Category Archives: Photograph Lessons

Color – Grab It When You See It

Sometimes, color really makes the photo. A lacking composition or lack of subject can be compensated for if the colors are right. Colors can tell the story.

I do favor black and white often because it brings out tones and shapes. Sometimes, this helps me tell the story. Emotion, more definition of the subject, lighting, and mood can all be shown well in black and white. Colors mean things too. Red can mean sexy, bold, and exciting. Pink can be a calming factor. Green can mean envy. These rules are not set in stone, but say for example you see a photo of a little girl in a pink dress holding a basket. That makes you think of Easter Sunday right away.

In this photo I’m trying to tell the story of a patriot with the dream of running a little store. The owner is an immigrant and he’s gone all out with the patriotic theme for his store. Color is exploding. The owner was excited about his store and the colors show it. The ladder shows that his work is in progress.

American Dream General Store
American Dreams. The colors of the store tell of the owners excitement to be in America owning a business.

If something screams to your eyes like this store did to mine, snap a shot of it. Take some time to work the shot. When there is so much to look at, somebody put work into the scene and there’s a story in that photo.

What Camera Mode? Aperture Priority, Manual, Shutter Priority, Or Auto

The choice of what mode to put the camera in is one of many debates among pros. I have discovered that each mode has it’s purpose when you consider the pluses and minuses. The only hard and fast rule I have found is that if you’re not getting the results you want, trying another mode could solve your problems.

First to consider is your knowledge of photographic principles. They’re not that hard to learn, but hard to put into actual practice. To get out of auto, you need to understand –

  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO

Learn how these work together to get an exposure.

Here is how I use the different settings with my basic knowledge of exposure.

Automatic or “P”

Pros will tell you that a real photographer is never in this mode. They’re wrong. Some photographers actually pride themselves on never using anything other that auto-mode on their cameras. They know the limitations and they don’t care. Journalistic and street photographers are keen to it because they can free their minds from worrying about their equipment and focus their efforts on the photos that they’re trying to take.
Myself, this is where I try to leave the camera set when I turn it off. If I want the camera working fast for that split second shot, auto-mode is my best chance. I enjoy stream-of-consciousness photography where I just shoot things as they come to me and auto-mode allows me to be ready for that.
They downside to auto is that it’s just a computer following an algorithm in an attempt to create a good photo. There are some situations that are just impossible for the camera’s computer to figure out. They can’t tell when you want a silhouette. Another example would be that they cannot focus where there is not a good contrasting line to focus on. There most certainly are limitations and you will find them in your work.
If auto works for you, use it. Camera manufacturers keep improving auto-mode and scene modes and certainly do free the photographers mind.

Aperture Priority  And Shutter Priority Mode

I learned on an aperture priority mode Minolta 35mm camera many years ago. In those days, that was all that this particular Minolta camera had. I tend to favor this mode of shooting. Aperture priority allows the photographer to control how much of the photo is in focus. It’s an easy artistic effect where focus can be on or off of a subject.Aperture mode will attempt to put the shutter speed at an appropriate match to the shutter speed. I know that I need a fast shutter speed to freeze motion and reduce blur, so in aperture mode, I increase the size of the aperture to let in more light. This allows for faster shutter speeds which accomplishes the task. Conversely, if I want more of the photo in focus, I know that in care reduce the aperture size which will lower the shutter speed. If I slow the shutter to much, I know it will blur movement.
Learning the limits of your camera and lens are a must for aperture and shutter priority modes. Knowing the effect of the settings help you choose the correct settings for these modes. The more you practice with these modes, the easier and faster you can make the correct settings for your desired outcome.I frequently use these modes when I have enough time to contemplate what I want the outcome of the photo to be. I am skilled enough to use them in a hurry when the light conditions are not complicated. Landscape, stage events, family gatherings, etc. are examples when I have the extra time to consider these settings.

Manual Mode

In the other modes, the photographer relies on the metering and computer sensor of the camera to choose the setting. For perfect photos, many times the camera just isn’t good enough and I can manually choose each of the settings for exactly what I want. It takes practice and I still have to “chimp” and look at the live view screen to judge my output. Pros generally claim better results and site their extensive experience.

