Do you get flustered when it's time to use your dslr?
If you are like me, setting your camera under pressure can be an exercise in frustration. Maybe it's enough to make you put away your big girl camera and get out your iPhone. Or maybe, you just turn it right back to that green Auto button and say "next time." I've spoken to many of my friends and students. The message is always the same...
"I know what I want my photo to look like, but I just don't know where to start."
I've reviewed enough assignments to know that choosing your camera settings is not an easy task when you are just starting out. PLUS, there can be other factors that go into the success of your photo. These can include where you place your subject, and whether or not you need a tripod.
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It's hard to keep it all straight
Even though my camera settings are second nature to me now, I still get flustered under pressure. When I work on high stress events, it's easy to forget to change this or change that as you move from one thing to the next. I've developed a system of writing down my settings in the notes app on my phone.
Here are some examples of my personal cheat sheets on a job (each scenario has completely different camera settings):
- 1Stage shots (generally well-lit by stage lights)
- 2Room scenics (low light, "ambiance" shots)
- 3Paparazzi-style attendee photos (usually flash photos, with ambient light in the background)
Writing out my camera settings has worked incredibly well for me. It allows me to slow down and relax. I do this BEFORE showtime. I work through the kinks prior to everyone arriving. At that point, I no longer have time to think. This method can easily be applied to an important game or family get-together. I've done the legwork for you.
How to use these camera settings cheat sheets
My approach is this...
- 1I've started with popular "scenarios" that I'm faced with all the time.
- 2I give you a starting point (this is likely not your ending point but it will get you going in the right direction.
- 3Then, I provide recommended tweaks based on whether your photo is too bright or too dark.
introducing...the big girl school's pocket notes
Let's take a look at each one in detail.
1. How to get a blurry background
Getting a blurry background is one of my FAVORITE things about shooting with my big girl camera. In fact, I think it one of the biggest differentiators between an iPhone shot and one taken with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
I also know that it can be confusing. It isn't always as easy as just changing your aperture. There are other variables like where you stand and where your subject is in relation to the background. My cheat sheets will walk you through the setup... step-by-step. These are quarter-fold guides that you can print and throw in your camera bag for quick reference.
2. Shooting in low light
I can't tell you how many times I've heard "My camera doesn't work when I put it on the 'Night Sky' button on my big girl camera. It's all blurry." No, your camera isn't broken, there are just a few more things that you need to know to have a successful shot. One of those is to stand still. I am talking, hold your breath, lean against a wall still. The low light cheat sheet will help you not only set up your shot but help you know what to do if you need to use your flash.
When my friends show me their blurry photos, 9 times out of 10 it is because the shutter speed is WAY too low. This will help you avoid that and get sharp shots even in very low light.
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#3 Outdoor action
These cheat sheets are primarily for any outdoor action that is well-lit. So we aren't talking football under the Friday night lights (I'd probably start with the indoor cheat sheet for that scenario.) This can be used for outdoor sports such as soccer, baseball, cross country, or summer swim.
It isn't just for sports. You can capture a pet running around the back yard, or a fast moving toddler trying to escape your camera. The key here is to freeze the action using a fast shutter speed and isolate your subject using a low aperture. Don't worry, the cheat sheet walks you through point by point.
#4 Indoor Sports
I think indoor sports are the #1 most problematic camera setting. There are so many things that can go awry... First of all, in many sports you can't use a flash (and the flash doesn't do anything anyway!) Secondly, you need to freeze the action which can be tough when there isn't adequate light. Finally, speaking of light, usually the light ends up looking a gross yellow. This particular scenario is also where your camera and lenses can make a big difference. The newer the camera and the better the lens, you will see a difference. The gear is not as big of a factor in other situations where the light is plentiful. Follow the steps in the indoor sports cheat sheet and see immediate improvement! Click here for a more in-depth article on shooting indoor sports.
The actual camera settings aren't particularly difficult in a landscape photo. That being said, composition and light can make or break a landscape. This cheat sheet will walk you through the best lens, the starting camera settings, and will provide additional tips and tricks to capture a beautiful landscape.
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Let me know in the comments below if these have helped you. What other questions do you have?
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Andrea Ferenchik, Founder
Andrea started The Big Girl School because she loves sharing her passion of photography with other women. As a former trainer at Microsoft and current professional photographer, she has the unique ability to break down technical jargon of the camera into easy to understand language. She loves nothing more than to see her students grow and thrive in their photographic journey.
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