6 Things to Try With Your New Camera / by Rob Crawshaw

Happy New Year to all of you! Now the holiday season has passed I thought I'd share a few things you can try out with your camera.

To try out most of these techniques you need a camera which has 'P, S (Tv on Canon cameras), A (Av on Canon cameras) and/or M' modes and something to rest your camera on, ideally a tripod though just on any surface will be OK if you're just experimenting and not too fussy about your composition.

Bonus tip! Get a small beanbag to use in the field to rest your camera on when a tripod just won't do - IE. a wall is in your way or you need to get down to ground level.

1. Get Out of Auto

Do it! Get out of auto, now! Shoot using one of the above mentioned modes - P, S, A or M. This gives you more control over the camera to achieve certain exposures and over time this will help you learn what settings you need to achieve the shot you are visualising. 

Check your manual for more on the specifics of how these modes function. We will cover a few ways you can use them to your advantage later in this article. 

2. Set Your Diopter

If you wear glasses this is especially important for you. 

Look down your eyepiece, as you normally would when shooting and turn the small wheel that should be located next to the eyepiece, until the text within the viewfinder becomes sharp.  

I was surprised what a difference this made when I set mine as previously I'd assumed I wouldn't need to as I don't wear glasses. Give it a try!

3. Shoot RAW

If you are serious about creating the best image possible, sharing your vision and experience, shooting in JPEG is not an option. 

Although you have control over the image before you press the shutter, if you shoot JPEG, depending on how you have your camera set up, your camera will post-process the image for you in various different ways, 'baking in' these changes to the image. So if you get home and view the image on your computer and want to change something or don't like what your camera has done to the image, your options and scope you have to work the image will be limited, the result will suffer and you could easily introduce artefacts and noise.

Shooting RAW gives you huge flexibility on what you have to work with when you enter the digital darkroom. One big example is that you can change the colours, including the white balance in post with little or no effect on the quality of the image. The reason for this is that a RAW image isn't actually an image - it's data. When you then import the image to your into into your RAW converter/editor the software then interprets the data for you to manipulate as you please.

I was amazed when I first started shooting RAW at the sheer amount of extra detail you are able to pull out of a RAW file. One drawback of shooting in RAW though is that nearly all of your images will require some post-processing to bring it to life.

Processed RAW file

JPEG with the exact same adjustments as I did on the RAW file (click to view larger)

4. Try Back Button Focus

The idea of 'back button focus' is to move your auto focus start to a button on the back of your camera, like the 'AF-ON' button on the 5D. Then you set your auto focus mode to AI-SERVO or the equivalent for your brand of camera (I believe this is AF-C on Nikon). On some cameras you will then need to change your cameras shutter release priority to release when you press the button as opposed to ensuring it has locked focus. 

This has a number of advantages, especially if you shoot a lot of moving subjects. Along with this separating AF from the shutter release means that you no longer have to worry about your camera refocusing when you have already framed your subject and you press the shutter release.

It takes a bit of getting used to but I think I prefer it over the default method now. Give it a try for at least a couple of weeks and see how it feels for you.

5. Bokeh / Blurred Background

This one is easy. Set your aperture to a low number, like f/2.8, focus in on a subject fairly close to your camera and watch as the background melts away into blurry goodness.

You can achieve this easier with a longer focal length like 50mm upwards and works great for portraits.

 
Cinematic Headshot
 

6. Long Shutter Speeds

Choosing a longer shutter speed in shutter speed priority or manual mode allows you to achieve a number of interesting effects such as;

  • Streaky clouds/smooth water
  • Get rid of people
  • Light trails
  • Capturing motion around a moving subject (panning)

One of the easiest and most satisfying of these to achieve is light trails. Grab your camera and a tripod (or something else to rest your camera on securely) and head out to a road at night. Set up your camera and choose a shutter speed of a few seconds. Hit the shutter release as a car is about to go by and you will capture a trail from the lights of the car but not the car itself.

I remember the very first time I pulled this off, I woah'ed out loud after checking the LCD! 

 
30.0 sec at f/16, ISO 100

30.0 sec at f/16, ISO 100

 

I hope i've given you at least 1 thing you can try out here and if you have any questions or comments about the above techniques, leave me a comment down below. Thank you for reading!

Credit to Mr.D Photography on Flickr for the main thumbnail image of this post.