Photowalk Notes – finally

In early October, I was in Seattle with my husband. While I was there, and he was off doing MVP stuff, I went on a photowalk. I blogged about it already, but didn’t include all my notes from Pat Wright’s (@sqlasylum) session on taking photos before hand. I’m finally getting around to including those. I will do my best to translate my notes into a coherent post. I hope that anyone else who was there (or knows a thing or two about photography) will correct any mistakes I make.

One of my favorite quotes from the day was “The best camera is the one you have.” What this means, is that if you only have your cell phone camera with you, then that’s the best one you have. If you only have a point and shoot, then that’s the best you have. If a fancy schmancy camera is what you have, then that’s the best you have. Any or all of these is better than no camera at all.

When you are taking a picture, hold the camera as firm as possible. Many people make the mistake of holding the camera with one hand, or just use a couple fingers to hold the camera steady. Try to use both hands to support the camera without letting a finger end up in front of the lens or flash. If you keep both feet planted on the ground, lean back a bit, and hold the camera close to you (rather than holding it out at an arms’ length), you will have the most stable position you can create. Of course, a tripod or other way to stabilize your camera is best.

Camera Modes
Most of the time, leaving your camera on auto is the best choice, especially when you are just getting started. Features such as white balance will have the best results if left on auto. White balance can make people look orange if adjusted incorrectly. If you are using your cell phone to take pictures, you will get best results if you don’t zoom your camera. Don’t forget to let your phone or camera auto focus.

On a point and shoot camera (also known as a “drunk and shoot”), there is often the option to push the button halfway down. Doing this will allow the camera to automatically focus. You also need to keep in mind that your camera needs a point of reference to be able to use auto focus. Your camera will have a difficult time focusing on solid colors (especially white, black and blue). If you want your camera to be able to focus on a certain object, center your camera on that thing, push the button half way down, then move your camera to get the shot you are looking for. The object it focused on will remain in focus. Sometimes, a photographer may want to create “boca” – an effect where the central object in the photo is in focus, and the background is blurry. This can be best created using a long lens.

Become familiar with the different modes on your camera. I can speak from experience that buying a camera before a trip, and not becoming familiar with it first, is going to lead to disappointing pictures. Take some time to play with different modes on your camera. One of the great things about digital photos, is that you can play around with your camera without wasting film. You can delete the pictures that don’t work out, and not feel guilty.

If the camera thinks you might need flash, you probably do. There are times though, that flash is pointless, such as during fireworks, or taking pictures of things in the distance. Your flash is typically only good for about 30 ft. When you use digital zoom, you need lots of light. There are tricks that professional and amateur photographers like to use, and that is to use a beer cozy to create a “snoot”. Yes, I said a beer can cozy! You can put it over the flash, and use the other end to direct the light. He did a demonstration of how light reflects off everything around you. Focusing your flash can help eliminate glare and/or colors getting washed out. For outdoor pictures, sun and overcast skies are best. Clouds can act as a natural soft light filter.

If you are noticing shadows in the background, move further away from the object of your photo. You can also use a Voice Activated Light (VAL) activator. This would be another person helping direct the light behind the subject of your photo. Stand close to the back lighting too. This will eliminate the shadows in the background, and/or make sure the lighting is the best it can be.

Shutter Speed
I never really understood what shutter speed was. I now understand it to be related to the distance away your subject is from you. The distance you are zoomed to should match the shutter speed, or your photos will end up blurry. If there is movement you are trying to capture, you need to use a higher shutter speed. The higher the speed, the darker your picture will get. To get the best quality photos (with movement), you need to use a higher shutter speed, and make sure you have lots of light. It’s a good idea to use a shutter speed of at least 200 to get a shot with decent lighting and good focus.

For most people, a 6 mp camera will be sufficient for your needs. You will be able to get a decent 8×10 size picture from it. If you want to blow up a photo larger, than a higher definition camera may be needed. There was a group discussion on the firmware that comes in different models of cameras. The consensus seemed to be that Kodak firmware is not great. It’s ok, but Nikon seemed to be the preferred camera of the group.

After we got through this information, Pat gave us time to experiment with our cameras before we headed out to take pictures of the city. My friend Jes (@grrl_geek) acted as a model for experimenting with portraits. Shortly after, she suckered me into posing with her. We had a TON of fun, and I learned a lot!


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