Photography Blog – It’s all a bit blurry (or rather it isn’t).

Hello! I decided to start a new blog about my journey with photography rather than go on about photography in my other blog which is really just a more light-hearted or ranty view on life (depending on my mood at the time).

I recently took the plunge and made the decision to only shoot using manual settings and as a beginner that is really hit and miss. I long for a really decent DSLR camera but I have made the decision that until I understand how to change my manual settings in seconds without even having to think about why it is right for the shot then I am sticking with my trustee compact camera. I really do not see the point in having an all singing all dancing camera and not knowing how to use it properly.

I set about reading everything I could about the various settings. It is hard to get your head around it all at first and it took quite a while for me to grasp those basic settings. People have written WHOLE books just about one of the four or so key elements regarding manual camera settings so I can’t really go into much detail, however in very, very, layman’s terms I will go through the few things that I ‘think’ I have learnt about the most important ones. (bare with me on this bit!)

Aperture – This allows you to control the amount of light that you let in,  the wider the aperture (which is the small numbers in your settings) the more light you will get. The smaller the aperture (the high numbers in your settings) the less light you will get. This is how you get a shot with a sharp subject and a blurry background or a shot where you can control how much depth of field is in focus.

Shutter Speed – This one is relatively simple to understand. High shutter speeds (high number) will freeze the action in your shot. The lower the shutter speed the more fluid the movement will be.

ISO – This allows you to increase/decrease the light when you need to.

Basically when you make changes to one of these settings you will need to make changes to the others and just keep your eye on your exposure chart on your camera which will tell you if you are under exposing or over exposing the shot. So it is about balancing those three things, sounds easy doesn’t it. Sadly It’s really not when you first start out

There are other elements, metering and white balance for example but at the moment I still need to get my head around metering and the white balance I tend to leave on automatic and put that right in Photoshop if I need to because I am still learning how to apply them let alone talk about them.

Anyway, this blog isn’t about the technicalities of it all. A friend of mine recently sent me a PDF that was written by a lady called Kimberly Gauthier, it is only 11 pages long and it explains manual settings in such an easy and straight forward manner. In this PDF she also recommends for you to choose an object, move it to different places (i.e different rooms in your house where the lighting is different from another room or outside in different daylight conditions etc) and practice amending your settings depending on the lighting and shooting it for an hour a day. The end result should be that amending your settings for the light you are shooting in should at some point become second nature.

When you have nailed that (could take months and months in my case) move onto something else such as candid shots of your family and friends, portrait shots etc.

So that is why I have set this blog up. To put that into practice and to have somewhere to put those photographs and record what settings I used, why I used them and if it worked or not. With that in mind I am hoping that amending those settings will become something that I can just do without thinking about it.

Also I hope as I blog about my journey I might get a few people who are just starting out on trying to improve their technique joining in and sharing tips, mistakes and just helping each other out a bit where we can.

Now I am not too bad shooting outdoors which is why most of my photographs are taken outside. Whilst I tend to concentrate more on the feel of the shot itself I do tend to play it safe when it comes to lighting and I shoot at times when the light is just how I want it to be so that I don’t really have to rely too much on fiddling with my camera settings. So I am aware that what I need to work on is outdoor and indoor shots with different and difficult light issues.

Today’s practice shot is two bronze statues, my plan was to shoot them indoors, late morning with the blinds letting some light in. It is a very overcast and grey day (peeing it down would be about right) so the light coming in won’t be very bright. I want to try to focus on the first statute as my focal point with the second one in the background being a little out of focus so I am really going to have to play around with my settings.

I am going to set my camera up to bracket the shots (to take three different exposures of the same shot) for a couple of reasons. One I like to sometimes merge three shots because I like playing around with HDR photography so I tend to have my camera set to bracket as default. Secondly because depending on how I feel sometimes I personally prefer an over exposed or under exposed shot depending on the mood I want to create. Photography is a very personal thing and sometimes it is nice to break the ‘rules’  if you fancy it. However I did read somewhere that if you are going to break the rules it is better that you understand them in the first place.

