Learn by Doing… Or How to Go From Auto to Manual

I was recently in a store drooling on new camera toys when a conversation between a sales clerk and a young couple caught my attention. They were looking at a dSLR, and you could tell they were clearly in that state of yearning wonderment that most of us have been in at one point or another. That 'Oooooo I want that, but ooooooo it's expensive and it looks hard and scary and am I as smart as it is?? Too many of us have that uncle, dad, or boyfriend that had an SLR that he only brought out on special occasions and then spent the whole time trying to figure out, only to get out-of-focus lame pictures. No one wants to waste time or money on that trap. The salesman said something to that young couple that was really profound and sounded way too stinking easy. (Profound stuff usually does.) He said 'Take lots of pictures'.  The couple got that 'Victrola Dog' look. You know the one. The look that says 'you are selling me a bill of goods and there is no way it's that easy'.
huh? It's that easy??
Well, it's not a bill of goods, and it is that easy, if you put thought into your pictures by taking more than one picture, and then changing one variable at a time. Don't start spinning all your knobs at once, or you'll just get confused. Take a picture in Auto, pay attention to the settings. Then change the camera to Manual, and change one of those settings (just one!), whether it's aperture, shutter speed, or ISO. Then pay attention to what was different. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Keep in mind when I'm talking manual I'm not talking about the little focus ring, for the most part. I'm talking about camera settings that are more than whether or not your picture is in focus. I'm talking about your depth of field, how much light you let onto your sensor, all of those subtle adjustments. Not just whether it's sharp, but what is sharp. In this case, practice really does make perfect. You can be an armchair shooter all you want, look at other people's pictures and critique away, but unless you're out there doing it, your own skills will never grow... and there will be times when the camera can't tell you what to do because you're pushing it and you just have to guess. Those are the times that those thousands and thousands of pictures you've taken will count, and you'll get that shot, and you won't even have to chimp, because you know you nailed it. That's quite a high. When you get it you'll know what I'm talking about.... So go take pictures. Lots of them. 🙂 .... and then you'll wonder why you ever spent so long on auto-pilot... 😉 Cheryl