Since I became a blog writer for Juliana Kneipp I decided to dedicate a series for you to go through.  I hope you enjoy, I post once a month on her blog and will be keeping the post here as well.  It’s alot of fun and I love to share.  This tutorial has been up for awhile but I started with


on her blog then when I decided to make the commitment, I went a bit backwards with my line up of tutorials,  I should have started here where it all begins,


You can’t make a photograph without a camera right?

It takes a photographer to know (section 2, above) The Rule of Thirds, know when to use them and when to break them

As I move along I will also be posting more about


although it is near the same concept as


Just a few other rules apply, then I will  be modifying my article on




So here it goes:  Let’s talk about your camera!

Weather you have a point and shoot or a DSLR you will begin to understand how your camera functions and exposure

This is a pet peeve for any pro photographer or advance amateur that I know, who really knows how to take pictures:

Senerio: A woman comes up to me and asks me how I get such great pictures. It must be my $1000. camera!

Wrong. I can’t say there is some truth in it but generally it is a wrong statement, because it is only image quality that my camera produces. Even at that, the user also controls image quality more than the camera does and you will learn why if you keep reading.

– Anyone with a Polaroid camera can take awesome pics if they know a little about composition and lighting.

— Fair competitions. Anyone can enter but the ones with awards always have something unique about them. Composition, lighting. Being there, choosing to take that shot at the right place at the right time, or all three put together. No one ever knows what camera they used to get that shot do they?

If you are interested in quality of pictures and how they look so great it is a MUST to know how a camera functions because it is not like a dishwasher that you can turn on and let go, it is more like a stick shift vs. automatic. You have to make it all come together before expecting it to do the right thing. Fortunately automatic transmissions are MUCH more reliable in the outcome though so maybe that was a bad example!

There are many details I could go on and on about, my favorite of all is about the “Rule of Thirds” and that is user based only.  Something the camera cannot do for you.  There is more, I will give you the quick and easy skinny of what a camera is all about. A camera is something that records light. It doesn’t see your daughter on the other side of the lens, or your pet or any of your vacations. It’s main function is being the tool use to record light. Back in the day, I have never seen it but I have heard that they use to make cameras out of cardboard boxes. HEY they still do! Those throw away “one time use” cams!  Seriously, It must have been cowboy and indian days, lol but until they starting making a sturdy design I believe that is what they used.

So what do you mean record the light? Since this conversation started with FILM, let’s go with that., but don’t worry because digital is the same concept it is just more “techy”.  So you now have a box, and you have light-sensitive film that is protected on a dark casing, right? When the film is put into the camera box, it has to be protected from the light until the box is completely closed. But this box has a hole in it where the lens goes. There is this thing called a shutter curtain inside that box. That curtain is blocking all light off between the opening of the lens to your precious film.

Once you close the box securely, your film is safe until you press the shutter button, that will open and close that shutter curtain. Depending on how long you have the shutter open,  (you know that dial thing with all the pictures on it) by setting this button,  you are telling it to open for a certain amount of time, long enough to let that light hit the film and burn the reflection into it, when the curtain closes, the film advances far enough into the film chamber to be safe and secure to let the next frame have its turn. If the curtain is open to long, you will have washed out over exposed images, if it is not open long enough, you will have underexposed images being to dark.  This is called setting the shutter speed.

You can do this MANUALLY or nowadays’ most are doing it in AUTO mode.

  • If you do this manually you set the shutter speed to how you want your image to turn out. How you will know, is by evaluating the scene. Weather it is a sunny day, night life, action ect.. You will know how long it takes after experimenting with your choices of film speed, (which in digital it is called ISO setting) and shutter speed combinations.

Although there is many other factors in obtaining a proper exposure, This is how professional photographers achieve the photographs you long to have. If you stick with these photo tips each month, you will soon be doing fabulous photos of your own children in your own home!