So, what happened with my ‘shoot’?  Well, it was quite frankly Rubbish. No matter what I did I could not work out how to make background and the back statue blurry. In shot 1 I went as low an aperture as this camera would let me (which is F3.5  as long as you are not zooming at all) which I wasn’t in this shot but I had to end up with a really slow shutter speed to get the exposure right. In shot 2 I zoomed in which meant that the lowest aperture I could go to was F5 and again to get the exposure right I had to really decrease the shutter speed. I think the back is a teeny bit more blurry but nothing like I would have wanted it to be. I also think that both photographs are very flat and unexciting even though the camera said that the exposure was 0.

The shots are below. Excuse the not very aesthetically pleasing radiator in the background, if I was shooting it properly I would have put a plain background over that and shot it so you couldn’t see the edge of the table etc.

In the above shot the settings were aperture F/3.5 Shutter Speed 1/60 ISO – 1600 Focus 4mm

Above shot – Aperture F5 Shutter speed 1/25 ISO 1600 Focus 22mm

So, I have learnt that no matter how  much you think you understand something, applying it is a whole other issue. I guess it is back to the books to do some more reading and try again tomorrow. In the meantime I couldn’t help pulling one into Photoshop to see what I could do with it in order to make it look better to me personally.

What I did here was slightly tweeked the tone, contrast, colour, brightness, levels, curves and vibrance. Then I applied a duplicate layer and I added a Gaussian blur on that layer. I applied a layer mask and painted the first statute back into focus. So what I have now is a little bit more like what I had in my head with regards to focus. It would be nice to get to the point where I can nail the shot I have in my head with the camera alone.

Oh well… Onwards and Upwards. However as I am  not one to waste an opportunity to have a play I felt the need to do something a bit arty with this shot given I wasn’t going to use it for anything else so as an unashamed lover of Photoshop as and when is required I popped a template over it so the dancers faded into the shadows and just showed up through the light spots and my young daughter wants it on her bedroom wall so all is not lost.

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8 thoughts on “Photography Blog – It’s all a bit blurry (or rather it isn’t).

  1. As you know, what I know about photography can be summed up in a 140 character tweet. But, what I will say is that for the focusing stuff, I thought you’d need a proper lens… one you could manually fiddle with and focus in and out on your subject. Is it possible to get the focus / blurred effect you are after without that? Or is the camera not advanced enough? No need to reply – just thought I’d be the first to comment on a new blog 🙂

    • It has crossed my mind Si but I don’t know the answer to that. I know I could achieve what I wanted a lot easier with different lenses so you’re so right there. I can’t help think I should be able to achieve them with this camera somehow first though. My dilemma is have I grown out of this camera or am I just not applying things correctly..*sighs* I really want to do more focal stuff, objects and abstract stuff but I’m struggling x thanks for the reply. 🙂

  2. I am actually thinking the same exact thought with you about the fancy camera without the the knowledge, and I too just recently became very fond over photagraphy arts and at the same starting stage,, except I haven’t actually started yet. I suggest you look into the ‘focus plane’ area for how to aim and focus on to have a blur background. For instance, try bringing your object a little more forward, zoom your camera in, than look through the lens and step back for the frame you like (dont zoom back out, just step back). I think the zoom focus on object and will blur everythinh out. I hope this help.

    • Hi Deborah and thank you for your reply. I think that technically I can’t really do some of the things I want to with this camera so I do think I will have to move upwards slightly at some point to achieve what I want to and then practice, practice, practice. However, until then it really is just about keeping it in manual and accepting and I think embracing the mistakes as and when they happen (and celebrating the odd ‘good un’ too). Having said about a better camera though. I could never give my compact camera up for daily use. I just love it way too much.

      • :-), that is true huh. Well, keep at it my friend and blog about your experience..I hope to see more as you progress and learn from it too.

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