Learning To Use Your Equipment Properly

When it comes to photography equipment, it takes knowledge, a little bit of intuition and a lot of practice to reach a point where you can even consider the fact that “you know what you’re doing”. On that note, there is an old photographer’s anecdote:

Once upon a time, a photographer was invited to have dinner at the home of a nice couple. During dinner, the wife comments to the photographer “Your pictures are beautiful. You must have a great camera.” The photographer nods politely.

After finishing dinner, the photographer comments to the wife, “That was a fine meal. You must have some great pots!

The point is, the equipment will help a photographer that much. In the previous chapter we discussed about the importance of knowing your current limits, what you can and cannot do, and especially how much should you invest based on these limits. Ending up in the expensive tools area doesn’t guarantee you extraordinary photographs, and the more complex the system, the more difficult it becomes for you to find your way around the equipment. The truth is, any decent photographer knows that the way up is through incremental steps – starting low (but not that low) is essential since it builds character and quality not to mention skill.

Working With Lenses For Better Portrait Photography

So, how does this work with portrait photography? First of all, let’s consider current tools – by now, you might have acquired (or you’re planning to) a couple of prime lenses, a decent camera body and at least one Speedlight. If you haven’t, revisit our last chapter, and reconsider your shopping cart again. Second, let’s assume you went with one prime lens and one zoom lens in the beginning (even if you went for a different combination, the rules we’ll discuss here apply broad-spectrum).

You’ll need to understand a couple of technical notions – such as aperture and shutter speed, and how these work with the entire camera system in order to render certain results (but we’ll go over this a little later). Your fixed (or prime) lens probably goes as low as F1.8. There’s a lot you can do with low aperture settings (at the end of this chapter, you will find enclosed a couple of technical terms, so you won’t get bored in the middle of the story).

For example, you can use fast (low) apertures in order to get more light on your sensor. At dusk or dawn, when lighting is poor but warmer in terms of temperature, it might be wiser to go with faster apertures so you can still get still photos. This is recommended only if you don’t want to use a flash.

Low aperture can have a wonderful creative effect in portraits, separating the subject from the background. However, if you go too low, you will end up having little sharpness as well. Whereas with most fixed lenses you can go as low as 1.8 or even 1.4, it’s not recommended unless you have a precise reason for this.

The depth of field for this setting is very, very large, and the in-focus area very small. This means that you will have very little sharp area – which isn’t at all interesting if you want to have a whole face in focus, for example. But if you’re going for something as surreal as an iris in focus, or just a pair of lips, then you might actually benefit from the shallow DoF (depth-of-field).