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12 Steps to Understanding Your Digital SLR

From wikiHow, a 12-step program for getting to know your brand new digital SLR camera:

When they were first introduced, digital SLR cameras were enormously expensive and a tool for professionals only. Since then, they have come down in price into the consumer price range. Because of this, many people buy digital SLRs without understanding how they work — and, consequently, not making the most of them. This article will guide you through the most common functions they have, and to show you how to learn to use one by experiment. The principles herein are the same for any camera; but you will probably not be able to set your shutter and aperture manually on most non-SLR cameras. Read on nonetheless.

How to Understand Your Digital SLR: 12 steps (with video) – wikiHow

Advice to young photographers from Magnum photographers

Alec Soth asks 35 of his fellow Magnum photographers two simple questions:

  • When did you first get excited about photography?
  • What advice would you give young photographers?

One of my favorites:

“Forget about the profession of being a photographer… Make the pictures you feel compelled to make and perhaps that will lead to a career. But if you try to make the career first, you will just make shitty pictures that you don’t care about.” — Christopher Anderson

Click to read all of their answers: Magnum Blog / Wear Good Shoes: Advice to young photographers

Basic Travel Photography

I’ve just returned from a little jaunt to Portugal and I have to say there is little else that gets me as eager to get my camera out as wandering around a city I’ve never seen before. And of course, in the age of the compact digital camera pretty much everyone takes a camera with them when they travel these days. But how do you come back with photographs your friends and family won’t have to feign interest in? Here’s a few basic tips:

1) Be selective. It’s tempting when you’re surrounded by new things, impressive architecture, beautiful landscapes, and photogenic locals to go nuts and photograph everything ten times over. Especially when you’re using a digital camera and can tell yourself you’ll delete half of the photos later. While there’s nothing wrong with taking lots of photos make sure you scale it down a bit (i.e. do the deleting part) before you showcase your holiday snaps. Even Great Aunt Maude is going to struggle to feign interest in 200 photos of a church, however architecturally brilliant it is.

2) Try a little originality. If you’re photographing an iconic site see if you can come up with a more original way to photograph it. A different angle, in different light, or different weather. Whatever you can think of to make it look less like you just photographed a postcard. Adding people to the shot, whether tourists or locals, can also make it more interesting. That way the iconic feature is the background to something less commonly photographed.

3) Wander away from the major tourist attractions. Two of my favourite shots from Portugal are these:

both of which were taken in “off the tourist map” areas of Porto. Not only will you get more interesting photographs but you’ll get to see more of the real culture of the area too.

4) Plan before you leave. If you want photography to be a central part of your travels think about the equipment you’re taking before you leave. For the Portugal trip photography wasn’t my main aim but I knew I would want to come back with a few good shots so I opted for my digital SLR over my compact camera. But since we would be moving around a lot and the airline I was flying with had tight luggage restrictions I chose to leave the tripod and extra lenses at home. Think about your destination and the type of photos you might want to get. For example if you’re heading to Paris and thinking you’d like to get lots of night shots of the city then don’t abandon the tripod. But if you’re backpacking and mostly going to be taking shots during the day you’ll probably want to save yourself the extra weight.

5) Get some aerial shots. If you’re flying to you destination this is your chance to do some aerial photography. It can be tricky to get good shots from a commercial airplane but it is certainly possible. It’s easiest if you have a seat forward of the wing so that vapours from the aircraft’s engines don’t appear in your shot. Wipe the window off first to get rid of all the grimy fingerprints, and put the camera near the centre of the window to avoid the effect of the curved perspex. On longer flights the flight crew will often make announcements when something of interest is visible from the plane but it’s worth keeping an eye out yourself too. Take off and landing are great chances for photography but be aware that some airlines may ask you to turn off your digital camera during these times. These were both taken on commercial flights:
mountains and light The Wide Open Blue

6) Don’t be afraid to photograph local people or fellow tourists. But if you can ask permission first. If you ask politely you’ll find that most people will say yes. It’s worth learning to ask this question in the local language but often holding up your camera and smiling will get your intention across just as easily. If someone does say no respect their answer and don’t photograph them. In some places, especially poorer communities, you may be asked to give money in exchange for taking a photograph. And people will often ask you to send them a copy of the photograph. If you agree to do this, make sure you actually do! Don’t automatically try to exclude other travellers from your photographs, often the interaction between tourists and locals can make a great shot.

