Papago Park

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As a Christmas gift, Andrew surprised me with the Nikon 3200 and a photography class at Wilson Camera, a digital lab and portrait studio here in Phoenix. Seeing as this was one of my resolutions for 2014, you can imagine my excitement upon opening it.

This past weekend, I was finally able to check it off the list, spending the first part of my Saturday morning in beautiful Papago Park. For any eager bloggers out there, or for someone who just loves to take pictures with a DSLR, I’d like to use this post to share some of the useful tips I picked up on. Enjoy and please let me know if you have any questions along the way!

Cameras:

People will always have their input on which camera you should select. Do I get a Nikon? What about a Canon? Perhaps a Fuji? The best piece of advice I can give you is stick with what you know. In this case, the analogy I like to reference is Apple. I lot of users go with this well-known brand simply because it’s compatible with their other devices, like their Macbook, iPod, and iPad. They know how to navigate around the software. It doesn’t mean that Droid is bad. In fact, there are probably a lot of features on there that might even be better, but it’s what the consumer feels comfortable with. What you’re really looking for in a camera is not so much the name brand, but rather, the lens. You can have the best, most durable camera body out there, but if your lens is sub par, then so will your pictures. Speak with a representative on what kind of shots you’re looking to take and he or she will make sure you’re all setup, guaranteed!

Aperture:

The aperture, or an opening, of a lens ranges from wide to narrow and is measured in f/stops, such as f/4, which is a wide aperture, to f/22, which is a narrow aperture.

So, as you can probably deduct from that equation, the wider your aperture, the more light you’re letting in to reach your camera’s sensor, which therefore brightens your pictures. On the other side of the coin, the narrower your aperture, the less light you’re letting in, hence darkening your pictures.

Shutter Speed:

Shutter speed, on the other hand, dictates the how long your camera’s shutter stays open for and can also control how much light reaches the sensor.

Both aperture and shutter speed work together in unison to determine your exposure, so a wide f/4 aperture and fast 1/500 second shutter speed lets in the same amount of light as a narrow f/16 aperture and slow 1/30 sec shutter speed, giving an identical exposure. However, you may still end up with two very different pictures.

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Depth of Field:

When you change your lens’s aperture setting, you affect what’s referred to as the depth of field, or the amount of your scene that’s acceptably sharp. To put that in laymen terms, what do you want focused and what do you want blurry?

Using a wide aperture, such as f/5.6, will result in a “shallow” depth of field. This is why wide apertures are ideal for shooting portraits or wildlife, as you can blur the backgrounds behind your subjects to really make them stand out in the scene. Look up at my picture of a dinosaur to get a feel for what exactly I’m saying!

Now if you choose to use a narrow aperture, such as f/16, then this will then create a greater depth of field. Just a heads up, you would probably use this format when shooting landscapes or cityscapes, as you want to ensure your scene is acceptably sharp from the foreground through to the background area.

Flash:

If you’re anything like me, then you hate flash. I avoid this feature altogether because I feel as though it makes the image, as well as the subjects within it, look unnatural. However, if used properly, this can actually be your best friend. The biggest nugget of knowledge to pull away from this is that flash freezes movement. Again, flash freezes movement. To do this, you’d ideally like to be within ten feet of whatever you’re taking a picture of. A great example of this would be a fast-paced basketball game.

Auto vs. Manual:

Finally, if you’re a DSLR beginner such as myself, chances are you’d use the auto option at first. Doing so essentially takes all the hard work out of taking a good picture. By gently pressing down on the button, your camera will automatically focus and then appropriately set the aperture and shutter speed based on lighting, distance, etc.

Manual obviously requires your own hand. Over the past couple of months, I’ve started gravitating down this route, simply because I like playing around with all of the different features, but like I outlined under the “Cameras” section, do what makes the whole process enjoyable for you from start to finish. That’s what’s most important!

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