The most common compliment I receive from you guys is about my photos and you have no idea how happy those compliments make me! When asking what you wanted to see on my blog the majority of people said they want more photography related posts. I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect at blog photography and we all have a weakness somewhere, mine’s flatlays! However, I do know my stuff when it comes to the tech side of photography and considering im 100% self taught it allows me to explain it much easier. So you’re here to master your camera settings and learn something new? You’ve come to the right place and I can assure you, you’ll go away from this post knowing way more than you did before reading it! Just a warning, though…grab yourself a cup of tea and don’t forget snacks! This post is going to be a beasty long post but so worth it!
*please excuse my grubby camera and awfully bitten nails!*
Aperture Priority Mode (AV) | Aperture Priority (usually has an AV symbol on your DSLR) is the middle man between being on auto and being on fully manual. It allows you more freedom then what auto does but not as much freedom as manual mode does on your camera. AV mode allows you to change your aperture setting…Quick tip: The smaller the AV number (f1.8), the blurrier the background, softer the focusing. The higher the number (f11) the sharper less blurred the camera. Bloggers usually use the lower numbers to get that dreamy background blur. Depending on what lens you have will depend on just how low that number can go. The 18-55mm lens (kit lens) does to 2.8 but the 50mm can go to 1.8 unless you have the money to get the 1.4 but It’s bloody expensive whereas the first 50mm is less than £100! Aperture priority mode is useful for you when you are getting to grips with it but I will always recommend you to learn to use your camera on manual. AV will allow you to change the exposure for the brightness on your camera too, the more to the left you go the darker the exposure and the more to the right you go the more exposed your image, we will cover exposure in a little more depth shortly.
Manual Mode (M) | You will also find this on the dial on your DSLR and this is the god of all settings. I cannot recommend you learn how to master manual enough, the options are limitless like this! Manual allows you to adjust every setting in the camera. The main ones: Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed (we shall get to those later) which are the three golden settings. With the camera not trying to control everything you have full power over what you want your camera to do. It cannot select options for you which is what you want. Sometimes on AV mode or auto it will adjust the photo to expose the image to what it thinks is right, however, if you look at all your favourite blog photographers who take bright white photos, majority of the time they will be slightly more exposed then less because they want the light! No other setting will allow you to do this as well as what manual mode will let you.
Auto (green plus size in a box) | Again, located on the dial on your DSLR. I don’t really need to explain this one to most of you but for those of you considering getting a DSLR this will help you understand all the options you have. Auto is the setting that will control the entire camera. It pretty much renders your DSLR camera to a point and shoot because all you are able to do it focus your camera and boom take the photos. That is it. It will not allow you to do anything else. So you can’t make it brighter and build the image you want with the settings. In my honest, truthful opinion, Auto is useless. If you use Auto forever it would have made more sense to get yourself a point and shoot and save yourself a hundred pounds. It might be useful to a newbie who wants to go out and shoot a landscape but if you want those dreamy photos this will never be the setting for you i’m afraid! However, I can help you get off auto with the blog posts I’ve planned so never fear and if you are an auto user, absorb every bit of information in this post!
The Three Main Settings
Aperture | The easiest way to explain aperture is that it’s the setting that gives you that dreamy background. This is where all of that magic happens! Aperture is how much light is allowed into the camera so the larger the aperture (smaller the number) the more light that will enter through the lens. Aperture is measured in f stop so for example f1.8 f.28 f4 f6 f11. Scroll down below to find out more about how aperture works with depth of field and what depth of field is.
Shutter Speed | Shutter speed is a difficult one to explain easily when referring to blog photography. Simple because shutter speed is responsible for either freezing action or blurring motion when outside the confines of your four bedroom walls and your perfectly white alex ikea drawers. Shutter speed is how long the shutter is open to allow light into the camera. If the shutter speed is fast then it will help to freeze action and if the shutter speed is slow then it will create an effect named motion blur. A good example of where a slow shutter speed will come in useful is if you are photographing a waterfall it will blur the water giving it a beautiful effect – yet not so helpful when you’re taking blog photos! Shutter speed is measured in the following layout 1/8, 1/125, 1/250, 1/4000. That information isn’t really referring to blog photography and won’t really help you in that element but it will help you to understand what that setting is. Now for blog photography the best way to think is all that information I’ve just given you on freezing and blurring things, we want none of those. So we go for the middle so it’s neither here nor there and doesn’t mess up our settings. However, something useful about shutter speeds is..the longer the shutter stays open the more light that is let into the camera! So a shutter speed of 1/800 is going to be darker than a shutter speed of 1/80 so…I like to meet in the middle and use a shutter speed of 1/125 usually up to 1/200 but very rarely need to go and higher or lower on the settings here. What that setting will do is it will not freeze and it will not blur but it’s the middle man and will let light in through your lens to brighten up your photo!
