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Gaining Control of your DSLR

This is a presentation used to accompany my teaching on a photography short course entitled 'gaining control of your DLSR'. As featured in the Adobe Eductators' Choice Awards 2013.

Tim Savage

on 24 April 2017

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Transcript of Gaining Control of your DSLR

Gaining Control of your DSLR
Aim of the course
(What we are going to learn):

1. To gain control of the Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR).
Course Objectives
(How we will achieve the aim of the course):
3. Understand the key functions, settings and menus of your own camera (navigating menus, setting resolution, changing modes, deleting unwanted pictures and controlling white balance);
4. Turn off Automatic mode: Understand concepts of shutter speed and aperture in relation to the photographic exposure;
5. Control depth of field, focus and rendering of movement;
6. Transfer files from the camera to a PC and use a sustainable folder naming convention;
7. Understand the difference between JPEG and RAW, and process a RAW file;
8. Consider variables in subject matter and own context (lighting position, focal length and composing a shot);
Learning Outcomes
(by the end of the course you will be able to):
Describe the camera functions of 'exposure modes' in relation to a given scene and personal viewpoint;
Demonstrate metering knowledge and apply related aperture and shutter speed values;
Set, control and compare the effects of different ratios of fill flash upon a subject;
Experiment and interpret the consequences of using different lenses to distort perspective and depth compression.;
Let's start with pictures...
Why use a
What is a '
Single Lens Reflex
Cables and cards
Read your camera manual
What type of card do you have?
What is the capacity of your card?
How 'fast' is your memory card?
USB (Universal Serial Bus) - Digital transfer
Composite (Red, Yellow, White) - Analogue video
HDMI (High Definition TV) - Digital TV
Why use a DSLR in preference to a compact or bridge camera?
The Principle of 'Exposure'
To create a photograph the camera must allow light to enter via the lens. There are two variables that control how much light is permitted: Aperture and Shutter Speed. In Automatic Mode, the camera controls both of these settings.
Take the shot:
Look throught the viewfinder, compose the photograph, press the shutter half way to focus, fully depress the shutter....
Congratulations, you took a photograph.
Your camera will display the captured image on the LCD screen. What happened? What decisions has the camera made without your input?
First steps beyond Auto mode: Using 'P'
P = Programmable Auto
P mode gives you control of two settings that aren't available in Auto, these are:
Exposure Compensation
You can control the flash using Program mode:
Force Fire
Anti Red eye
Force Fire (P)
Auto mode
Exposure compensation allows you to over or under expose the image (useful for bright or dark subjects)
This is why snowscapes look grey rather than white.
We need to keep our whites white!
Exp comp set to +2 stops (to overexpose)
Exp comp set to -2 stops (to underexpose)
1st variable of 'Exposure':
The Human eye
The Camera's eye
2nd variable of 'Exposure':
Shutter Speed
Units of time, measured in fractions of seconds. The longer the shutter speed the more light enters the camera.
We already know how to take a photograph in Auto mode, review it, access the meta data and delete the file if it's not required. That's easy....

We have learnt that in P mode we can force fire the flash, supress flash and enable the red eye function. Additionally, we are are able to compensate for subjects that are too dark or too light using exposure compensation (letting more, or less light in to the camera).

The next step is to influence the way that the camera allows light to enter to create the exposure.

We know that exposure is controlled via a combination of Aperture and Shutter Speed. We also know that these settings influence depth of field and rendering of movement. A simple way to modify these settings is via '
Scene Modes

Scene Modes
have their own icon:
We are now beyond the capability of 90% of DSLR users!

We know how to use Auto, P mode with some basic flash control. We can use Exposure Compensation to control the
of light that enters the camera and now the Scene modes let us influence
the light is permitted (aperture or shutter speed).
To manually set the shutter speed we need to use the 'S' mode (Shutter Priority).
Slow Shutter speeds
Fast Shutter speeds
Why this matters...
What looks good on screen might not look great when printed. Your monitor displays pixels at around 72 dpi (dots per inch). An inkjet printer will print photographs at around 300dpi .
Camera Resolution:
Mega pixels
ISO settings:
So far, we've been concerned with how to get the correct amount of light (X) into the camera by modifying the exposure values. ISO determines the value of X.

