Monday, January 26, 2015

Photography Tips for New DSLR Owners-Modes and ISO

Maybe some of you are where I was when I got that first DSLR in 2007, afraid to take it off automatic, for fear you will break something if too many dials are turned or the wrong buttons pushed.  (Can anyone relate to that, or was I simply paranoid?)  The feelings of the brand new DSLR owner--both ecstasy and fear!

I'm a bit obsessed with photography.  (I've talked about the genetic quality of my photography obsession before...)  Although I am a reading tutor by profession, (and I love it), last year I did some newborn photo shoots and would love to make room in my life for more professional photography. But the day I got my first DSLR was a scary one.

I've had this post partially written for months, and my drafts of it have been way too long, trying to talk about everything a new DSLR owner might want to know.  So, for now, I thought I'd just talk about modes and ISO.


I recommend moving away completely from full automatic as soon as you feel comfortable,  but if you are not wanting to veer too much from automatic just yet, at least switch from full automatic to Program mode (P-mode, which is still an automatic mode, don't worry.)  Program mode will give you more versatility, while still choosing proper exposure settings automatically.  For instance, it will allow you to choose the focus setting so that the focus will be exactly where you want it, whereas full automatic often just focuses on the closest thing. THAT is a big deal.  NOTE, though, I am not  saying you must switch to manual focus. No matter which mode you are in, you can still use autofocus. I do occasionally use manual focus, but not typically.

Aperture Priority  mode (abbreviated A on Nikon, AV on Canon)  is one of my favorites, because if I use a wide aperture (small f-stop number) it allows me to get a nice blurred background.  With aperture priority mode, you set the aperture, and the camera automatically sets the shutter speed. A wide aperture (small f-stop number) will give you a more shallow depth of field. That just means that less of the picture will be in focus, and you can get the subject (the part you focus on)  to "pop" out from the background.  (If your camera has a Portrait mode, that basically does the same thing.)  A narrow aperture (bigger f-stop number) allows you to get more of the scene in focus.  Aperture Priority mode works best for subjects that stay still!  For children, I tend to use Shutter Priority instead.

Shutter Priority  mode (abbreviated S on Nikon, TV on Canon) is a great mode to use, especially when taking pics of children. With Shutter Priority, you can freeze motion (fast shutter speed) or blur it (slow shutter speed.) You set the shutter speed, while the camera automatically sets the aperture.  For moving subjects, if you set your shutter speed to 1/200th of a second, or even 1/500th of a second if kids are moving quickly, you will be able to eliminate a lot of the potentially blurry shots. (Or, if your camera has a Sports Mode, that works too.)

Manual  mode (abbreviated M) will give you the most control over your camera.  Don't be afraid to learn it!  It's actually very simple.  I tend to get the best exposures when I use manual. With full manual mode, you set the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO yourself, and keep an eye on the exposure meter (seen through the viewfinder)  to determine if your photo is exposed correctly. There are many great videos online and instructions on Pinterest that demonstrate manual mode. (Again,  I am talking about manual MODE here--not manual FOCUS.  I still use autofocus in manual mode.)

Don't feel pressure, though, to learn different modes until you are ready. I shot on Program mode for quite a while after I got my first DSLR.


Generally, the lower the ISO, the less "grain" in the shot, so I generally shoot around 200 ISO outside, or 100 ISO if it's really sunny. On a cloudy day, I'll use 400 ISO.   Inside, without the flash, I can go up to, or even over 3200 ISO, with my Nikon D5100, and still get good images, even in pretty low light. When you use a flash, you don't need higher ISOs. (I use an external flash and bounce it. I'll talk more about that in a future post.)

Cameras these days really vary in their ISO abilities. My Nikon D200 (an older, "semi-pro" DSLR which I love), for example, is very "noisy" (grainy) if I go much over 800 ISO, while my newer Nikon D5100 (a basic DSLR, great for bloggers, now discontinued with a successor available), gets clean shots at even 3200 ISO.  I've also shot with a D7000, which has more features than the D5100, but if you aren't needing a professional camera body, the D5100 will give you quite the same image quality for much less money. (The two cameras have the same sensor.)  Many of the pictures on my blog were shot with the D5100.  The newer version is the Nikon D5300, with more megapixels and features.  I purchased my D5100 for a great price at Adorama, a wonderful online source. They have both new and used equipment, and I highly recommend them.

The D5100 allows me to get clean images inside, without a flash.

A good book that explains the relationships between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture (the "exposure triangle"), is Understanding Exposure.  Once you have a clear understanding of the exposure triangle, things will fall into place with practice. The best way to learn is to pick up the camera and shoot, because, honestly, you could read about this stuff all day, but practicing it (as with all skills), is the quickest way to learn.

