Stop Using Scene Modes: Use Your Camera Like A Pro

Paul R. Giunta, Live Music & Portrait Photographer

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5 Lessons (16m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. Gear

    • 3. Camera basics and setup

    • 4. File Types : RAW vs. JPG/TIF

    • 5. Composition and technique


Project Description

Create 5 photographs that exemplify good technique and composition


  1. Get to know camera types
    1. Point and shoot : Small form factor, small sensor, fixed lens, lowest image quality
    2. Mirrorless - Small form factor, larger sensor, interchangeable lenses, better image quality
    3. DSLR - Digital Single Lens Reflex : Large form factor, best sensors, interchangeable lenses, highest image quality
  2. It’s all about the glass
    1. Prime Lens : fixed focal length, can have large aperture
    2. Zoom : range of focal lengths for subjects in close proximity
    3. Telephoto : range of focal lengths for subjects far in proximity
    4. Macro : fixed focal length for close up photography

Camera basics and setup

  1. Get to know the Aperture

    When we look at a camera’s lens we see the piece of glass on the outside but behind it is a control that limits the amount of light that comes through the lens to hit the sensor. When photographing dark scenes you want the aperture as open as possible so that more light can get through

  2. What the heck is Bokeh??

    Bokeh is the (purposefully) out of focus area of a photograph that is the result of the lens and the aperture used to capture the photograph.

  3. Get to know Shutter Speed

    The speed of the shutter determines how long the sensor of the camera is exposed to the light that comes through the lens. It is used in partnership with the Aperture to create a proper exposure at a given ISO.

  4. Get to know ISO

    For those of us that remember what film is and have used it is the speed of the film. While digital cameras don’t have film per se the ‘speed’ of camera sensors can be quickly switched from fast to slow to accommodate for the amount of available light present in the scene. While this sounds great, there is a trade off. When you go to higher ISO you will start to see digital noise in the photographs.

  5. Shoot Wide Open

    Go to your camera’s largest aperture and select an accompanying shutter speed for a proper exposure. What do you notice? Was the shutter fast or slow?

  6. Shoot Stopped Down

    Go to your camera’s smallest aperture and select an accompanying shutter speed for a proper exposure. What do you notice? Was the shutter fast or slow?

File Types : RAW vs. JPG/TIF

  1. Get to know your file types
    1. RAW - an uncompressed, unedited version of exactly what the camera sensor saw. Large file.
    2. JPG - a compressed, slightly edited version of what your camera sensor saw. Small file.
    3. TIF - an uncompressed, slightly edited version of what your camera sensor saw. Large file.
  2. Collect JPG and RAW files

    Change the settings in your camera so that the RAW and JPG versions of the photographs are collected on your memory card.

  3. Compare the results

    What do you notice when looking at the same photograph in the two different formats?

  4. Play with the settings

    Go back into the camera settings and make adjustments to the available settings (Contrast, Sharpness, Contrast, etc.). Repeat Step 3. Are you getting results you like more or less?

Composition and technique

  1. Play with Depth of Field

    Now that you are comfortable with manipulating the aperture, take a photograph that demonstrates a shallow depth of field as well as a photograph with a deep depth of field.

    • Shallow depth of field - the subject is in focus and the rest of the frame is not

    • Deep depth of field - everything in the frame is in focus

  2. Experiment with Leading Lines

    Leading lines can be used to draw the eye of the viewer across a photograph in a manner intended by the photographer. Ever notice something about a photograph that grabs your attention that starts the movement of your eyes over the complete piece?

  3. Get to know the Rule of Thirds

    Seldom is it interesting to have the subject front and center in the frame. Add interest by framing the subject in the upper/lower or left/right third of the frame. Combining this technique with adding negative space can give the subject even more pop.

  4. Negative Space

    In order to draw more attention to your subject you can leave a space around it with nothing of interest in it to draw the attention to the subject. It gives breathing room around the subject to enhance it.

  5. Play with perspective

    Not every photograph needs to be from an eye level point of view. Manipulating the point of view is a trick that you can employ to make something that otherwise might be a little boring have a little interest.