The Dark Side of Photography

When I was first getting into photography I always had my camera set to auto, or whatever my dad had set it to. I was horrible about understanding what numbers meant what, and what settings needed to be where. And even after reading blog after blog and book after book I still was totally clueless. I had an idea of what I was going for, I had an idea of what settings should look like, but I had no idea how to get them there. I'll be honest, most of my sessions were fully dependent on pure luck and good lighting. And I did okay, but my sessions weren't what I wanted them to be.

So... As a girl who is the most non-technical of all people, what did I do? I pulled out my camera, and pulled out my camera manual and started figuring it all out for myself. And it helped more then you could ever imagine. My SOOC (straight out of camera) pictures were beautiful (hello! Saving tons of time in post production) and I felt so much more confident while shooting a session all because I finally knew what I was actually doing.

It's been said a million times, but it's true; your camera is a tool. You have to learn how to use it in order for it to be working at full capacity. Just because your husband bought you a big, pretty, expensive DLSR does not in No Way make you a photographer. 

Here are a few things that I try to keep in mind during a session in way of the settings I am looking for;

Rule of thumb -- the lower the better

Low ISO:
I try to keep my ISO at about 250. Granted, my camera can handle a higher ISO and will produce photos that are not too grainy, even when the ISO is high, but that fully depends on your camera.

Low Aperture: Lots of photographers will say, "I shoot wide open" or something along those lines, usually pertaining to what they set their aperture too. Wide open = more light. This also effects how much of your photo is in focus, or your depth of field. Ya know that pretty bokeh in backgrounds? You have to have a low Aperture to get that. So I always have my aperture as low as possible.
The lower the better -- the lower the better -- 

Understand Histograms:  
This was something I never noticed and honestly, few other bloggers seem to talk about it, but about a year ago I took a workshop from the oh so amazing Nicole Van. One of the things that I use a lot that I learned from her incredible workshop was paying attention to Histograms. Each photo you take will show you a histogram of the photo, showing the levels of light and dark in a photo. Left is dark, right is bright. "Shoot to the right" is what Nicole would say.

The photo below is SOOC and shows the histogram for the photo. Now this histogram is not a prime one, it's a little on the dark side of the spectrum. I try to shoot to the right as I like to slightly over expose my photos, this makes editing a lot easier as it washes out the skin just a bit, making it look smooth a perfect. 

Don't be scared to say, "I am just testing my settings" and take a few test shots to check the settings -- start the session off on the right foot and make sure your settings are where you want them to be.

Now that you have read my novel, my final, and best piece of advice is to turn off the computer, pick up your camera and start learning how your camera works. I could go on and on about how my camera works and what settings I like for a session, but the best way to learn is hands on. No matter how many blogs you read will ever beat that. 


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