This past year I got out and played tourist in my own city.  I do tend to complain about my city sometimes--the distance from any ocean, the humidity in the summer, the cold in the winter, etc., etc. BUT, St. Louis has an incredible zoo, art museum, botanical garden, ballpark (go Cardinals!), restaurants, theaters, children's museums, and many, many other fun places to explore and photograph.  Here are a few shots from around our city this past year. (And it never hurts to have a daughter who is a fellow photographer and loves to edit photos!)

The art museum is amazing.

The  herpetarium at the zoo is gorgeous.

I'm so glad to be back, writing at my blog again. It just feels like home.  I'm hoping my voice won't go off into echoes, since I've been gone a while. Thank you for spending time here today. Maybe one day I'll talk about some of the reasons I've been gone, but for now,  I'm looking forward to re-connecting with old blog friends and making new ones!
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Linking to:
Katharine's Corner
Creative Inspirations
Create with Joy
Handmade Tuesdays
Think and Make Thursday
Crafty Spices
Friday Favorites

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Friday, July 11, 2014

A Day in July (and a Tire)

Our pool is full and sparkling, (unlike last year when we couldn't keep the pool clear at all, because we didn't realize the filter needed new sand!), the garden is thriving, and my glorious gladioli are blooming again (just a little late. I was beginning to think we had lost them to the horrible winter, along with the hydrangeas.) These good things take my mind off of our continuing house disaster.

AND, we've been out and about taking pictures (even if they are just pictures from the phone. Not the best resolution, but it does capture memories. And often, that's most important.)  So I thought I'd do a little phone picture dump today.

When my sister moved to Florida a couple of years ago, I adopted some of her pretty daylilies, and
they're beautiful.  (When I planted them, I had them all labeled nicely, but the labels are long gone, so I don't know the names of each one. I should probably ask her...)  They are wonderful perennials--I recommend them!  She gave me several colors, and this is one of the more pastel varieties.

We have a sculpture park near our house, so my daughter and I had a walk there yesterday.  Here and there among the sculptures are some fun things for kids. Like this....pod? My daughter called it "the pear." Whatever you call it, it's amazing, and several little girls were having fun climbing the ladder to play inside.  (My daughter was a tiny bit jealous because it wasn't there when she was little.)

There's also a huge red sculpture that's made from salvaged oil tanks.

We happened upon this huge tire, thinking it was another fun thing for kids to climb on, but no, it's one of the "sculptures."  See the sign?  A sculpture?  It's a tire.  I'm pretty opened minded about art, but hey, it's a tire.  

A fun place for some photos though. (And no, we didn't climb it!)

Do you have any unusual parks near you?

(P.S.  Is there a Blogger guru out there who can help me figure out why my vertical photos are posting so HUGE all of a sudden?  I've had this blog for almost 3 years and have never had this problem before.)

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Make Envelopes with Scrapbook Paper (or Magazines, or Calendars...)

Although I haven't been crafting or creating too many fun things lately, my daughter has, so she gave me permission to share some of her creations--like these pretty envelopes.

She made them with scrapbook paper.  That brought back memories of making these myself.  I've always  loved to have cute envelopes to send real mail. Sometimes I address them in calligraphy, sometimes I pull out some fun rubber stamps, and yes, sometimes a sticker or two. (Embrace your inner child...)

(By the way, I have a LOT of pads of 12x12 scrapbooking paper that I've been collecting through the years, and from the look of my stash, you would think I was saving it for some future crafting apocalypse. I'm really happy that my daughter is actually using hers.)

It's easy to make the envelopes. Here's how:

Carefully take a plain envelope apart, and use it as your template.  (No need to buy an envelope template, as I'm sure you have some different sized envelopes around the house. With that said, I do have some cute little envelope stencils.)

Trace around the unfolded envelope onto your pretty paper.

Cut out, fold, and glue with a strong gluestick.  (When you buy a greeting card, instead of using the envelope that comes with it, consider making one to coordinate with the card. Just use the original envelope as your template.)

Think outside the box.  Do you have some magazines with pretty photos or some beautiful calendars?  Papers like that are shiny and perfect as envelopes. Depending on the type of paper you use, you may have to use an address label.

This is the paper pad my daughter used.

You can also dress up your envelope with pretty stamps. I love these songbirds.

This would be a fun summer project with kids.  You probably already have everything you need to make these.  Have fun!

Linking to:

An Alli Event

Create with Joy

Creativity Unleashed

Katherine's Corner

Fridays Unfolded

Making Monday

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Raised Bed Gardening with Cinder Blocks

Having been away from blogging for a while before my last post, I almost feel like the new kid on the block again.  It was just a couple of months, but feels longer. So, thank you for being here!

With the exception of photography, my creative endeavors have been lacking recently too.  Some people become more creative when confronted with life's challenges. I, on the other hand, tend to kind of go the opposite way.

With that said, I have many things to be thankful for over the last few months!

