“Did he say to put the camera in the refrigerator?”

“….no, he said to put the snake in the refrigerator-it slows them down which makes for better picture-taking.”

Really excited about this class; it’s going to be great.

As I mentioned yesterday, I had my first photography class experience last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Our teacher is incredibly knowledgeable, helpful, patient and interesting.  The first class was mainly an overview of what we would be covering; but we also kind of jumped around and touched on a lot of topics (that we would be covering more in-depth down the road).  (And if you’re really just interested in the snake story, just scroll down to the bottom).  :)

Probably, the single most informative (and connected) thing we discussed in the class was how to tell your camera more about the picture you’re wanting it to take. Hmmm…..  Apparently our cameras see gray.  It takes all the colors in whatever it is we’re shooting and makes it average out to gray.  So we have to get in there and tell it to show us what we, the photographers, see.

That is where white balance comes in.  You pretty much go in and tell your camera what white is.  This is where I kind of got lost.  So I read a bit more online.  Apparently white balance  is the process of removing color casts from your photographs, so that objects that are white in person, appear white in your photograph (and in your LCD screen).  Our eyes are good at judging what is white, but digital cameras can have some difficulty.  The light source that is being used has a certain color temperature (the coolness of white light or the warmth of incandescent light) and that can affect how the object appears on the camera.  Proper WB takes into account the ‘color temperature’ of a light source .  Knowing how to adjust the white balance in your camera will improve your photographs in a wide range of lighting conditions; if it’s too ‘blue’, you can adjust it to appear how it looks in real life (more warm).  So now comes the part of figuring out how to do that. :)

Your camera should have a white balance setting, you can go through and manually select what is you are dealing with, direct sun, shade, etc. Our teacher used something called a color calibration target.  It looked something like this.  

So, first you take a picture of this in the light you will be shooting in.  Then you take a look at the histogram (more on that below) to see if any of your highlights or shadows are off or ‘clipped’.  If they are, then you adjust the exposure and check again.  Once the correct exposure is achieved, you reference the image with the camera’s white balance function.

I think physically manipulating the camera, specifically the WB function will help me to understand exactly how this works.  Hopefully. :)

If that wasn’t enough for you, here are a few other random things I took from class (I promise next time they won’t be as scattered).

  • First of all, locate your camera’s manual (I am in the process of hunting mine down).  They are specific to your camera (obviously) and can help you navigate around and figure out how to undo something when you accidentally push a button and turn on your cameras backlight setting and goof up the in-class assignment-oops.
  • Lighting is the paintbrush of your photographs, use it to make or break your pictures.  (More on that here).
  • If you are looking for user-friendly photo software, our teacher recommended Corel Paintshop Pro.  It provides a lot of editing options, along with very helpful tutorials.  There is also an open source program called Gimp, which allows you to edit and retouch your photographs, but the support is not quite as user-friendly (it is more in the form of question and answer forums).
  • If you want a lot of control over your picture editing, take them in RAW format files instead of jpeg.  This allows you to go back in during the editing process and change every aspect that occurred while taking your photograph (you can go back and set the WB (white balance) after the photograph has been taken.  (Once, our teacher took outdoor pictures using an indoor light setting, and all the pictures came out with a bluish cast, but he was able to correct it because he shot them using RAW format files).  While searching around online, I also saw that Adobe’s Lightroom software, allows you to go back in and make the same adjustments to jpeg files (which take up a lot less memory space).
  • Did you know that digital cameras cannot capture the range of highlights to shadows as well as your SLR camera can?  Film has a wider dynamic range.  (I’m sure this is so very helpful). :)
  • A UV filter and lens hood are a great investment for you camera.  The lens hood protects against lens flare, which is where light comes in and bounces around causing you to lose contrast and picture quality. Hmmm…..
  • As you’re taking pictures, hit the ‘display’ button on your camera.  One of the things that should pop up is a histogram  that shows you what is going on with the light and exposure of what you are shooting (it is a graphical representation of the amount of light and shadows that are captured).  This will help give you an idea what the camera is ‘seeing’ and how it is reacting to it.
  • On a cloudy or overcast day, go into your camera’s settings and go to ‘picture style’, then from there, increase the saturation.  It will add more color and clarity to your pictures (although he did say it was not good for closeups or portraits, apparently it makes everything more clear).

And then there was our homework for the week, which I would love to pass down to you: playing with the whole white balance thing and also practice shooting pictures in macro mode, (you should be able to find this in the settings menu of your camera, or it appears on your camera in the icon that looks like a flower) that is where the aperture is larger, and less area is in focus.  (Like for shooting flowers or beetles, if you prefer).  In macro mode you have less depth of field.  You can also switch to aperture priority mode and select a larger aperture OR see if your camera has an ISO adjustment.  You can adjust this to make your aperture larger, but it will also increase the noise in your photograph (which is tiny irregular colored pixels across the photograph).

That doesn’t sound to hard, that is, if I can find the macro mode. :)

So, I think that about covers it, oh, except for the snake.  Apparently there are a lot of avid wildlife photographers in our class, and somehow a discussion came up on how to best photograph snakes and large beetles.  __________________________    I was pausing to let you reflect on that for a moment.  Anyhoo, it just so happens, that if you capture one of these majestic creatures, stick it in a tupper -ware container and then proceed to place it in the refrigerator for a short period of time ( I’m sorry to all you detailed oriented people, I didn’t catch the length of time to keep it in there), it will slow it down just enough to allow for some great photographic opportunities.

However, our teacher did give us one word of warning to heed: be sure and let everyone in the household know that there is a snake in the fridge, as this could potentially cause some dissension later on.

Like I said, really excited about this class, looking forward to next week!

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August 19, 2011. Photography.


  1. Virtual Photography Class: Part 1 replied:

    [...] friend Kristen has a lot more suggestions here.  I read her post and thought to myself several times, oh yeah…I forgot about that.  Head [...]

  2. Jenae {I Can Teach My Child!} replied:

    And professional wedding photographers really can use a point-and-shoot camera, apparently. :)

    I had a great time with you last night!! And your post was so helpful…now I don’t need my notes. :)

  3. Laura Jane @ Recovering Chocoholic replied:

    Great post! I love the part about photographing snakes although I have no intention of ever doing so.

  4. Melissa Lanzarotta replied:

    great post…looking forward to following you both through this journey as I have SOOOO much to learn about photography

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