Thursday, July 5, 2012

Camera settings and seeking light

The number one question I get on this blog is, "What settings on your camera do you use/ what lens do you use?" So this post is all about that and I've used random photos from the last few days, and a few more vacation photos.  My camera is a Canon Rebel XS.  It's about four years old now and I love it to pieces.  I use a cheepie ($99) 50mm lens most of the time, but am forced to use a zoom lens every so often and use the kit lens that came with the camera which is an 18-55mm lens. (Someday I will save enough pennies for the lens that zooms AND shoots at F1.8.  Someday... but until then, it's mostly my 50 and I...)  As you check out the photos below, you will see that I almost always prefer to shoot with my aperture wide open (low numbers like 2.0-3.0) because I like a soft and blurred background.  It's your art, so you can do it however you want to, this is just my preference and my only exception is when I'm shooting a bunch of people or a big scene that I want all in sharper focus.

I also almost always shoot in manual.  I feel like as long as I am learning, I need to force myself to shoot in manual until I've got it backwards and forwards.  (Which means I'll probably shoot in manual for the rest of my life. Ha!)   The photos below are straight out of my camera with the only edits being resizing for my blog, and putting on my watermark which are typically the only edits I ever do for blog photos. 
Night.  50mm/ ISO 100/ F2.8/ shutter "BULB"
This is a fun trick my brother, Officer McJakey, showed me.  In manual setting, lower your ISO, and then lower your shutter speed until it says "BULB"  then hold your camera really steady by use of a tripod or other surface (I was balancing it on my knees here) and shoot your neighbor's fireworks.  The longer you hold down the shutter button to take the photo, the more light/movement it will capture.  In fact, we spent an evening making ghost pictures with flashlights and faces, and drawing stars and messages in the dark one night while on vacation together.  It was hysterical.

Mid day, full sun outside. 50mm ISO 400/ F2.8/ shutter 1/100
These next two are to show the subtle lighting differences by adjusting only your ISO.  
50mm ISO 200/ F2.8/ shutter 1/100

50mm ISO 400 / F2.8/ shutter 1/60
Wherever I go with my camera, I generally try and position myself so that any scraps of natural light I can get, are filtering down onto my image somehow.  That's not always possible in a house, but if an image can be taken with natural light, I move it there. Or rotate myself to capture it that way.  I think about it wherever I go- even if we are sitting down in a restaurant or something. The windows were behind me on either side for this shot.
Afternoon, partial sun/clouds outside. 50 mm ISO 400/ F2.8/ shutter 1/60
It is a household rule that any person assisting the baker gets to lick the beaters. 
50 mm ISO 400/ F2.8/ shutter 1/60
These two baking shots aren't in great light but since I'm not entering any photography competitions or anything, they work for me.  Daylight in my kitchen.  But I'm sure you can see the difference between the shots with natural light compared to these.
Mid day, full sun.  Blech. :) 50 mm/ ISO 100/ F2.8/ shutter 1/250

Full sun, mid day, under partial shade.  Kit lens/ ISO 400/ F5.0/ shutter 1/100
Late afternoon, shade.  50mm/ ISO 100/ F2.8/ shutter 1/160

Early evening, cloud cover. Kit lens/ ISO800/ F5.0/ shutter 1/60
Evening with sun beginning to set on cathedral.  Kit lens/ ISO 400/ F.4.0/ shutter 1/60
Late afternoon, full sun, under open shade.  50mm/ ISO 200/ F2.8/ shutter 1/160
 And that's it! When I was starting to learn manual, having someone share their settings was always really helpful to me, so I hope these help some of you as you learn your way around your cameras.  I'm by no means anything close to an expert, but I don't think I love any hobby more than taking pictures. 


  1. I love your photos, particularly the ones with the subject in focus and the background all blurred. I have so got to start saving for a DSLR. Oh, hope your daughter is all better now.

  2. You don't know how much I appreciate this!! I just got a new camera a couple of days ago and I have been searching your blog looking for any tips on photography. You have such beautiful photos. I am still not sure about the F/2.8 etc. I can't seem to change this on my camera. I have now tried the manual mode and enjoy it! So much to learn! I got the EOS Rebel T3. Thanks for all the tips! I will keep learning.

  3. you must have darn steady hands lady! rule of thumb is generally never shoot at less than 1/100 shutter speed without a tripod. i get major blur if i dip below that!

    1. I guess I do? I have that stabilizer thing on my lens so maybe that's it? I use the 1/60 almost as rule! My photographer friend told me she never dips below 1/50 hand-held without a tripod.

  4. Love love love your talent with a camera! You take the most beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing . Have you ever considered one on one photo sessions to teach your skills? I would sign up in a heartbeat!

  5. Wonderful advice!! Just wondering, though. Specifically which lens that "zooms AND shoots at F1.8" would you want to buy for yourself?

  6. Thank you for sharing. I always enjoy your pictures. I have a Canon Rebel XSI. I'm hoping to get a 50mm lens before my little one arrives in August.

  7. So this a totally random comment as it has nothing to do with cameras....But i found your blog a few days ago and I Cant. Stop. Reading. I love it . We have very similar stories regarding our sons, my son is 6 and has a lot of the same medical journey, sensory issues, pragmatic issues, adhd, aspergers, i have heard all those terms.....and have experienced many of the same questions and feeling you have expressed on this blog ( i have been reading it like a book:) . I am so thankful i found this blog and i appreciate your honesty and your wonderful recipes!! Looking forward to becoming a LMM groupie!

    1. Oh girl, I am SO glad you commented and introduced yourself. Thank you for popping in!! It's so nice to know you're not alone with the junk in life, isn't it? :)

  8. Thanks for sharing this info! I just got a dslr and this has helped me so much! You're awesome, girlie! And so are your photos, seriously, my favorite of anywhere! Does that make sense? ;)

  9. thanks for sharing, i have been wanting a zoom lens with a low aperture setting but they are super pricey...talking in the 1,000 dollars range..ouch! so i may consider buying a 50 mm for now until i save up for the zoom lens...the kit lens isn't that great but will have to do for now.