Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stretching My Photography Legs

So a lot of y'all might remember that I got a really nice camera for my push present (yes, I am aware I did zero pushing to earn my push we can call it my "16 hours of back labor" present). I have been wanting this one for years (it's a Nikon D90), and let me tell you, it is fancy shmancy. We both agreed that, instead of investing a lot of money in just a few nice pictures of Emma Ramey, we'd invest in a nice camera and have good pictures all of the time.
I got the camera right before she was born, and I honestly haven't invested a dab of time in actually learning what it can do.  I knew it had a lot of potential, I just haven't really had time to learn about it.  Don't get me wrong, it still took great pictures shooting in automatic and not changing a thing about the standard settings.  But, in the past few days, I decided it's finally time to see what this baby can do.
So, I've figured out a couple of things I'm going to change about the way I take pictures...
1. Shooting in RAW instead of JPEG
This is just basically the way your camera saves the image file.  The standard way to save is JPEG - you've probably worked with these graphic files before.  When your camera saves in JPEG, it does a little bit of editing before it actually saves the picture.  This makes it easy to save to a computer, view, and print.  But RAW gives you just that - the raw image, without any editing.  You have to have editing software to view/edit these, but it gives you control over the editing of the file.  It also saves as a bigger file, which is a downside with a small memory card, but doesn't take away any of the integrity of the image.
Meet my friend Lambie.  He's going to be my model today, because my other model is a green-bean-throwing fool this morning.
I digress.  Ok, the picture above was shot in jpeg.  This is how it looks straight out of the camera.  Not bad, but not great.
This is how he looks when shot in RAW, with maybe 30 seconds of editing once I pulled it off the memory card.  If you have Photoshop Elements, you will get an editing window as soon as you open a RAW file (I can't speak for the other Adobe products, but I know PSE 8 does it).  
JPEG vs. RAW.  Easy peasy!  And no, I'm no expert yet...this editing isn't perfect, it's just an example.
If you want to read more about JPEG vs. RAW, here and here are great articles. 
2.  Getting out of automatic setting
This one is hard for me.  Automatic is easy.  I know that all of the camera settings are going to be done for me, and that's comfortable.  But when I was experimenting yesterday, it is obvious that it's not the best setting!
Here's Lambie in automatic setting.  Once again, not bad, but it looks a little washed, doesn't it?  That's what I realized yesterday automatic setting was doing to all of my pictures.
I started shooting in Aperture Mode (A on a Nikon).  This lets you decide, in a nutshell, how focused your camera is on a certain object.  The Pioneer Woman had a fantastic series on Aperture and Shutter speed. 
(Keep in mind, the next few pictures are straight out of the camera, just to show the difference...I would normally edit these.)
This was shot with an f/4 (I think) - so a pretty focused setting.  See how the background is pretty blurry, and it's focused on Lambie?
This was shot with an f/22, so not nearly as focused.  See how the background isn't as blurry?  This is great if you're trying to get the background as the focus of the picture too.  But, as you can see, it lets less light in, so the picture can be a little underexposed.  You can shoot in full manual to adjust shutter speed for this, but I'm not quite ready for that step yet.
Shooting in aperture mode just gives me more control over how my picture is taken, and lets me edit it to what I need.
Which brings me to point 3...
3.  Using Photoshop to its fullest potential
I use photoshop primarily for blog design, but I've started using it a little bit more for photo editing lately (go figure, I'm using a photo editing software for photo editing now).  I have to resize images to put them on the blog or it loads SO slowly.  I also usually put pictures through a little bit of editing if they need to be lighter/more vibrant, but I want to start actually using Photoshop to its fullest potential!
This is a picture I got of Emma Ramey yesterday, straight out of the camera (using my new ideas above).  Gorgeous, right?  It doesn't really need much, but this is what I turned it into after just a few seconds.
Just dialed down the red tones a little, and highlighted some of the colors to make them pop.  No, I'm not going to become one of those psycho internet mothers that photoshop their babies to look that scary kind of perfect.  But there's nothing wrong with fixing problems with the image that happened because of your camera!
I'm hoping a few little changes really make my pictures that much better.  Hope this helps some of y'all too!
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