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Tips for Digital Photography

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Next Wednesday a new Studio Studies class series on the art of digital photography begins at Crystal Bridges, taught by local photographer Kat Wilson.  (Just in time for the opening of the upcoming photography exhibition, The Open Road.)  This is an introductory class for those who have perhaps always loved taking photos, but would like to boost it up a notch, learn something about your camera, and get some tips on developing your artistic “eye.”  (There are still a few seats left in the series, if you’re interested.) I asked Kat to offer our blog readers her ‘top ten’ list of tips for budding photographers. Here’s what she came up with:

  1. Don’t stress out about the quality of your digital camera. Just kidding, you should. Take it from the “Courtney Love” of photography, your glass is the most important thing. So even if you buy the lowest-end SLR camera, you should invest in a good lens.
  2. If your subject asks you to make them look skinny, politely suggest $10 per pound.
  3. Buy a Polaroid camera and only practice your composition. It does the thinking, but it’s a very complex machine, so it becomes predictable. After practice, your SLR camera becomes predictable, as well, but it takes a while to get there.
  4. Choose the right shooting mode for the job. Again, just kidding! Don’t be lazy. Find out what aperture does and use this mode and none of the others. You want to have control of your image, because you have moved past your iPhone.  Aperture Priority (A or Av on the mode dial) is the one to choose if you want to control the depth of field – how sharp your photos are from front to back. As a result, it’s a smart choice for portraits, landscapes, macro photos—pretty much everything!    Aperture Priority is a semi-automatic mode: you set the aperture, and the camera then sets a corresponding shutter speed for a ‘correct’ exposure, based on the camera’s reading of the scene.
  5. Don’t feel you have to use the camera manually. I love to make music, but I don’t know how to play an instrument. So what! I use Garage Band and make dope beats on my computer. Put your camera on automatic or Google what Aperture Priority is and use that mode. No matter what, this is your instrument and no one cares if you use automatic. But as you learn your camera, you will want more control. The more control you have over the image, the more control you have over the image.
  6. Wait for the right light. I mean this can really be used to your advantage. It’s a great excuse to stay up all night. It’s a great reason to wake up early. Warning! Every time I have a shoot before 6 a.m., there’s always a creeper or a car of creepers that show up. That’s a great excuse to get a muscle-y model to protect you.
  7. Why it’s better to shoot in RAW: You should shoot in RAW……always. Don’t believe me, Google it; otherwise, do as I say.
  8. Avoid ‘clipped’ highlights. If a photo is overexposed, then there’s a risk of all detail being bleached out of the brighter areas. These ‘blown’ or ‘clipped’ highlights look ugly, and it’s usually preferable to make sure you prevent this from happening when you take the shot. Yeah, this is why Aperture Priority will get old and you will want to learn how to shoot in Manual. Remember how I told you to shoot in RAW? This will help too.
  9. Listen to the shutter speed. If it sounds slow, it’s slow and that means blurry. I tell my students if it’s under 1/60th of a second it’s going to be blurry. Even if you’ve been sober for three months, your hand is still going to shake.
  10. Only have two glasses of wine in public and the third in the bathroom on a shoot. Remember to check your teeth before reentering.
  11. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I never learned an instrument, but that doesn’t stop me from playing the bongos at 2 a.m.

Happy Shooting!

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