Photography Guide: A Cheat Sheet

 

No matter how happy someone is with their photography, I feel like everyone is always looking for ways they can improve (or at least I always am). When I first started The Sunday Mode I luckily already had a really nice Canon DSLR from back in my university days, but did I know how to properly use it? Nope. Manual settings? Oh I had no bloody clue what I was doing.
Since then I like to think that I’ve come a long way with my blog photography (see my first ever blog photos here and have a laugh) so I thought I’d share some basic DSLR knowledge I’ve learnt over time and my best tips for improving your photography and understanding your camera:

 


LIGHTING- the basics.
 
Are your photos too dark or light? Juggle your Aperture and/or Shutter Speed.

Shutter Speed is how fast your camera takes the photo. It’s the length of time between you pressing down the button to take the photo and your camera actually taking the shot. If you have a low shutter speed number, you’re allowing more time before the shot is taken which lets more light in. So a low shutter speed number (i.e, 1/30) is often good for low light situations where you need to let more light in. Depending on how low you go, a very low shutter speed can require a tripod or a very steady hand to avoid getting a blurry image so be mindful of that.
A fast shutter speed on the other hand (1/1000) will take your shot quickly. It’s ideal for capturing things like sports games or pictures of animals because you’ll be wanting to take the shot quickly before your subject moves. You’re usually able to capture a crisper shot with a fast shutter speed as well because the shot is taken so quickly. So by this logic, a fast shutter speed isn’t usually ideal for low light situations.

Aperture, often referred to as ‘f-stop’ is easiest to grasp if you think about it backwards….
The lower your aperture number (i.e, f.2.5) the more light you’re letting in to your camera and the higher your aperture number (i.e, f.11) the less light you’re letting in (weird logic, I know).

So if your photos are too dark, try letting more light into your camera by lowering your aperture number and lowering your shutter speed.

 



 
 
 

Need more light in your photography space? Get a light reflector (find my favourite one here).

A light reflector makes me feel super fancy but it’s also the best purchase I’ve made for my blog photography to date. When the sun has gone down or if I just don’t have enough natural light to work with, I use a silver light reflector to ‘bounce’ whatever light is in the room into my camera’s frame and it’s extremely helpful.
 
 

Are your photos coming out grainy? Adjust your ISO.

ISO is how sensitive your camera is to the light, so raising your ISO number (i.e, ISO: 400) can be great for low light situations to bring more light into the shot. It’s a juggling game though because the higher you raise your ISO number, the more grainy your photos can look so you have to toggle around your ISO number until you find something you’re happy with.

 
 
 
 
 

DEPTH OF FIELD -explained. 
Want a blurry background? You’re looking for a narrow depth of field.

Depth of field is a term usually used to refer to what is or isn’t in focus in any given shot. So if you want your subject in focus and a blurry background that’s called a narrow or ‘shallow’ depth of field and if you want everything in focus then you would be aiming for a large or ‘wide’ depth of field.
To achieve a narrow depth of field (which tends to be super popular for product photography) you want to ideally have your subject as far away from your background as you possibly can and set your aperture as low as you possibly can (i.e, f.18). For a wide aperture you want to do the opposite and set a higher aperture number. Basically-

Smaller aperture number or ‘f-stop’ = narrow depth of field and blurry background. 
Larger aperture number or ‘f-stop’ = wide depth of field everything in focus.

 

EDITING- a cheat sheet.

 

Want your image to look more dynamic? Try adjusting the saturation, contrast and image exposure levels.

 

Although I’m learning how to use Photoshop, for now to edit my photos I literally just use the ‘Preview’ app that automatically opens when you double click on an image on an apple computer…

So on ‘Preview’ to edit my photo I go to: Tools -> Adjust Colour.
Everything you need will pop up and you can adjust all your image levels to your liking just by toggling the bars to the left or right. I have a little bit of a formula now for how I like to edit my photos but it’s all down to personal taste so literally just play around with your settings until you like what you see.

TIP: Before you start editing a photo, save a copy of the un-edited original file so that if you mess up when you’re editing and end up creating an over-saturated mess (like I used to do when I first started) then at least you can start from scratch again!



If you’d like a post talking more about what cameras I use and why or if you’d like any more details about anything for a future post, just let me know in the comments below!
 
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42 comments so far.

42 responses to “Photography Guide: A Cheat Sheet”

  1. Alexandra says:

    Really informative post, thanks for sharing. Really need spend more time learning how to use my camera. Also love reading camera/photography posts so would love to see more.

    http://thealexandraedit.com

  2. What an amazing post! Great tips and well written! I love it!
    Kisses,
    Ioanna | http://thecolourfulbouquet.com/

  3. Emma Fisken says:

    This is a really helpful post! I keep meaning to play about with my camera more and try to nail the best photo possible! x

    Emma Reverie de Paris

  4. S says:

    I use iPhoto to edit my pictures and I'm thinking of trying Photoshop again (I tried learning a while ago and it got too overwhelming!)