ISO | ISO is how sensitive your camera is to light. This ones actually quite easy to get to grips with compared to the other setting definitions. But it’s important you learn what it really means to get the most out of your camera. So the lower the ISO number the less sensitive it is to light and a higher number will increase the sensitivity. You should try and stick to the lowest number available on your camera (every camera will be different my lowest ISO is 100) because the higher up you go (for example ISO 3200) the grainer your photo will be. Once you have that grain in your image it’s incredibly difficult to remove with ease. So another way to think of it is the lower the ISO the darker the image the higher up through the numbers you go the brighter your images will get. This is because with a higher ISO it’s making your camera less sensitive to light so lighting is flooding in through your lens which in some lighting conditions you want. For reference, I will never go above ISO 800 and usually use my camera on 200 or 400 to add light to my photos.
To expand a little further on the two images in the ISO section, let me just explain. I took one flatlay, on manual with the same shutter speed and aperture. I did use artificial lighting so keep in mind my images would be a little brighter than using natural lighting. As you can see ISO does a wonderful job of adding light to an image and looking at the first image you might be tempted to go for a higher ISO. The one at ISO 1600 might tempt you, it looks the most dreamy and pretty. However, just take a look at the bottom image where I’ve cropped it and zoomed in. Look how much the image deteriorates in quality! It’s difficult to see unless the image is blown up (like it will be on your blog) so using a higher ISO will not win you any points here guys! Compare the ISO 3200 to the ISO 100, massive difference in photo quality and it really makes all the difference.
Depth Of Field | What is it you ask? The depth of field is the area of the picture that remains sharp. A large aperture number (e.g f16) will bring more foreground and background objects in focus and most of the image will remain sharp in comparison to a smaller aperture number (e.g f2.8) will keep the object you are focusing on sharp and the surroundings will be blurred. So remember: the larger the aperture (small number) the smaller the area in focus (which is the depth of field)
I wanted to make sure I provided you guys with examples to back up what I’m saying so it suits those who are visual learners and others who arent. You can see there is a gigantic leap between the first and the last photo in the collage. The lighting isn’t dramatically different or the photo set up in general but just take a look at how incredibly different those backgrounds are!
F14 | Background is sharp all products are in focus, no blur is present can see everything in the frame.
F9 | A slight blur is beginning to show, only ever so slightly and you can still clearly see the product and the background still.
F5.6 | Items are beginning to fade in the background but still can see product placement and some of what the products are, main focus of the image (mascara) is beginning to stand out more!
F3.2 | Product we are focusing on (mascara) is beginning to really stand out and the products in the background are getting harder to make out what they are.
F1.8 | What a massive difference in backgrounds from the 3.2! Product is solely in focus background has all blended in together and you cannot work out what anything in the background is. Mascara remains very sharp and the colours of the background still stay but you cannot see any sharpness from the background.
View Finder | Depending on your camera will depend where this is but for a point and shoot it’s usually the main screen you just hold it, look at the glass screen, point and take your photos. Sometimes it’s the same for a bridge depending on what bridge camera you have too! If you have a DSLR you technically have two view finders. I use them both on different occasions. You have one that you look through with the little hole much like a little window located on the back of your camera near the flash and you also have the big screen too. You can look through either of these to be able to see what you are doing. If I’m taking a photo looking straight on then I will use the large glass view finder but if I’m high up looking down on a flatlay I’ll use the small window so I can get a better angle on things.
Flatlay | I’m pretty sure 99.9% of you guys are going to know what this is because we are forever trying to master the damn things but I like to make sure I’ve touched on everything! A flat lay is usually a styled photo taken from above. Many factors all contribute to taking a flatlay photograph from the positioning of the products, to what products you are using and nailing those camera settings to get it bang on point. They are really difficult things for me to do and I’m certainly no queen of flatlays but they are ever so popular amongst the blogging community and quite rightly so, they’re bloody beautiful! Flat lays usually follow a common theme and/or aesthetic. Using common props that relate to the subject you are writing about, colour co-ordination and even more! Search #flatlay on Instagram to see some in action for yourself if you haven’t seen them or know what they are! Let me know in the comments below if you would like a post on how I take my flatlays or tips for taking them so I can go into more depth! If you guys want that I’m more than happy to write it for you!