For one, my sweet baby girl (age 20!) is home from college for the summer. She goes to school locally, but lives in a dorm during the school year. So it's nice to see her face every day.  Plus, I love how she kick starts all of the gardening around here.  Have you seen these raised bed gardens made from cinder blocks on Pinterest?  She did, and actually decided to try it. (I had to cart the cinder blocks home from Home Depot in two trips--those things are HEAVY and weigh down the car. Thankfully, an employee loaded them for me.  This is one of the times a truck would have been useful...)

What do you think of the tie-dye crocs?

Yep, that is corn coming up.

These are easy to make--Try it!   Place the cinder blocks on the ground to form a rectangle (size optional), lay down some weed fabric or newspaper, and add your soil. (I'm not sure how important the weed fabric or newspaper is, since this is the first year we've done this...)  Then start planting.  My daughter put corn in the large section and marigolds in the small spaces.  (Did you know marigolds repel some garden insects?) If you'd like to sit while you garden, leave a few of the small spaces empty.

Now if we could just keep the rabbits away...

We're appreciating the nicer weather  and are enjoying coffee on the deck again--a simple pleasure. Sunny loves it too (well, the deck, not the coffee)  and will snooze in my arms until I go in.

Why is this picture so big??   No clue...

Are you doing any gardening this year?

Linking to:
Crafty Spices
Katherine's Corner
Fishtail Cottage Garden Party
SITS Saturday Sharefest

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Back With a Handmade Father's Day Gift (A Treasure in my Closet)

I've been sort of in withdrawal mode, as we've been dealing with our home renovation disaster(s), (so I apologize for not visiting your blogs more!)  This time of life has had some weird challenges (as do most times of our lives, I suppose. True for most.) 

My husband and I have been trying to decide our next course(es) of action to fix our house issues.  Among other things, I've also been bettering my photo editing skills (thank goodness for Lightroom), and I've been trying to figure out which direction to take with my blog. I do know I want to continue blogging, and with life changes, perhaps come some blog changes 

We've also been doing some spring cleaning. Spring cleaning is a funny term, (I do clean the rest of the year too!), but it's a good time of year to tackle the closets and other exhausting projects.

My husband helped me with our bedroom closet over the weekend, because he's sweet like that. He didn't know what he was in for. (He does have a lot of boxes of stuff in there.) 

The closet is now spotless and fresh, and during that adventure, I unearthed some fun treasures--Old photos that had never been transferred to photo albums (the proverbial "pictures stuffed in a shoebox, from our film camera days. Well, in photoboxes.  At least the pictures are stored chronologically.)  A red dress from 20 years ago that I couldn't bear to part with and that my daughter has now claimed for her own. (It's her size now, not mine.)  

I also found some cute little projects that our kids had made when they were little (even before Pinterest fed our creative souls.)  Like this little mint tin turned Father's Day "card" that my daughter made years ago.

I thought maybe someone out there might want to make this cute thing with their own little daddy's girl or boy.

It's just a little accordian folded strip of cardstock glued to the inside bottom of an Altoids tin, with the Dad rectangle glued to the other end of the strip. It kind of wiggles when the box is opened, which is what makes it fun.  My husband always melted at these gifts, because they represented effort and love.  He and I have abandoned some of our packrat ways, choosing to live more simply and less cluttered with stuff,  but little treasures like this one aren't going anywhere.

Have a great weekend everyone. (No more closet cleaning for me--at least not his weekend!

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's My SITS Day!

Woohoo, it's my SITS day! (I bet you couldn't read that in the weird post-title font, could you?)   I've been looking forward to being featured on SITS, and the day has come!  I'm so happy (and kind of nervous--like I'm having a party and didn't clean well enough!)  I'm a shy one, after all...

If this is your first time here, welcome! If you're a blogger, and you're not familiar with SITS, I recommend that you come on over and participate in the community.  I've met so many wonderful bloggers and have learned so much about blogging and social media there.

My blog is eclectic and hard to categorize (kind of like me!)  In a nutshell, I love to be creative, and that spreads to every area of life, doesn't it?  I like to make things, read things, photograph things, grow things, talk about get the idea!  I tend to sprinkle pictures of my family and our baby, oops I mean our Yorkie, Sunny, into the blog too.  My About Me page  will give you a bit more detail, well, about me.

Some of my favorite posts and my readers' favorite posts are on my sidebar, and some of my craft tutorials and recipes are in the nav bar at the top, so please feel free to explore!

I'd love for you to follow me on Twitter, Bloglovin, Pinterest, GFC, and/or subscribe to my posts by email.

Thanks so much for visiting. Your comments really do make my day!

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Deb's Sleeves

That's me in the very shiny, teal dress in 1992.  I was the matron of honor at my sister's wedding.  My name isn't Deb.

Did you see Napoleon Dynamite?  Do you remember the scene where Napoleon tells Deb, "I like your sleeves. They're real big"?   Well, I can't look at this photo without those words running through my head.

I think my sister was a very pretty bride, big sleeves and all.  (And I still have that shiny, teal dress!)

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