    I find that if you have a good shot to begin with, the editing becomes easier.

    http://www.elleisforlove.com

  5. Great tips and thanks for sharing. I have limited technical knowledge and just go by trial and error at the moment but the idea of light reflectors sounds great. Silly question but do you hold them at the same time you are taking the pic or just position them accordingly?

    franklyflawless.com

    • Not a silly question at all! When I can I'll prop the light reflector against something (literally anything, just whatever will hold it up!) but sometimes if I'm taking photos at an awkward angle or if I'm in the shots I'll get someone else to hold the light reflector 🙂

  6. Gabrielle says:

    These are all great tips – your photography always looks lovely, bright and clean. It really can be hilarious looking back over our old blog photos, right?! I haven't had the guts to in aaaages haha, I'd cringe too much!

    aglassofice.com
    x

  7. Elle Files says:

    Your photography is absolutely stunning and it's always nice to read about the process. I use Lightroom to edit my pictures and though it took me a while to learn, I'm so glad I persevered.

    Lavanya | Elle Files

  8. Ellie Love says:

    Lightroom and Photoshop are my secret weapons…!<3
    http://www.blogellive.com

  9. Julia Bluhm says:

    This is a super helpful guide! I've been teaching myself a lot more about photography over the past year but it's still interesting to hear other's thoughts on the basics and their advice. Definitely interested in trying a reflector, now! I often use a studio light when it's too dark for natural light (especially since there's little natural light in my dorm room) but I think this may be easier.
    Julia | Julia in Bluhm

    • I've never dabbled with studio lights for photography but I'd eventually like to so if you've got any recommendations for good studio lights let me know? I find a reflector to be pretty much all I need nowadays though so I'd really recommend you try one out 🙂

  10. Kim says:

    Love these tips! Usually, I will try to photograph in natural lighting because I have no idea what to do in dim lighting, but perhaps a light reflector will do the trick!

    Kim
    Simply Lovebirds

  11. Your photos look absolutely incredible! I really want to get a camera so I can start to improve my photos!
    Aleeha xXx
    http://www.halesaaw.co.uk/

  12. Phoebe says:

    This was a really helpful post, I'm going to be referring back to it often as so many of those features on cameras confuse me. Your photography skills have come a long way from your first post. I always think your shots look like they came straight out of a magazine now 🙂

    • Hearing that you'll be referring back to this post seriously makes me so happy Phoebe 🙂

      Thank you for your kind comments on my photography as well, I like to think I've come a long way from those first shots I took for my blog as well :p

  13. Such great post! Thank you so much for these tips!

    http://violettedaily.com

  14. Honey_R.L. says:

    Yeah, I take my photos with my phone and barely edit them haha however, these are great for somebody who actually has a camera and takes this very seriously 😀
    I'd love to take a photography course and have a proper real camera…

    xo Honey – blog Royal LifestyleTwitterInstagram

  15. Tiffany Legg says:

    A reflector makes so much difference. Great tips lovely! x

    Tiffany Tales | Lifestyle & Beauty

  16. SofiaaDot says:

    Some awesome tips here!!! It can get so confusing at times haha

    xx Sofia | SOFIAADOT

  17. John Agnew says:

    Thanks for the tips – I was a big "auto setting" user and then I started using manual and you are right – it's fiddly but once you get used to each setting and understand what they do it makes things a hell of a lot easier!

    John | Shout John

  18. Ashlynn C says:

    Awesome tips, and your photos are bloody stunning! There's always room to improve and grow, with anything really. Photography is something I love, but I'm always learning something new from others.

    Ashlynn | The Crimson Cardigan

  19. The Nerdy Me says:

    This is so helpful! I'm lost when it comes to photography. I'm definitely saving this for a future reference. THANK YOU! 🙂 x

    -Leta | The Nerdy Me

  20. Sam Hodgett says:

    Great tips! Have a look at lightroom instead photoshop, it's a much user friendlier way to organise and edit photos x Sam

    Sam Hodgett || Beauty, Food & Lifestyle

  21. Thank you for this post lovely – I'm about to purchase a new camera and have bookmarked this for future reference 🙂 So helpful!

    Hayley xo
    http://www.frockmeimfamous.com

  22. Heidi Alina says:

    This cheat sheet is so good! I wish that I had this when I learned these things. I'm sure that this will help so many peeps out there!

    Heidi ✨ | Heidi’s Planner

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