This is the digital equivalent of 'film speed'.
However, you can't put different films into a digital camera. So, when you select a high ISO the camera 'amplifies' the electrical signals that represent light. The process of amplification introduces visual noise and distortion.
Consider how over amplified music sounds. Artifacts and distortion are introduced and the quality reduces. It's the same principle for a high ISO digital photograph (Anything above 400 is considered high).
A high ISO means you can shoot in low light.
Quality settings
File types
The Megapixel value refers to the number of pixels captured by a camera in a single frame. One Megapixel = One million pixels
A 12 Megapixel camera records 12 Million pixels in a single photograph. The pixels are distributed 4000 x 3000:
4000 pixels
3000 pixels
When shooting JPEG the Quality menu defines how much compression is applied to your photographs. Too much compression introduces digital noise and artifacts.
The DSLR is likely to offer the option of shooting in JPEG mode, RAW or a combination of the two. JPEG is the least complex and most accessible format for now. However, JPEG is a lossy format. This means that your file will be proccessed and compressed by the camera.
Shoot with the minimum of compression. You can compress a file later if you need a smaller file size. Avoid settings marked 'low', or icons that look like this: .
With 4000 'dots' on the horizonal length, a 12 megapixel image will print at a maximum of 13 inches wide by 10 inches high at 300 dots per inch.

More mega pixels = more detail captured by the camera = more cropping potential = larger prints.

High quality settings = less compression, less noise and better 'quality'.
Introducing the Histogram
The Histogram may appear intimidating at first glance but its a simple bar graph showing the distribution of tone within a photograph. Brightness is measured from 0 (black) to 255 (white).
Metering modes:
Sometimes, a scene demands careful light metering. Your camera works out an exposure based on the brightness in the composition. However, sometimes this can give undesirable results.
Advanced use of the flash
White balance
Automatic: The camera sets the white balance
An overview...
A Raw file is the uninterpretted data that is recorded by the cameras light sensitive chip. It does not have the convenience of a JPEG and it won’t open on your computer unless you have the right software. Each camera manufacturer uses their own raw format (Nikon uses NEF, Canon use CRW). If this seems confusing then don't worry... keep shooting JPEG, you’ll still get great results.
Contact me

You've gained contol of your
Website: www.timsavage.co.uk

Email: Tim@timsavage.co.uk

Follow me on Twitter @timsavagephoto

Facebook: Tim Savage photography

LinkedIn: Tim Savage
Tim Savage
Full control - Fully manual
In fully manual you can set the aperture and shutter speed independently of each other. The camera has a meter that indicates over and under exposure
How is the digital file constructed?
Mid tone
A bright subject features data at
right hand edge (highlights).
A dark subject features data at
left hand edge (shadows).
So a black cat in snow would feature shadow and hightlight but no mid tone.
Why this matters...
The histogram shows brightness of the file.
But it can also describe the colour.


Typically printers use a combination of four inks: Cyan, Magenta and Yellow and Black. A printer has a CMYK 'colour space'.
Your computer monitor also uses RGB colour space.
Shade: Camera adds warm tones.
Cloudy: Camera adds warm tones.
Fluorescent: Camera adds warm red tones.
Tungsten: Camera adds cool tones.
Daylight: Camera adds warm tones.
Flash: Camera adds warm tones.
Custom: The photographer sets their own white balance value.
Standard metering places equal weight on the entire viewfinder, by choosing Centre weighted, Spot, Partial or Matrix you can choose the area of the scene that the camera prioritises.
In Automatic mode the camera controls how the flash behaves. In program mode we learnt that we could have some control (using the icons below):
Flash Power
Before the camera fires the flash it does some calculations... It measures out how bright the ambient light levels are, then it works out how far away the subject is. On the basis of these factors the camera will set the flash power to match the available light (at the distance that the camera has focussed upon).
This means that the light falling on the subject from the flash is equal to the available light. So, lighting is one part flash to one part ambient light (1:1). This works well but sometimes the flash can be too dominant. There are times when you want to use subtle flash. This is called Fill Flash. One part flash light to two parts ambient is expressed as (1:2).
To adjust the flash power, adjust your
Flash Exposure Compensation
Advanced modes of flash
The flash fires at the end of the exposure (if the subject is moving you get a ghostly trail behind the subject).
The flash fires pre-flash strobes (or activates up the AF illuminator) intended to reduce the pupil size of the subject.
Slow sync flash mode tells the camera (when set to P) to use a slow shutter speed to allow ambient light to mix with the flash light to create a balanced exposure (similar to the night portrait scene mode).
This is a combination of the benefits of the red eye reduction with long shutter speeds
White balance; Exposure;
Black/white points; Highlight Recovery; Contrast;
Colour space; Chromatic Aberration; Compression ...and more.....
White balance; Exposure;
Black/white points; Highlight Recovery; Contrast;
Colour space; Chromatic Aberration; Compression ...and more.....
Decisions are made by the camera. The resulting file is saved to a compressed JPEG.
Decisons are made by you. Applied 'non-destructively' and uncompressed.
How could these be improved?
Why are these images more successful?
Time for Raw...
External Flash guns
Choice of cameras
Accessories that come with a DSLR
Starting simple,
Auto mode
Why bother with RAW? Does the processing really make a difference?.
Focal length and lenses are important.
Zooming in doesn't just make the subject appear larger in the viewfinder.
Zoom settings:
change the 'Angle of view' (which alters perspective). Compare these three portraits shot with 200mm, 18mm and 10.5mm lenses. Notice what happens when the photographer moves closer to the subject rather than use the lens zoom.
Bad pictures...
Next steps:
Scene modes are useful when in a hurry, but they are limited. For example, sports mode tells the camera to use a fast shutter speed, but how fast is 'fast'?

