Focus – Frame – Breathe – Click

You’ve got your new camera. That is great news. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to do what everyone else does and use Auto? Or, do you actually want to learn what all the settings are about. (Yes, there may be some homework involved with this post!).

I will assume that you have decided what aspect of photography you desire to pursue. (I am not referring to level of photography, that is upon you to decide.) So, what are all those fancy buttons and setting dial thingy’s? I will not mislead you, thinking I actually know what they mean either. I will talk about the areas that mean the most for the initial understanding of your camera; ISO Settings, Shutter Speed, and Aperture.

I would be remiss to tell you that shooting in jpeg would be pointless, but as photographers we always want to shoot in at least RAW files. RAW files are considered the negative. If you were an analog photographer, you would know that you could manipulate color and other items for the final product. The RAW file for digital photography is important because you can manipulate a whole gamut of things before processing the image to jpeg.


Now, you should go sit outside or somewhere there is a light of light from a large window. What I want you to do is take your camera in your hand and find the ISO selection button.  What do you see outside; what kind of lighting do you see?  Determine from the list above, where you should set your ISO.

ISO can best be simplified by thinking of it as blinds in a window.  When the blinds are up, the more the light that is allowed.  The more the blinds are closed, the less amount of light you’ll have to see outside.  (Control the light as much as possible.  That was said in my Obi Wan Kenobi voice.)

I am curious what you focused on as your subject.  Did you choose your car, mailbox, or someone?  Did you find a stationary item or did you choose a moving subject?  Well, to answer this, we might want to move to our shutter speed.  Shutter speed is measured in seconds.  The higher the shutter speed, the more your subject will appear to be frozen in time.


The shutter speed is important and can be the difference between clear and blurry images. The longer the exposure, the brighter the image.  The shorter the exposure, the darker the image and the more you will need a tripod in order to capture an image clearer.  Think of it like an eyeball.  The ability to blink fast or slow is equivalent to the view of what you see behind the camera.

Within the camera, the shutter blinks.  The number you assign to the speed defines the speed of the “blink”.  When the shutter is turned down you are essentially blinking slowly and allowing more light to pass through, which may cause blur.  If you allow the shutter speed to be fast, then you are filtering the amount of light passing through the lens.  (Note:  Your shutter speed should not exceed the focal lengths of your lenses.)

Maybe at this point I should have given you something to focus on so I know specifically where to direct your settings.  If you’re like me, you’re trying to make a Pulitzer Prize winning image – every shot.  Well, we all know that hasn’t happened to me.  Thousands of images later, my shelf is not adorned with the prestigious award.  I am okay with that.  Thousands of hours at the behest of a therapist, I am dealing with it.  (That is a joke.  It has  definitely been a worthwhile journey.)

The best way to describe the next setting would be do you want the entirety of your frame that you see through your viewfinder to be clear or do you want the subject to be clear and the rest out of focus?  That’s called depth of field.  That cool blurring out of the background and the subject is clear, that is depth of field.  There is shallow and everything else.  If you’re working with a kit lens, chances are you can only go as low as f/3.5.  That is nothing to sneer at, by the way.


You’ve found your mailbox at the end of your driveway and you are focusing on that name and house number, you may choose a f/4.0 to go along with your 100 ISO and quite possibly a 320 shutter speed.  You will notice that most of that will be in focus and the background will be blurred out depending on the angle you chose to capture it.

Back to the eye analogy, the pupil in your eye acts as the aperture.  The lower the light levels, the larger your pupil becomes.  In order to allow the most amount of light in for your lens, selecting the lowest aperture will accomplish that.  The mantra of photography is controlling the light.  If you understand how light works, the better your artwork and creativeness will become.

Now, place the camera to your eye (focus), select the subject you want to capture (frame), ensure that your movement is minimized if not using a tripod (breathe), place your finger on the trigger and click.  Ensure that you are not forcing your finger on the trigger because that will ensure your image is out of focus.  Camera pull can be detrimental to that key moment you want to capture.  Just hold the camera still and close to your face.  Without moving the your body, just depress the trigger slightly for the focus and then depress completely for the entire shot.

Now, let’s see the image.  Post your image in the comments of the post.  Do not be embarrassed, we all started somewhere.


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