I shy away from anyone telling me that all manual, all of the time is the only way to take great photos. Using it all of the time can certainly reduce the number of chances you have to capture the moments and that takes way from enjoying the craft of photography. On the other side of that coin, producing perfect images because you knew exactly what the settings should be for the desired effect produces results and gives a sense of pride. If you never reach the point of all manual, all-of the-time, don’t let it bother you.

Weigh The Benefits Of The Modes

Consider the benefits(and downfalls) of the modes you’re using. Auto is going to give you more photos of lesser quality than learning to choose a setting and get precision in the other modes. Aperture and shutter priority have their uses and the photographer will have an increased number of correct exposures when they learn to use these modes with skill and purposeful intent. Manual will produce the exact exposure that the photographer wants, but it’s time consuming to use and it takes knowledged and a bit of intuition to get the best setting.
Above all practice with the different modes frequently until you know what is possible with camera. The more you practice, the more you’ll understand the results, and the less you’ll care what the “pros” think.


Get Prints Of Your Photos And Use Printing As An Editing Filter

We all have to many photos not worth printing and not enough prints. With digital storage being cheaper than ever and printing being more expensive than ever, it’s easy to just leave them on the computer. The problem with this is that there digital images just don’t have the impact or bring the enjoyment that a printed photo does. Digital images tend to collect and it’s difficult to find the real standouts in the digital pile.

I read some advice to use printing as an editing tool when deciding to keep your photos. If you’re willing to pay for the print of a photo, it’s probably worth keeping and posting. If not, consider deleting it. If you start printing some of your photos, you’ll get a better eye for what is worth printing too.

With a recent order, I decided to try out some of the different styles of print. I did the standards of matte and glossy, but the new metallic finish, I’d never seen before. I chose a photo of motorcycles at a show and the metallic finish was great for this. Now I’ll be on the lookout for photos that will look good printed with a metallic finish.

I don’t print my own. I work with computers and printers all day and the last thing I want to do when I’m having fun is work with printers. They’re frustrating and the ink cartridges are expensive. I pay a service to print mine. Let the pros that work with printers and images all day long worry about getting the best quality print. I’d rather concentrate on my photos.

I really enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for the prints too. It reminds me of the days of waiting for film to get back from the lab.

Fro Knows Photo. If You Need Entertained To Learn, This Is The Guy.

Here’s another “pro” teaching us to do things his way with a ton of expensive gear. It’s Fro Knows Photo.

From what I could stand to watch, he knows his stuff. He’s real big on lenses and he’s right, great glass is a good place to put your money if you have it. He’s right about a lot of things. You also have to sift through endless streams of him singing and making senseless jokes. The “Fro” loves to pick out what others like him are saying wrong on their sites which fills up time for his show.

Spend some time watching him and if you’re like me, you’ll happily pay for a good book so you don’t have to listen to all of this. If you love rants and someone telling you to shoot RAW over and over and over, you’ll love him and he does have some good instruction.

I’ve only found a few of his photos, but he talks about being published in numerous publications. If I had an award winning set of photos, I’d make them easy to find. He tells you many times to “show your work”, but it’s not easy finding his.

Finding Patterns To Create Photo Compositions

I never thought about it before reading some books on photo composition, but patterns make interesting photos. They are all over the place once you realize that a photographer should be looking for them.

This one is the Fibonacci type of pattern that’s found in a sunflower.

Pattern In A Sunflower

Black and white can bring out the shapes in a pattern, so frequently I do the conversion. Others may lean towards showing the flower. For me, it’s just my style to go for whatever is the most interesting. Everyone has seen sunflowers in color many times, but when the color is removed the shapes are more pronounced.

Harley Davidson Motorcycles lined up in a row on a street.
Harley-Davidsons Lined Up In A Row

Sometimes cool patterns just kind of jump out at you when you’re looking for them. I was crossing the street in Roscoe Village near Coshocton, Ohio when I noticed this line or Harley-Davidsons with fairings.

Try keeping an eye out for patterns and give it a try.