Thursday, February 21, 2008

Taking Pictures

I've been trying to take some better pictures with my camera lately. I've been jealous of so many of the great shots I've seen online on other people's blogs. But I have a particularly fascinating (!) subject these days, so I'm even more motivated. My camera is a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT. It's an entry level digital SLR. It came with two lenses - a standard portrait lens ( 18 - 55mm) and a slight zoom lens (75 - 300mm). Some of the really nice shots I've seen online, I'm pretty sure were taken with 'a lesser camera' but were taken by a much better photographer. I figure, with a nice camera like I have - if I could just get my skill level up, I might get some really amazing shots!

So, until I can start taking classes or reading books on what all of these means, I've just been playing around with settings. For starters, I've been turning off the flash. It feels like, at least indoors, that my camera always has the flash on. Sometimes, though the natural light is low, it's just better. I've also taken off the auto focus and focused myself a couple of times. I want to start changing things like ISO and f-stop but frankly - I don't even really know what those features mean. Not really, well enough to use them properly anyway.

Here are a couple of shots I tried to get but failed at getting -

This one was supposed to be a close-up of Clare's eye so that the eye colour could be seen. Karen has a bunch of pictures like this of Adam that I was trying to mimic. While I did manage to get a shot of her eye - the colour didn't come out. I tried to use the 'macro' feature on my camera but it didn't work the same way the one at work does. the focus didn't seem as sharp. Then, the flash went off which I think is causing the reflection that's hiding the colour of her eyes. I don't know how to use the macro feature and disable the flash at the same time. I'm not even sure if this will solve the problem.

This is a picture of Clare I was trying to take to capture her calm state in the mornings. This is how she looks to me nearly every morning. Sort of thoughtful and calm. I also wanted the shot to be in natural light. I focused manually so that I could focus on her nose and perhaps blur the background a bit. I think I got a decent composed shot. However, there is just not enough light. I couldn't figure out how to change the shutter speed or aperture or whatever would allow more light. Not only that, but in this light, her skin looks especially rough. Clare has had a pretty good case of baby acne and cradle cap that seems to disappear in photos under artificial light.

Well, it's all a work in progress. You can see all the other pictures I've been taking lately in the other two posts from today and on my Picasa site. I'll keep playing and will take suggestions from anyone who might have some!

Talk to you soon,

Posted by Picasa


Karen Lew said...

A few things that work for me:

- "person at night" setting on the camera. works well with reasonably still objects. uses a flash to illuminate and freeze the subject but keeps the shutter open for a while to let in more (flattering) ambient lighting

- My eye colour pictures of Adam are all super-bright flash shots copped down. He's really close to the camera. Notice his skin is usually ghastly white.

- put nose or eye at the centre of the viewfinder, press half way down to set the focal distance, then move the camera to reframe so that nose or eye is not centred

- small number aperture = small range of distances in sharp focus (good for de-emphasising background/foreground). requires longer exposure = can blur from motion of subject or camera during exposure

- focal length of 110 mm rule of thumb for flattering portraits - downplays prominent noses (not a problem for you or babies). Most of my shots of Adam are at 55 mm.

- camera higher than face (stand on a chair or get subject to sit). much more flattering

Karen Lew said...

oops. small aperture number requires shorter exposure. I was rushing, 'kay?

kristin said...

iso refers to the speed/sensitivity of the film. a higher iso rating means a faster film, which in turn means you need less light (so you can use a smaller aperture or faster shutter speed) to get a decent, some would say 'correct', exposure. so 100 ISO works great outdoors in sunlight without a tripod but not so well indoors.

there are some trade offs and i don't know how it translates digitally but a higher iso is also grainier and in black and white has 'harder' contrast.