By: Melanie Blodgett
One of the major steps of creating a great diy tutorial is to
have great photos to accompany it. I’m not a photographer and would never claim
to be. I take photos out of necessity. But, I have taken some steps that have
improved my photos immensely in the last year so I’m sharing them today with novices
in mind. These are basic, but if you’re just looking to take your photos a step
up from auto, this might help.
Step One: Get a Better Camera
The first thing I did was upgraded my point and shoot to a
DSLR. Instant improvement. I take all my photos with the Canon EOS Rebel T2i
(there’s newer models now) which I bought at Costco. It’s pretty much the most
basic DSLR you can get which is perfect for beginners. Last year I bought this 50 mm lens and now almost use it
exclusively. I would argue that it’s the best $100 I’ve ever spent. It’s
especially good for tabletop/still life photos.
Step Two: Learn About Aperture, Shutter Speed, Depth of Field
When I first bought my camera, I forced myself to read through
the manual. I was determined if I was going to spend that much on an item that
would learn how to use it well. I didn’t take into account that reading dry,
instructional material is not how I absorb information best. Then I took an Alt
Channel online course entitled DSLR 101 taught by the fabulous Justin
Hackworth. He explained the basics of aperture, shutter speed, depth
of field, and ISO. Having even a shallow understanding of these topics (whether
by reading or learning from a pro) will help you in taking better photos,
period. When I learned about the AV setting and started using it, it became my
new automatic mode. I was amazed that it would automatically blur the
background for me. Ha! Here’s a blog post written by Justin for a
good starting point if you want to know more about aperture.
Step Three: Use Natural Light & A Make-Shift Studio
I can’t remember the last time I used the flash on my camera.
After taking step two, you’ll understand the settings well enough to adjust
according to the lighting situation you are in but in general, shoot while the
sun is up and your house is light filled.
For project photos I take for the blog, I drag my table next to
my sliding glass doors and lay down a piece of white poster board. Then I use a
folding white display board (the kind you would display a science project on)
and stand it up facing the window as a light reflector, a tip I first learned
It creates a well lit setting for your subject without heavy shadows.
Step Four: Go Manual
I’m sure a lot of you breezed through the first three steps
since you’ve probably heard it all before, but this last step is what probably
affected my photography the most. One day when Jennifer Little
was taking photos for me I was complaining about how when I was taking photos
using the AV setting, if the light wasn’t good enough the result would be
grainy. She switched my camera over to manual mode and adjusted the shutter
speed to 1/100 and the aperture to F3.5 so that the light meter was at 0 (these
settings were according to the light that was in the room at the time). Ever
since I’ve kept the shutter speed at 1/100 and then adjust the aperture and iso
according to the light (sometimes I fiddle around for a while) so that the
meter stays near 0 (or above if I want it to be over exposed like when I’m
taking a photo towards the window and want the light to be blurred). Wow, what
a difference! Not only has the lighting in the photos improved, they’re much
more crisp. And I stopped being lazy and manually focus my photos now too.
If that whole paragraph was utterly confusing to you, this post about how to shoot in manual mode
explains it more in depth.
I have a lot more to learn but those are the (very doable)
steps I’ve taken to improve my photography in less than a year.