7) Photograph your travel companions! As much as your family and friends back home will enjoy your photographs of the local landscape, culture, and wildlife they will probably be most interested in photos of you and your travel companions enjoying your trip. This is especially true if you’re traveling with children and showing the resulting photos to the grandparents or other extended family. To get some nice photos to show off put as much effort into the family shots as you put into the rest of your photographs. If you’re taking a posed photograph look for the best background, arrange the people into a good pose, and consider using a relatively low DOF so the subjects stand out from their background. Remember though that you are on holiday and your kids probably won’t appreciate too much of this kind of activity! Get unposed shots of your travel companions as well, think about the composition for these too but they may need to be a little more hurried so you don’t miss he moment.

8) Don’t forget insurance. Before you set off make sure your travel insurance will cover your camera equipment should it get lost, damaged, or stolen. Many travel insurance policies only cover single items worth up to £100 or £200 so if you’re traveling with your digital SLR and extra lenses you may need a separate policy for them to be covered. If you’re a UK resident E & L offer specific photographic equipment insurance that’s cheap and provides good worldwide cover.

If you have any tips of your own, let us know in the comments section.

Photographing Children

the culprit If you get it right photographing your children can produce pictures you’ll want to treasure for years to come, whether it’s snaps of their tenth birthday displayed in a professional coffee table book or the embarrassing shot of Timmy wearing his underpants on his head that you choose to keep lovingly displayed where all your visitors can see it. But it can be a frustrating process, children are rarely still for any length of time and as they get older often get either camera-shy or obsessed with making that face that involves rolling their eyes back into their head and sticking out their tongue.

If you’ve got little ones you want to photograph here are a few tips to help you avoid those blurry, monster-face shots being the only thing in your memory book.

1. Make it fun. This is the golden rule of photographing little ones. If you want to have photographs of your children having fun, smiling, looking happy and adorable then you will need to let them have fun while you’re photographing them. Standing still for ages while you tell them how to pose is unlikely to appeal to them as fun. If you want posed shots make a game out of it, encourage your little one to dress up in different outfits and play model, let them make up some poses of their own too. If you don’t want posed shots let them engage in their favourite activity while you photograph them. Make it easier for you to get good shots by setting up the activity outside in good light if possible. For example if your child is an avid finger painter set them up with their paint and paper outside on a sunny morning or evening (when the light is generally better for photography than the middle of the day).

2. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, especially several of them, you may have difficulty keeping them in one place. One option is to put them in a small space, for example a laundry basket:

It sounds ridiculous but the kids will view it as a game and you’ll have them one spot for 5 minutes!

3. Get down to their level. If you photograph from your height chances are most of your shots will show not much more than the top of their heads and make them look really short. Get down on their level and photograph them there. Having said that, there is of course an exception to the rule. If you’re photographing a small child standing directly above them and having them look up at you it can make a nice composition. Just make sure the eyes are in focus.

phands pdandelion

4. Take lots and lots of shots. Often what you think will be an outtake will be an instant favourite and what you think will be the best shot of the day will end up being deleted. If you have a digital camera there’s no reason not to take a lot of photographs and have plenty to choose from, just make sure you do go through and delete some or your hard drive will soon be overflowing! And remember to be patient, the photo you’re really hoping to get may be the 150th photo of the day not the first.

5. Focus on the details. Of course you’re going to want whole body shots and close up face portraits of your child but as your little one grows to be not so little you may find that you appreciate shots of those little fingers and toes, eyes and ears. Get up close and personal and photograph the details of your little one.

swingin' shoes and shadows Peeling Paint

6. For the camera shy child choose a location they are comfortable and familiar with so they won’t be upset by their surroundings as well as the camera. Let them get into an activity before you start photographing and don’t get too close. If you have a child who seems to be permanently camera-shy you may want to invest in a zoom lens so you can photograph them from a bit of a distance. Try and stay away from instructing camera-shy youngsters to “look at the camera!” or “smile!” Similarly if your child always pulls silly faces for the camera play down the cameras presence and try to photograph them when they’re engaged in something else or from a slight distance.

7. When your subject is racing around wildly try putting your camera in sports or action mode, if you’re using the automatic settings. If you’re going manual turn on continuous shooting, choose a reasonably high ISO and a fast shutter speed. Make sure your batteries are charged, there’s plenty of space on your memory card and you have the lens you want on the camera. You’ll miss the action if you have to mess around changing batteries, memory cards, and lenses.

8. As your little one turns into a not so little one don’t stop photographing! As your baby turns into a teenager they may be less enthusiastic about having their photo taken but chances are you’ll both want some memories of this period of their life in ten years time. They’re also now at an age where they can have fun modeling for you. Let them choose the location and spend an hour together taking some photos, encourage them to bring along some of their close friends – in a few years time they’ll be trying to remember who their best friend was when they were 12.

