operations
Before taking a shot, consider doing the following. You can do some of these things out of order; this is just a suggestion.
SET YOUR CAMERA TO MANUAL MODE BEFORE PROCEEDING
Forget that "Auto" even exists.
1 - Frame the Shot: Figure out where you are shooting, what you are shooting, how you want to capture it and how it's lit.
2 - Set the Aperture: Figure out shallow vs. deep space.
3 - Provisionally Set the ISO: You may want to change this later, but guess for now.
4 - Set the Shutter Speed: What kind of exposure do you need? Depending on the demands of each shot, you may have to repeat steps 2 and/or 3 again.
5 - Set the White Balance: Find something white like socks, paper, a sign, etc.
6 - Frame the Shot: Check it again
A Note On Flash
Flash is something that is horribly overused. You probably don't need it. Seriously, turn it off. Use the steps above to control light. Don't add light you often don't need to.
Flash also flattens images, causes unpleasant reflections and generally looks bad. If you have to use it, try getting an external flash and aiming it in a way that will cause the light from the bulb to be reflected off another surface and onto the subject of the shot. Otherwise, you get that horrible paparazzi effect.
A Note On Focusing
Auto focus can actually work rather well. Though you have a manual focus option, play around with it. It's fun for taking photos of something in the foreground viewed in sharp focus, then taking another with the background in sharp focus and layering them in Photoshop. (this demands a tripod)
You can do a lot with it.
Other Things To Look Up
Balancing the Frame: Symmetrical, Disequilibrium, Asymmetrical
A Final Note
Experiment. Experiment. Experiment.
You can only learn by doing, and while it may seem a bit overwhelming, you can have it all become second-nature very quickly.