When I purchased my first ‘nice camera’ I had two goals in mind:
Initially, I was thrilled with my camera and everything it was producing. Then I began looking at my images with a critical eye- instead of my gushy, emotional, mom-goggles (hey, those are okay sometimes, too!) And I realized I was not where I wanted to be and I had no idea who to ask to get there!
So, if this is you, or you’re just considering purchasing your first DSLR, here is some insight that I wish I had when I first started out.
First off, the thing I wish I knew was that purchasing a nice camera doesn’t automatically mean you will get the results you envision. (Breathe in, breathe out- you’ll get there!) Further, this is actually a GREAT thing- your camera can do more than you imagine- you just have to learn how to ‘tune’ its settings.
How to Beat those Fuzzy Images
On the top of your camera you will see a dial. It’s most likely set to ‘Auto Mode’ which for Canon users is a green rectangle and for Nikon users literally says ‘Auto’. This means you are letting the camera do all the decision making and it is making its best guess at what you want it to do every time you click. If you rotate the dial to ‘TV’ on a Canon or ‘S’ on a Nikon it changes into Shutter Priority Mode. You are still letting the camera do much of the guess work but now you control the shutter speed- basically how FAST you want the camera to take a picture.
Every camera is a little different but on the right side of your camera you will have another dial that will change the number of your speed. If you have active kiddos, rambunctious furbabies, or a squirmy new babe this is the easiest way to ensure that they are in focus.
I typically keep my shutter around 200 for images of my kiddos and my clients. (That number is really 1/200, meaning it is capturing the image in one two-hundredth of a second).
Getting that Beautiful Blur
This is achieved based on your Aperture. (Don’t be afraid, it’s not as scary as it sounds ;). So you know how we repositioned our dials? Now set it to Av (Canon) or A (Nikon). Now the camera is letting you adjust your depth of field (Layman’s terms? How ‘blurry’ your background is) while guessing your shutter speed once again. Please note, your images may be out of focus in this mode if you’re shooting a moving model so I suggest practicing on a person (or object) that will stay put for you. The lower you set your aperture the more bokeh (blur) you will create. There’s a happy medium here because you run the risk of losing the crispness of your subjects if you shoot too wide open. Practice, practice, practice!
Also, I highly recommend using a prime lens (non-zoom lens). I personally find them much crisper and you can purchase a 50mm 1.8 for under $100. That was my first prime and it was perfect for starting out!
Now you may be asking, what if I want the beautiful bokeh AND control of my shutter speed? Well, then my friend, you want to switch your dial over to M (Manual) where you will be setting everything up yourself! (You can still leave your ISO on auto to start).
Adjusting + Editing Images
I cannot recommend Lightroom enough for beginning your editing journey. If your exposure, white balance, crop, etc is off you can easily adjust for it. It is a lot more user-friendly than jumping straight in to Photoshop and can handle a multitude of basic edits. You can actually ‘rent’ Lightroom and Photoshop from Adobe for $10 a month. They usually offer a free trial month if you’d like to play around first.
A SAFETY PLEA
In a digital age, it’s easy to see images through Pinterest or social media of adorable babies in creative set-ups and think ‘I can do that myself’. (Especially if you’ve just been gifted a camera to take photos of your precious new baby).
Unless you have really researched the safety measures put in place, PLEASE do not try to recreate it on your own. In many, many instances the image is actually a composite (two or more images combined in Photoshop to appear as one image) and that newborn is not actually dangling from a tree limb, left alone on a high object, holding his head up alone in the ‘froggy pose’, etc.
There absolutely ARE adorable set-ups you CAN safely do at home but PLEASE research the difference.
Give yourself GRACE
I myself am forever learning how to improve my photography. As my mother’s favorite poem warns:
“If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
A humbling yet encouraging reminder, don’t you think? Give yourself grace. Even the most acclaimed photographer would not excel at absolutely every area of photography and editing. There’s always something to learn :)
Even being a photographer I still enlist the skills of others to capture our family’s portraits. It’s just too much to coordinate everyone, keep my kiddos attention, get them to look at the camera, keep them happy, all while still looking semi-sane in the photograph as well. Swap with a friend, hire a professional- just GET IN THE PICTURE! Because you were there, too- and your loved ones want to remember it!
Along with giving yourself grace, I want to include- don’t put pressure on yourself to capture EVERYTHING. You will burn out!
Yes, document the beautiful life you’ve been blessed with- but also remember to LIVE it ;)
Behind the Lens:
Jessi lives near Rochester, NY with her handsome hubby and their two 'Lovebugs'.