Jump, Baby, Jump

9. Don’t forget the everyday. Photograph in the places you visit everyday, record the moments that make up the routine of your day-to-day life. Think about the composition a little bit and you’ll probably find that photographing the everyday from the right angle makes an artistic picture, and they’ll be some of your favourite photos years from now when you’ve forgotten what life was like when Timmy was only two.

riding through the neighbourhood bookworm hotchocolate

10. Look for inspiration. Look on Flickr, look at photos of your friends kids, look through photography books at the local library. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a photo someone else has taken of a child and trying that pose/location/idea with your own child. Just don’t take the credit for the idea yourself!

And if you have any tips for getting good photographs of children please share with the rest of us in the comments.

Big and Tasty Food Photography Tips Roundup

I’ve got a nice roundup here of food photography sources with a ton of great tips, tutorials, and videos for making food look tasty on camera. How seriously you take this probably depends to some extent on whether you’ve ever heard the term “food stylist.”

Last week felt like food photography week with several blogs posting about it. It was interesting timing for me because I’ve coincidentally been shooting a lot of food for the past couple of weeks. I don’t have much to add tip-wise except this: it is more challenging than it looks.

If you’ve got food photo tips, please share them in the comments!

Photo credit, above right: Mr. G (cc-by)

Tips, Tutorials, & Inspiration

The Ten Tastiest Food Photography Tips, Photojojo.com

Tips from Pixar’s Sharon Calahan, the director of photography for Ratatouille, Becks & Posh

An Insider’s Look At Food Photography: “If You Can Shoot Food, You Can Shoot Anything!”, Shutterbug.com

Mouth-Watering Food Porn, Cameraporn.net

The Dirty Tricks of Food Photographers, Photocritic.org

Food Photography—An Introduction, Digital-photography-school.com

Tasteful Food Photography, O’Reilly

Food Photography Tips, 101 Cookbooks

Food Photography Flickr Group, Flickr.com


Still Life With — The definitive food photography blog. Full of useful information, beautiful photos, and an active group of readers. Written by Lara Ferroni (Flickr), freelance food and lifestyle photographer. That’s one of her delicious looking photos to the right.

Digital Food Photos — Written by Lou Manna, a commercial food photographer and author of Digital Food Photography (Amazon).

Food Designs — Brought yo you by Lisa Golden Schroeder, a veteran food stylist and writer with 25 years experience in the food business.

Nikas Culinaria — written by Nika Boyce, food and scientific photographer.


A lovely bit of slideshow inspiration from Matthew Noel.

The Art of Food Photography. “The business of food photography is really a business where it’s a collaboration with many people.”

Behind the scenes at Cottage Living magazine. “Robin our Food Stylist brings all the food and she and Kim and I and her assistant prep all the food and get it ready. So, it’s really a joint effort. Everyone works really hard to get this one perfect picture.”

The Food Photographer. A more amusing take on food photography. “That’s why, when I’m shooting food, I scream at it.”


Buying these books from Amazon.com helps support Photodoto.

Digital Food Photography
Capturing the perfect image requires a trained eye, finesse, and photographic skill. Digital Food Photography gives you the ingredients to cook up your own recipe for success-with professional lighting techniques, composition, food and prop styling, retouching, and tricks of the trade. You’ll learn how digital photography combines teamwork, creativity, and technology, and how to make money creating delectable works of photographic art.

Food Styling for Photographers
You eat with your eyes first, and no one turns a photograph of food into a culinary masterpiece like a food stylist. Food Styling for Photographers is the next best thing to having renowned food stylist Linda Bellingham by your side. Linda has worked with clients Baskin Robbins Ice Cream, McDonalds, Tyson Foods, FritoLay, and many, many more. Jean Ann provides a seasoned photographers point of view with helpful tips throughout.

Working the Plate: The Art of Food Presentation
Acclaimed food writer and culinary producer Christopher Styler describes seven distinctive plating styles, from Minimalist to Naturalist to Dramatic, with several striking examples of every genre. Each plating suggestion is accompanied by clear instructions along with color photos of step-by-step techniques and finished plates. Complete with essays on plating from ten leading chefs and recipes for the dishes featured, this book is a work of art in itself–a must for the kitchen shelf.

Food Play
Now, for the first time, Food Play compiles more than 300 of the very best images from a decade of astonishingly imaginative publishing. This compact collection will surprise and delight both fans of the series, and newcomers to the enchanting world of Food Play.

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