Professional Photographer, Farrah Jobling explains how to move away from auto mode on your DSLR.
You can see her work at Farrah Jobling Photography.
Point & Shoot vs DSLR – What is the difference and what are the pros and cons for each?
A point and shoot is typically smaller and lighter camera, as a result of the fixed lens, but offers limited features.
A smaller camera easily fits into your pocket. and is great for carrying around with you, to capture everyday moments, but has a smaller sensor, which results in lower quality photos.
Point and shoot cameras are easy to use. They have a mid-range zoom lens with a wide depth of field creating photos that are in focus but lack the creative depth of field possible when using the DSLR. A visually appealing subject with a blurred background is achieved by shooting with a wider aperture.
Low light conditions and fast moving objects are also problematic. A point and shoot camera does not have the capability to take good photos when the lights go down, or when a child is racing down the street on his/her bike. You can turn on the flash in dim lit areas, but this will often create harsh cast shadows in your photos.
The lower cost of most point and shoot cameras, nevertheless, make them an very attractive option for hobbyists and scrapbookers.
DSLR cameras have much larger sensors and therefore yield greater image quality with the ability to print large scale prints, but as a result they are large and very heavy, especially when you add a big lens.
A variety of available lenses leads to more creative options, but you will also have to consider how you'll haul them around. Most photographers have larger, dedicated bags for camera equipment.
DSLR cameras are fast – many with the ability to shoot 3.5 or greater frames per second. This is a huge advantage for photographing sporting events and fast-moving young children.
The larger sensors of DSLRs enable them to perform far better in low lighting, without requiring a flash. Many DSLRs don’t have a built in flash. You can invest in an external flash, but this adds to the cost of an already expensive camera.
The learning curve of shooting with a DSLR can also be extensive making it a little too much for a hobbyist.
Is a DSLR right for you and do you really need a DSLR?
As a professional photographer, I need to have a high quality DSLR and a plethora of lenses for my clients, but it's a different story for my own personal photos.
I enjoy the creative aspects of photography. I love to change my lenses, shoot wide open, and play with fun effects created with lenses like the LensBaby Composer.
Do I like the point and shoot? YES, but for reasons not related to photo creativity or quality.
It's useful to have a waterproof and shock proof lightweight camera that can go, any time. A camera to take to the pool or the beach and not have to worry about getting it wet. A camera to take hiking without being weighed down. A camera you can hand over to the kids and say “have fun” without worrying about expensive damage.
Ask yourself what aspects of photography are most important to you, then buy the camera that is most appropriate based on your lifestyle and preferences.
Now that you have a DSLR, how to get out of shooting in Auto mode?
I shoot in manual mode exclusively and I always suggest setting your ISO first.
1. ISO. The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) is a measure of the sensitivity of the image sensor and how it reacts to the available light. ISO ranges from 100 – 6400 and can go even beyond depending on how advanced your camera is.
The lower the ISO, the LESS sensitive the sensor is to light. This means that when there is a lot of ambient light available, your camera doesn't need a high ISO for exposure.
The higher the ISO, the MORE the sensitive the sensor is to light. A high ISO enables your camera to capture an image in a low light environment, but alo create more noise or grain in your photos.
In a bright daylight, I suggest using ISO 100 or 200, but when when shooting at night or in a very dark place, you will need increase the ISO number as needed. It's always a good idea to start somewhere in the middle, at ISO 400 for example, and make adjustments as needed.
2. Aperture. The aperture is determined by the lens attached to your camera at any given time.
Every lens has an opening through which light travels to the image sensor. The size of the opening is known as the aperture, and it determines the amount of light that is allowed to enter and hit your camera image sensor.
Aperture is measured in f/stops or f/number, for example f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2. There is a lot of math and calculations involved in why and how these numbers came to being, but to keep it simple, the bigger the lens diameter opening, the smaller you will need the f/stop to be, to achieve correct exposure.
So, if your f/stop is at 1.2 you will have the aperture wide open with maximum light entering the camera image sensor, while at f/22, your lens opening will be tiny, with the least amount of light entering the aperture.
Aperture also creates depth a field in your photos. Depth Of Field (DOF) determines how much of area in your photo is in focus, and is dependent on the focusing distance. A larger or wider Depth of Field means that most of the image area is in clear focus and requires a higher f/stop number.
Shallow or narrow Depth of Field refers to a partially in focus image in which the background is blurry bringing focus to the subject of the photo. Depth of field is is determined by selecting a much lower f/ stop number.
Start by setting your f/stop to f/5.6, especially if your subject is moving, then make adjustments accordingly.
3. Shutter Speed. The shutter speed controls the amount of time the shutter stays open for the light to fall on the image sensor to create an image. After you have established the f/stop and ISO, you have decided the amount and sensitivity of the light. You now have to control how the light will travel to the image sensor by pressing the shutter button.
Shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of a second like 1/50, 1/60, 1/80 etc. The higher the denominator number, the less time the light has to hit the image sensor creating a faster shutter speed.
The lower the denominator, the longer the shutter stays open and more light enters, slowing the shutter speed.
Shutter speed is connected with the focal length of the lens and it's a good idea to keep your shutter speed at a 1/2xfocal length. For example, when shooting on a day with plenty of light, a 50mm lens would require a shutter speed of 1/100, but with a 200mm lens you would have to shoot at a 1/400-shutter speed.
Note that your settings will ultimately vary depending on the ISO and f/stop selections. When there is low light, or when you want to photograph the motion of a moving object, you will need a slower shutter speed to allow enough of the available light to hit the image sensor for correct exposure. A tripod will keep your camera steady and prevent blurry images.