Modern DSLR, compact system and compact cameras are very clever, and in many circumstances they can be left to their own devices in their automatic settings and will deliver good results. However, when explaining photography for beginners it’s imperative to understand that your camera doesn’t always get it right. It’s helpful to be aware of the problems they face and what can fool them so that you can take control and get the images that you want.
Photography for beginners: 01 You know what you’re shooting
Many modern cameras have some form of scene recognition system that uses information about the brightness distribution and colour of the scene along with data from the AF system about the proximity of the subject.
Once a camera has detected what the subject is it will select settings that should deliver an image that’s ‘typical’ for that type of scene.
If a landscape is detected for example, the camera will select a small aperture to capture plenty of depth of field and enhance greens and blues to produce a punchy shot.
Manually selecting the Landscape scene mode does a similar thing, but saves the camera from having to work-out what the subject is.
Similarly, using the Landscape Picture Style or Picture Control Mode tailors the contrast and colour of the image to suit the average landscape, while you take control over the exposure in your preferred advanced shooting mode.
There are times, however, when you may want to shoot a landscape in a non-typical way. You might want to restrict depth of field, for example, to emphasis one element of the scene, or perhaps have muted colours.
On these occasions you need to take control over the exposure and consider which is the best Picture Style or Picture Control mode to use.
As usual the best results will be produced by shooting raw files because they give you maximum control over colour and contrast post-capture.
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Photography for beginners: 02 The subject isn’t the closest object
When they’re set to select the AF point many cameras assume that the subject is the nearest object and that it’s close to the centre of the frame.
However, this is often not the case. Imagine, for example, that you’re shooting a portrait in a garden with lots of flowers in the foreground and an off-centre subject, the camera may try to focus on one of the larger blooms rather than your subject.
The solution is simple, you need to take control over AF point selection yourself so that you can position it over the correct subject.
Alternatively, if there’s not an AF point exactly where you need one, move the camera so that the active point is over your subject, press the shutter release halfway to focus the lens and then, while keeping your finger on the shutter release, recompose the picture before pressing the shutter button fully home.
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Photography for beginners: 03 The scene is very bright or very dark
A camera’s general-purpose metering system, often called Evaluative, Matrix or Multi-zone metering, expects to see a scene of ‘average’ brightness.
In many cases it will deliver excellent result, however problems can arise if a scene is predominantly dark or bright.
The camera will suggest exposure settings that make large parts of the image a midtone, so if the scene is very dark it will suggest an exposure that will brighten it, making it overexposed.
Conversely, if the subject is very bright, the camera will suggest settings that underexpose it so it looks like a midtone and is darker than it should be.
In these situations you need to keep an eye on the histogram view and take control over the exposure either by using the exposure compensation facility or switching to manual exposure mode.
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