  • If you do not have the option of setting your camera manually, rest assured you still have that shutter speed there, you will just have to use them in AUTO mode. When choosing AUTO, you are telling the camera to choose a “standard” situation evaluation.  There are many other factors that take place in making in a properly exposed picture then what mentioned so far but these are basics to start with. It is overwhelming learning all the steps at once, but if you can learn one step at a time, they will soon fall together.
  • The most recommended mode to use for Auto is the Program Mode if you have it, “P” on the dial.  You have more control over your auto settings when you choose this mode, such as when the flash will or won’t go off.  Of course it is a personal preference between photographers, you can check them all out.  I love this mode for memory shots because I do have some control without it making me miss the shot having to switch the settings for each lighting situation.  I never do use Program mode in a portrait setting but with the right lighting you can.


  • If going manual, in addition to setting your shutter speed you will also have to select the depth of field.  Your camera is doing this for you in the auto settings.  The Depth of Field takes place in your lens.  Combining the two together is where it all comes to place, as I said earlier, like driving a stick shift.  They have to collide together with the proper lighting.  Those are two separate tutorials of their own.
  • So I have shot my roll of film, it is done. What now?  You take it to the lab, and they will put it in a machine that will use all auto settings to develop the film and you get them back, usually dark and muddy, depending how well you did as the photographer.  Or you can take it to a pro lab who adjust each and every image for you for and extra cost, and get beautifully exposed prints as long as you have done your part to properly expose.
  • Well now you are digital so you don’t have to be worried about keeping those precious images in the dark little film rolls until you take them into the photo lab anymore, so you are safe.  Now you are on your own, you get what you get, or get a photo editor to make up the difference.  Or.. again send them to a pro lab for an additional cost.  The big difference between digital and film is exposure.  This is what you or your auto settings are doing to make the proper exposure.  If you under or over expose with film, film is more forgiving than digital.  If you over expose an image on digital you will get burnt out no detail areas on the image and it isn’t retrievable.  Once the detail is lost it is gone which can make or break an image.

If you are truly interested in taking better pictures, my suggestion is get out your camera manual and read it thoroughly.  You can have a point and shoot or DSLR,  it is important to know how what it is capable of.  It is much easier to understand if you know how to do manual settings, because you cannot control what your shutter speed and depth of field when set at on auto. It is not required to get great images on a point and shoot either.  It’s about understanding exposure. In the film days we had to use SLIDE FILM in class to be able to study proper exposures.  On slides you cannot adjust the exposure during the development of the slide, and it teaches you the proper way without any persuasion.  It lets you know how you are truly exposing your images.

 I didn’t realize when I bought my first Canon SLR, that my camera manual was really a photography course.  Amazing.  It will teach you everything you will need to know about your capabilities of your camera. Even with a point and shoot, you may find out it has some flexibility in controls after reading it. Alot of it may sound greek to you (or chinese if you are greek) but again, it is all baby steps. Practice one technique until you get it down, then start another. Take notes too. If you practice to many at one time it will all be jumbled together. You will begin to understand why you have blurry images, you will be able to detect whether it is camera shake or motion blur and you will learn how to avoid many minor or major “oops” of those because you will know what caused them.

My main objective in this section of the PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS for BEGINNERS is for you to understand that you cannot pick up a great expensive camera and expect it to do great pictures for you. Now that you have a little understanding of the function of a camera (I hope, I hope), you may understand why AUTO mode isn’t working for you, unless you have already learned about lighting. It CAN work for you, but after reading your manual you will see you have to work around the cameras capabilities, rather than more flexibility in manual mode. This knowledge may help you be able to choose what kind of camera you seeking to buy as well.  How much effort do you want to put into your skill?  Good photography does take work.  It is how much you want to put into it.

So wrapping this section up: Great images consist of  the combination of film speed (ISO), shutter speed, and metering modes (F-stops) that play a huge roll, this is where I talked about your depth of field in you lens.  Then lighting and composition go hand in hand.   If your auto camera doesn’t  know your children or your pets or where you vacation it isn’t always going to be able to read the proper settings for the “standard” situation to give the proper evaluation of exposure.

Stay tuned for more images and less babble about photography my next tutorial will be about Lighting.


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