Composition | It’s another difficult term used for something really simple. People really like to make things confusing in photography don’t they haha! Composition is really important in relation to flatlay photography because it’s all about product placement and the angles of a photograph. Composition in photography is arranging elements in the photograph to a way in which suits what you have in mind. It’s all in how you set up a photograph. Your more than likely going to hear the term composition in the following phrase or another ‘flatlay photography’ ‘composing flatlays’. All it means is how you are setting up your photo, your product placement, ‘styling’ the photograph if you will. Composition has a way of guiding your viewers eye to what you deem the most important. Deciding if you want your background blurred (aperture) or in focus will also affect your composition but it always depends on the image and the goal of the photograph that will determine if you got the right composition correctly.
White Balance | Most cameras come with the ‘auto white balance’ setting which is much more advanced and accurate on a DSLR camera but on a point and shoot or a bridge it’s much less accurate on the auto setting. White balance can be helpful to get the colours in our images as accurate as possible. You might have noticed when it’s on auto that you have taken a photo and you find it has a really blue over cast on your pictures or a really yellow one, sometimes even a purple/green cast. No matter what, even if you have no lights on in the house the surroundings of our home can cast a colour that our naked eye may not pick up on. I noticed when using natural lighting a lot my photos would have a peach over cast on my images and for the life of me I could not work out why. When I really sat and learnt about white balance I figured out that it was because our walls were a magnolia colour. Something as simple as that was throwing off the colours in my photos. I quickly whipped out the white paint and turned those peachy undertones into a bright white ha! But, not everyone wants an all white room! As a general rule if your photos are cooler (bluey green) then you’ll tell the camera to warm it up and if the light is warm (orange/yellow) then you’ll tell it to cool your photos down. The photo above shows you what the white balance options look like on your camera.
RAW | bloggers who know what this is are often scared of it because they don’t really get what it does. It’s actually an incredible thing to use! See, when we take a standard photo the format of an image is something called JPEG which im sure you will have heard of before. JPEG compresses an image so those really fine details can be lost along the way sometimes. Shooting in RAW format does not compress your photos so the photos you take will remain exactly as they are unlike when you shoot in JPEG. So, what other benefits are there? EDITING! Editing a RAW photo is a dream and so much easier! If you use adobe Photoshop then it’ll open up a programme which you can edit your pictures in, compare a before and after side my side and it’s incredibly easy to get the results you want in comparison to shooting in JPEG. Photo files are often much bigger when shooting in raw though because it’s holding more ‘information’ in the picture. You don’t have to shoot in RAW and it really won’t kill you if you carry on shooting in JPEG, sometimes I do it too! But I would recommend at least giving it a go so you can see the differences yourself.
Softboxes | You’ve heard me harp on about soft boxes and you’re probably sick to death of listening to me bang on about them but I LOVE THEM! You probably know what they are but still, I’m going to explain! So soft box lighting is pretty much a light in a box. You usually get two together as one alone really wouldn’t do that much, maybe even more damage than good as it’d create a heavy shadow where the light wasn’t reaching. These are probably the most affordable options when it comes to lighting set ups. I COULD NOT BE WITHOUT MY SOFTBOXES. My photos would honestly be utter rubbish if I didn’t have them because I’m a night owl and prefer to take my photos at 3am in the morning when I can’t sleep haha! They come with two stands that you can adjust the height of and a bulb three times the size of my head, there is a white sheet that will go on the box frame, known as a diffuser (you can see it in the image above it’s like a white screen covering the front of the softbox). This will diffuse the light evenly over the subject giving you nice evenly lit photographs. So dreamy!
Point and shoot camera | Also known as a digital camera. They are getting much better and time goes on but when it comes to the three types of cameras I’m telling you about in this post they are considered ‘bottom of the food chain’ type of thing. They can be great cameras and you can get some bloody expensive digital cameras! However, you aren’t given and allowed much freedom when it comes to this type of camera which eventually, with blog photos you are going to want. Their settings are usually much more simplified and more aimed towards someone who just likes to snap photos now and again family holidays etc they aren’t really made with the intention of blog photos / professional use you know what I mean? They are wonderful cameras in digital camera form that will give you some great results but maybe not the results your going to eventually want. However, price wise these cameras would be the cheapest form of camera.
