2. Invest in a quality tripod.
I have noticed that I have a heightened ability to keep very still when shooting with slower shutter speeds:), but I do realize my limitations. That’s when it’s time for a trusty tripod. They are very handy for nighttime long exposures, photographing fireworks, and for special effects like this. I use my DSLR’s built-in timer in conjunction with the tripod (so I don’t shake the camera by pushing the button myself). Sometimes my remote shutter release cable does come in handy, for those photos I wish to capture in the moment.
3. Get to know your camera’s autofocus capabilities (AF mode).
When you look through your camera’s lens you will see an array of focus points. The center focus point (which is the most sensitive point) should be pointed straight at your subject. Push the shutter button halfway down to lock the focus, then recompose your shot if you want (because the subject does not have to be in the dead center of your composition), then shoot. If your subject is way off center, you’ll get a clearer shot if you select an off-center focus point that lines up with your subject. If using a wide aperture setting like f/2.8, do not use the lock focus/recompose method, as your subject may become blurred. Instead, choose a focus point closest to your subject to ensure clarity.
There are basically two AF modes — ‘One Shot’ and ‘Continuous.’ My Canon has One Shot mode and Al Servo mode (continuous), as well as Al Focus mode which is really like One Shot mode with an automatic sensor that allows it to go into Al Servo mode when it detects motion. Greek? Let me make it easy for you. When you are shooting a still subject use One Shot mode. If you have a moving subject that you wish to capture in focus, set your camera to its Continuous focus mode (which is Al Servo on my Canon), so that it continually focuses on your moving subject.
4. ISO rocks!
ISO Auto can work great, but having more control of these speed settings (100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600+) can help you achieve better exposure. I set my camera to a low ISO speed for bright light situations and a higher ISO speed for low-light situations. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive to light your camera becomes, and the faster the shutter speed will be. Here are some general rules to follow:
- An ISO of 100 is perfect for very sunny environments.
- ISO 200-400 works for overcast outdoor daylight, outdoor shade, or indoors where the scene is well-lit.
- ISO 800 can sometimes be used in low light outdoors or indoors without a flash. Mind the shutter speed — if it gets too slow you can either increase ISO to make it faster, use a tripod to accommodate the slower shutter speed, or use flash.
- Indoor and outdoor low-light situations without a flash often call for an ISO speed of 1600 or more. Beware though, as your photos can become grainy with a high ISO (I try not to go higher than ISO 400 for that reason). To avoid graininess in these low-light situations, set the ISO low and mount your DSLR on a tripod to get a clear shot. Or, you can always use a high ISO (to increase shutter speed enough for a handheld shot) and enjoy the creative grain! I like to convert low-light grainy photos to black and white in Photoshop and call it “film grain.”