250th of a second is quick, but it's not fast enough to freeze everything...
Night mode works well at dusk too
If colour accuracy and consistency is vital use a preset or custom value
No flash
1:1 ratio
1:2 ratio (Subtle fill flash).
Raw - Good and Bad
A good analagy is to compare the JPEG and RAW workflows:

Non destructive (adjustments aren't on pixels)
Uncompressed files (large files)
Precise control of exposure details
White balance settings applied in post
Recovery of highlights and shadows
Selective sharpening
Setting black point
Mutiple versions of a file don't take up disc space

No proprietry format (though DNG emerging)
Takes up space on your memory card
Another stage in post production
Raw files take time to process
Requires more powerful computer
New software package to learn
Large files that won't open without software
Raw Processing
Adobe Lightroom
Apple Aperture
2. Gain familiarity with the camera body, lenses, cables and memory types;
1. Develop a critical approach to photographic aesthetic and apply to own work;
Advantages include:

Bounce flash
Greater power
More control
Strobe control
Use of multiple guns
Andreas Gursky
Joe Cornish
Nick Knight
Stefan Ounterthiner
Mark Pain
Mark Pain
Tim Savage
Tim Savage
Pablo Picasso
Micheal Zhang
Micheal Zhang
Why use manual?
Mark Pain
How were these done?
Tim Savage
World Press Photography Award 2012: Mike Hutchings
Source: Lynda.com
Jens Hackmann
Thomas P Peschak
Stephen Meisel
Mark Pain
Why not just judge tone from the image displayed on the back of the camera?
Our eyes are easily fooled.

The camera LCD screen displays a limited range of tone.

We need to read the histogram to be confident of tone.
Which is darker: A or B?
Close up photography is when the image is photographed from a short distance away.

Macro photography is when the object photographed is reproduced at larger than life size on the camera sensor.

When the DSLR is set to 'Macro':

Focus is more critical
Minimum focus distance is reduced
Images have less depth of field

Use of a tripod is recommended to prevent blur.
The good news:

The Cameras flash mode is either disabled or set to auto.

The camera automatically focuses on the subject in the center focus area (though other focus areas can be selected using the multi-selector).

Subject to lighting conditions the camera attempts to incorporate a smaller aperture to extend hyperfocus distance and may raise ISO to combat camera shake (by allowing a faster shutter speed).
The bad news:

Macro mode doesn’t mean you can photograph anything closer than in any other mode.

Choosing macro does not change the minimum focus distance of your lens.

For true macro photography, use a macro lens with small minimum focus. The flower icon doesn't cut the mustard!
Wolf-Minari DA
Colour is relative
Download a copy of your camera manual to your phone or tablet.
When you zoom in the swan is larger in the frame.
Though wouldn't that also happen if you simply walked closer to the swan? Zoom (and distance from subject)
also affects spacial relationships.
Tim Savage
Tim Savage
Tim Savage
For tricky scenes WB Values specified in post production
Brian Hopper
The distribution of tone within an average scene is easy to read:
Faster shutter: 1/250th
Slower shutter: 1 second
Raw is great for working at pixel level
3 seconds at f22 using ISO 50
1/2500th of a second at f22 using ISO 6400
Manual Exposure mode gives the photographer complete control over how the exposure is created.
... available when processing
the increased volume of data captured by the cameras sensor, for example....
Tim Savage
Pablo Picasso
Exposure compensation may also be used to choose the area of tone that contains detail.
Camera sensors have limited 'dynamic range'
Using lens hoods to avoid 'flare'
A digital photograph is created by measuring visible light
The camera sensor records the light by measuring the three primary colours: Red, Green and Blue.
The brightness values of each colour are reported by the coloured (RGB ) histogram
Visit the
App Store or
Google Play to
extend camera
The flash fires at the beginning of the exposure (the moment that the shutter is fully open).
If the shutter is faster than the cameras sync speed, only a
portion of the subject is lit by the flash.
Full transcript