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Photography Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I capture sharp images, consistently?

If you’re taking lots of blurry shots, the problem almost certainly has to do with movement.

There are two types of movement that will cause blur:

First, there is subject movement. This is when your subject moves through the frame at high speeds. Your camera’s shutter speed isn’t fast enough to make the subject sharp.

Therefore, to prevent this kind of blur, you need to use a fast shutter speed. The specifics depend on your subject–but I’d recommend a shutter speed at 1/1000s or above.

Second, blur is caused by camera shake. This is when the camera moves while you take your photo. Camera shake can be small (even imperceptible), but it may still ruin a photo.

Therefore, to avoid camera shake, you need to do two things:

First, you need to use a fast shutter speed. Even if your subject isn’t moving, a fast shutter speed will prevent the effects of camera shake from becoming a problem.

Second, you need to stabilize your camera. A stable camera will avoid camera shake entirely.

Here are a few simple ways you can do this:

1. Tuck in your elbows and press your camera against your face
2. Bend your knees slightly
3. Lean against something sturdy, such as a wall
4. Stabilize your camera on something sturdy, such as the ground
5. Use a tripod

You can combine these methods, depending on the situation. The more stable your camera, the sharper your photos!

What are the different camera metering modes?

First things first: A metering mode tells the camera how to evaluate a scene. Different metering modes result in different exposures (that is, they give you brighter or darker photos). So you want to choose the metering mode that fits the scene.

There are three metering modes found in most cameras.

First, there is evaluative/matrix metering.

Evaluative/matrix metering evaluates the light in every part of the frame. And the camera chooses the exposure that fits the entire scene. This is the default metering mode on many cameras.

Second, there is spot/partial metering.

Nikon cameras use spot metering, whereas Canon cameras use partial metering. But they’re pretty similar–they evaluate the scene using a small point in the center of the frame. And so your camera will expose for a spot in the middle of the scene.

Finally, there is center-weighted metering.

Center-weighted metering is a mix of evaluative/matrix metering and spot/partial metering. It evaluates the entire scene, but gives priority to the part of the scene in the center of the frame.

How do I choose the proper metering mode for my situation?

You should use matrix/evaluative metering as your default mode. It’s good for most situations, and will generally get you the most even exposure.

You should use spot/partial metering if your subject is heavily backlit, or if you want lots of detail on your subject but don’t care about the background. The spot/partial metering mode will make sure that your main subject is well exposed.

You should use center-weighted metering if your subject is backlit, or your subject matters more than the rest of the frame–but your subject looms fairly large in the frame. A large subject won’t be fully accounted for with spot/partial metering, so center-weighted metering may be necessary.

How do I take gorgeous photos at night?  

Night photography is difficult for one big reason: There’s not much light. And light is the primary ingredient of photography. Without light, your camera will struggle to get sharp shots.

That said, you can capture beautiful shots at night. You do this in two main ways:

1. You use a long shutter speed, to allow the camera time to capture additional light.

2. You use a high ISO, to increase the camera’s sensitivity to light.

The method you use depends on the scene you’re photographing. If the objects in your scene are stationary, then you can use the first method. In general, I recommend using a tripod for this type of shot–otherwise you’ll end up with blur due to camera shake.

If you’re shooting a scene with a moving subject, then you cannot use a long shutter speed. So you’ll have to use the second method.

Unfortunately, using a high ISO has a drawback: The higher your ISO, the more noisy/grainy your photo will be. So keep the ISO as low as possible to minimize noise.

How Do I Photograph Moving Objects?

Photographing moving objects requires a fast shutter speed. That is, you need your camera to take a photo fast enough that it freezes the motion.

You can set the shutter speed in-camera, using Shutter Priority or Manual mode. These modes can generally be accessed via the dial on your camera.

Now, the faster the moving object, the faster the shutter speed you need. So if you’re photographing a hopping rabbit, you may need a shutter speed around 1/500 second. If you’re photographing a diving eagle, you’ll need a shutter speed around 1/2500 seconds, maybe more.

I recommend you experiment with different shutter speeds, so you get a sense of the necessary shutter speeds for different moving objects.

How Do I Become Great at Photography?

Photography, like most pursuits, takes a fair bit of hard work and practice. Nothing is a substitute for getting out with your camera and snapping photos.

However, you can speed up your learning with a few resources.

First, I recommend you read at least one introductory book on the art of photography. This will teach you all about your camera, the different effects it can achieve, and so much more. You should be able to pick up a book like this at your local library.

Second, I recommend you spend a bit of time each day looking at the work of photographers you admire. A lot of beginner photographers don’t realize it, but one of the quickest ways to level up your photography is to understand how other photographers get great shots. And the more time you spend looking at other photographers, the sooner you’ll become great!

Third, you should get out and practice as often as possible. Focus on the subjects that you love; if you like city streets, do street photography, if you like flowers do macro photography, and if you like people do portrait photography. Try to shoot every single day.

If you can follow these three steps, you’ll be amazed by how quickly your photography improves.

What are my Main Camera Settings?

Cameras have three key settings that you should know about: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. The point of these settings is, first and foremost, to render an accurate exposure–that is, produce a shot that isn’t too bright, isn’t too dark, but is just right.

The aperture is a hole in your camera lens that lets in light. The wider the aperture, the more light your camera lets in. And the more light the camera lets in, the brighter the shot appears.

The aperture also has another effect:

The wider the aperture, the more blurred the photo’s background becomes. This is because of something called depth of field, which is simply the amount of the photo that’s in focus.

You can set the aperture on your camera body. Note that apertures are represented with f-stops, where wide apertures correspond to low numbers (f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4, etc.) and narrow apertures correspond to high numbers (f/8, f/11, f/16, etc.).

The shutter speed refers to the amount of time the shutter is open for when you go to take a picture.

In other words, do you want to take a picture over a long period of time, such as a second? Or do you want to take a picture very quickly, one that causes the scene to be rendered as frozen?

If your shutter speed is long, you’ll let in more light, and you’ll get a brighter exposure. But this will also cause blur. If any of your subjects move during the shot, or if your camera moves during the shot, you’ll end up with an unusably blurry image.

If your shutter speed is short, you’ll let in less light. But you’ll freeze the action.

Because of this, shutter speed is always a compromise. You can’t choose a shutter speed that lasts too long, or you’ll get a blurry image. But you can’t choose a shutter speed that’s too short, otherwise you’ll get a too-dark image.

ISO refers to your camera’s sensitivity to light.

ISO is the simplest of the three key settings. All that you need to know is that the higher the ISO, the brighter the overall shot, because the effect of light on the camera is magnified.

ISO is represented in round numbers: 100, 200, 250, 320, 400, etc. But you should know: As your ISO gets higher, you’ll get something called noise in your photos–which is basically unwanted pixels that degrade the image quality. So you don’t want to push up the ISO too much, or you risk causing noise problems.

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