Where to Begin?

Start with a good camera:

There are literally hundreds of decent digital cameras on the market.  Finding one at a price you can afford is not difficult.  Nikon, Canon, Olympus and Sony are some of your more popular brands, easily found at big chain stores, such as Walmart, Target, BestBuy, etc…  Look for a digital camera that will allow you to shoot in manual mode.  Also, make sure the camera has a decent megapixel rating.  This is not everything, but it helps.  Before buying one, check out online reviews.  Every reputable camera maker has a website with customer reviews per camera.

Adjust Your New Camera

At first, you will more than likely take pictures in Auto Mode.  Once you get used to the camera and how it functions, you will most definitely need to graduate to manual mode.  Turn that little dial to your right until it clicks into Manual Mode.  Now, you have complete control over the camera, kind of like driving a manual transmission car or truck.

You’re in the Driver’s Seat 

ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed will become your friends.  They may seem overwhelming at first, but trust me, they become second nature in no time.

  1. ISO numbers typically range from 100 to 3,200. On a bright, sunny day outdoors, you will want to be at either 100 or 200 ISO.  On a cloudy day, 400.  During the evening, 800 is best.  At night, you may need to ramp it up to 1,600 or even 3,200.  Just remember, ISO is similar to film speed, and it can add noise or grain to your images.  The lower the ISO, the crisper your pictures will appear.  The higher the ISO, the brighter they will appear, but more grain will show up.
  2. Aperture controls the amount of light and depth of field your images reveal.  Most cameras (depending on the lens) will have aperture numbers that start around 3.5 and range up to 22 or more.  The lower the number you select, the brighter your image will appear.  Using a low aperture, like 3.5 and zooming out fully while taking your picture, will often blur your background, which is a great way to provide a contrasting, 3-D affect when you are taking pictures of people.  This especially great during the holidays when a Christmas Tree stands behind a person.  The lights on the tree will blur and create a pleasing background effect.  When you increase your aperture, you limit the amount of light your camera sees.  You also allow for less blur to the background.  This is especially useful when taking pictures of large groups.
  3. Shutterspeed is the simplest and most often adjusted aspect for any photographer.  The lower or slower the shutter speed, the more light and information your camera will read.  Most cameras have shutter speeds anywhere seconds long to split-seconds long.  This is where you have control. If it’s dark outside, dropping your shutter speed from 200 to 100 can dramatically change your result.  A good rule of thumb is a shutter speed of at least 125 to capture people.  The slower the shutter, the more change of unintentional blur.  However, blur can sometimes be really cool on a picture.  For instance, using a slow shutter speed of 2 seconds while taking a picture of a passing car at night will show streaks of head and tail lights.

My best advice is to just play, experiment and have fun.  Remember, every professional photographer has been where you are now.  You will learn by adjusting settings on your camera, reading articles like this and viewing the work of others.  No fear, if all else fails, you can always change your camera mode back to auto until you are more comfortable.

So, what are you waiting for?  Grab a camera today and start wowing friends and family with your new skill!

Justin lives in Charleston, West Virginia with his family, where he runs his business Waybright Photography, helps local businesses with online marketing and writes grants for nonprofit organizations.

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