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One-on-One Class

So last week I attended a one-on-one photography class — actually it was two-on-one class because my dear friend Aly was there too!  We have the same camera (Nikon D5100) and both feel like we’re not quite happy with the images coming from it, and we know it’s because we haven’t really taken the time to learn some basics about our cameras.  When we arrived at the store, we were greeted by our teacher, Jim.  Let me just say that Jim was wonderful.  Some subject-matter experts are not always able to get all of their knowledge out of their head and properly communicated to someone else, but Jim sure did.  You know that teacher you had in college that did awesome research for the university, but didn’t really know how to actually teach the subject?  Well it turns out Jim knows a whole heck of a lot about cameras AND knows how to talk to a regular Joe like me about them.  Perfect.

It became very clear that Aly and I needed to revisit some basic Photography 101 information before we really delved into our specific camera.  We met for an hour and talked mostly about photography basics but Jim did take a few minutes to tweak some settings on our cameras and then suggested two modes to really play around with: shutter-priority and aperture-priority.  I think I’m going to start by picking just one for now…I’m going to focus my efforts on aperture-priority.  Pretty much this setting allows the photographer to control the aperture and the camera adjusts its shutter speed automatically.  Jim pointed out the importance of watching your shutter speed to make sure it doesn’t get too low or that dreaded ol’ camera shake will come in and make you think, “Man!  My camera sure takes blurry pictures.”

You are now probably thinking one of two things: (1) “Umm…Michelle.  What the heck is aperture?”  Or (2) “This poor girl doesn’t even know what aperture is.  I must read on and laugh at her misfortunes.”

Aperture effects “depth of field”, or how far into your picture objects remain sharp and when they start to get soft and blurred.  Jim said that paying close attention to depth of field is really helpful when shooting portraits, and since I mostly take pictures of my two sweet kiddos, my ears perked up.  Playing with the aperture would allow me to really capture the essence of prunes smeared across my son’s face, while softening and blurring the fact that the kitchen counter is full of dirty dishes and poop-stained clothes (probably thanks to said prunes).

What was my biggest takeaway from my one-on-one class?  That I want to take MORE!  Now I’m just getting greedy, but seriously.  I really have enjoyed a couple of the beginner group classes at Wolfe’s, and when I was leaving my one-on-one class, Jim said, “You should really come to the Exposure Basics Class that I teach.”  To be honest, ‘exposure’ seemed like a fancy word for ‘stuff I’m not quite ready to tackle yet’.  Well, it turns out exposure is a fundamental part of getting good pictures and I really need to learn more about it!  It’s not quite as complicated as I first felt it was, but I still need to learn and practice.  And practice I will!  In fact, I did a little practice during naptime today. [Side note: can we talk about the miracle that is my children both napping in their cribs at the same time?]  Anywho, depth of field increases as you stop down the aperture (by choosing a higher f-stop number).  I experimented in the kitchen and you can see what I mean.  By picking the right f-stop, I can hide a bunch of sins in my kitchen!

Aperture Example

For any photography rookies out there, I hope this quick summary was helpful!


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