Entries in DSLR (61)
One big differentiator between DSLR models is how many frames per second it can shoot. 10 FPS is fast, 3 FPS is not. 6 FPS is a minimum for being able to produce pretty good action and sports photography shots. The faster the FPS of your DSLR, the better the odds are for you to capture the best moment in an action sequence. Knowledge of the action type definitely helps, but ultimately a lot of it comes down to just being lucky enough to have had your DSLR capture that particular frame that looks the best, the coolest, the most dynamic.
By default most DSLR will be set to take only a single shot no matter how long one holds the shutter down for. For me, I always leave my Nikon in its faster FPS setting. In the menus this is usually called the Drive Mode and its symbol looks like a stack of cards (see photo above). Many DSLRs will have a button for changing this setting on the camera body. My thinking for leaving it set to the fastest is you never know when something cool will happen and I much rather have 6 chances in a second of capturing it than one. Of course I do not always hold the shutter down and take 6 FPS. I have trained my finger to only actuate one shot each time I press the shutter if I only want to make one shot. I have seen though that many newer model DSLRs have a very sensitive shutter button making this very hard to do. Maybe those will eventually wear in and not be so sensitive.
If you find you are taking too many shots at once due to a sensitive shutter or other reasons, there is usually a second, less fast FPS setting you can use, without having to go to just a single shot setting. When photographing the St. Anthony's Triathlon that was the drive mode I was recommended to use in order not to end up with too many shots of each triathlete.
In the above dog photos these were made withing a split second of each other. If I was trying to specifically get an ears up or ears down shot, I would never rely on having perfect timing to do it with one shot! For sure I would use the fastest burst mode available. This is definitely a case where you lock onto your subject and just hold the shutter down and hope the final frozen action of the subject looks good. You use your skills to set exposure and focus, and to position yourself well relative the moving subject. This minimizes how much you need to be lucky to capture good action shots. Get your settings right, put yourself in good position, then hold the shutter down and hope you got just the right moment! The faster your FPS, the better your chances.
Photograph opportunities often are not available for an infinite amount of time. In fact, most are very, very finite and there are many times you have just one shot at making a photograph. How can you insure you will always give yourself the best chance at making a great photograph even if you have just one shot at it? By being able to change the settings on your DSLR very quickly.
It depends on your particular DSLR and what dedicated buttons you have available. No matter what DSLR you have, even if you have an entry level one, you should be able to change all five necessary settings for making a well exposed and sharp shot in ten seconds or less. If you have a fully functional DSLR, i.e. two dials for changing settings, a top LCD display and dedicated buttons for all five things, then your goal should be five seconds or less. Very rarely are all five things needed to be changed, but you should practice changing all five at home so that when you are out shooting you will be prepared.
Of course you have to know within fractions of seconds what to change your aperture to, or your shutter speed to, etc. That knowledge combined with knowing your DSLR camera body with your eyes closed (seriously, if you have dedicated buttons you should be able to operate them eyes closed) results in giving yourself the best chance every time a sudden photograph opportunity comes up.
I offer 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons that can help you learn both how to use your camera quickly and what to change the necessary settings to. Reserve a lesson today!
The histogram is a very useful way of checking and confirming exposure, especially out in the field. It may just look like a bunch of strange squigly lines or a series of jagged mountains, but the histogram tells you exactly what your photograph really looks like in terms of exposure and color. Since it is often hard to see the camera's review screen in direct sunlight to judge exposure, the histogram for a photographer is like a pilot flying an airplane by using only instruments. You do not even need to see the photograph to tell if it is a dark image, a bright one, or even a very colorful one. Essentially, the histogram looks like a rectangular box representing 256 shades of gray or individual colors, or all of them (see the histograms above showing grayscale and RGB color as Aperture 3 represents the histogram). Black is on the left edge and white is on the right edge. The more data to the left, means the darker an image is, and potentially underexposed. The more date to the right means a brighter image, and possibly an overexposed ones.
It is usually best to try and get as much of the data in the center forming a nice mountain, with no spikes at either the far left or far right edges. In the samples above, the left histogram has most of its data on the right side, indicating the photo is a bright exposure, as can be confirmed by looking at the photo itself. The histogram on the right is much more balanced and a more even exposure, as seen in the photo showing a bluer sky and better whites in the pelicans' heads.
The above image of Smacks Bayou (as seen from just off my back patio) has a histogram that is about as ideal as it can get. The majority of the data for grayscale and RGB color is in the middle-center and there is a lot of range in those colors. The taller the peaks, the more of that particular color or shade of gray. There are also no spikes at either far edge of the histogram.
One very useful feature that is often not on by default in DSLR cameras, is the view highlights mode. Enabling this mode allows you to see which areas of a photograph have blown out highlights. The areas will flash giving a clear signal that part of the photograph is overexposed and that you may want to adjust exposure to bring back detail in those highlights.
As usual, Nikon does highlights mode much better than Canon. No matter what review mode you look at on a Canon DSLR, the highlights will always be flashing. This gets annoying when you just want to see the composition of the shot and you may have intentionally overexposed some areas. On Nikon highlights have their very own review view.
In the image above the large black areas in the sky indicate the portions of the photograph that are overexposed, or blown out. Those black areas will flash on and off clearing letting you know, "hey, the sky is totally blown out, did you really intend to do that?"
I have been in contact with Gina for the past few days helping her with everything from which DSLR to purchase to which lenses to get for it as she has a very strong need to add to her photography knowledge as quickly as possible. She has already been shooting for awhile, getting a few high profile jobs even. The Canon 5D Mark II was new to her and brand new store bought yesterday so we began the lesson from the very beginning, set the time and date and putting the neck strap on.
During our 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson Gina wanted me to go through every menu setting and every button on the camera leaving no stone unturned. This gave me my most indepth look yet at how a Canon DSLR works as I shoot Nikon. I have already had hands on with every Canon model made in the past five years, but before now not setting one up totally from scratch. I remain convinced the ergonomics of shooting with a Nikon of similar level are far, far better.
We finished the lesson with a review of the correct terms for referring to shutter speed, how to identify and describe a lens, among other terms.
I hope Gina's upcoming shoot goes well and I look forward to seeing the images.