Bridge camera | ahhh, the middle man! I must express the importance here guys, people often think they are DSLR cameras and I can tell you straight off, these are not DSLR cameras. You know what the difference between a bridge and a DSLR is, to make it simpler to remember? A DSLR allows you to change a lens, a bridge does not. The bridge cameras are somewhat along the lines of a digital camera, explained above but they do have some degree of manual control. They allow you a little more freedom when it comes to controlling your camera. They are nifty cameras and don’t come with the added settings that a DSLR does so you need to weigh up what you are going to want. Will you eventually want to take full control of your camera to get the best photos you can? If the answer to this is going to be yes then I don’t think a bridge camera will cut it for you, if the answer to that is no then I think a bridge camera could work well for you.
DSLR | Okay, do you know how flipping hard it’s been to try and remain unbiased when explaining those last two types of cameras to you guys?! I don’t want to be THAT person who says you NEED to have a DSLR camera. But what I do know is that I NEED a DSLR camera haha! I couldn’t be without it, I’d feel like I’d lost a leg without my baby, it really is like a small child to me haha! It’s the thing that makes me extra money in freelance photography, how could I not love it like I’d love a child haha! So what does DSLR even stand for? DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) is a camera that has the ability to allow you to change lenses. It allows you the freedom to control your camera on a 100% basis. If you camera is in manual mode this will not allow the camera to choose what it thinks is right for you, unlike the other cameras listed above. It’s all about the lenses when it comes to a DSLR camera and very little to do with the actual body. All the body gives you is the mechanisms. Think of a clock for this, all we need is the hands of the clock, those are what is important to us yet what we can’t see is what’s super important as it makes it all work. I feel like I failed with that anecdote..oops! In the body of the camera you get all your buttons, all the inside wires, the dial, the view finder and the mirror. Yes, your DSLR wouldn’t work without this but it’s the lens that delivers when it comes down to the bottom of it. The lens is the one that gives you what you want from your image. Which is why different photographers buy different lenses, they all offer different benefits to what you need them for! My DSLR really is my life..can you tell?! Haha!
Rule Of Thirds | I’ve learnt the basics, I know what it is and I do shoot this way when I’m doing other non blog related photography work but when it comes to blog photography I like to break the ‘rules’ as such. However, it may be interesting to some of you and may help you in composing your images to think about it (read above for composition). It’s one of the main rules in the photography world and one of the first things many photographers used and it’s used in a way to draw the viewers eye to certain points of a photograph and done correctly, it’s really quite an interesting concept. With the rule of thirds you have to imagine (unless you have a grid on your viewfinder) that you have two horizontal and two vertical lines breaking through your image, splitting it up into thirds. This would make 3 rows, 3 columns and 9 sections. The idea of the rule of thirds is you place what you want the viewer to look at the most along those parallel lines and on the interactions where those lines cross. This is scientifically proven to draw the person looking at a photograph to look at those objects. It might be something you never use but if your looking to break out of a photography rut and don’t know how to style your photos any different then this will help give you a guide and a boundary and set you a little challenge.
See how different those two images are in terms of how rule of thirds is used? In the top one they are using the point in which the lines cross to draw attention to the focus and in the second one they are using the horizontal lines to draw the viewers attention to their focus in the image.
Zoom Lens | This ones pretty self-explanatory but lets go for it anyway! Might aswel cover all bases hadn’t we?! So a zoom lens..is a lens that zooms in! You’ll be able to tell a zoom lens by it’s name. For example, I have the Canon 24-70mm lens so they are usually hyphenated and they have two numbers in them. The type of lens we will talk about next don’t have two numbers in them. The kit lens you probably all own if you have a DSLR is the 18-55mm lens…this is also a zoom!
lens on the left is a prime lens, 50mm (cannot zoom) and on the right is the zoom, 24-70mmPrime Lens | A prime lens is a little more difficult to figure out what it means but to be honest it’s a difficult name for a really simple explanation ha! Why do these important companies have to try and confuse people? So a prime lens I hear you all ask! What is it?! It’s literally a lens that doesn’t zoom in. That is all it is! So an example of a prime lens would be the Canon 50mm lens. This lens it the bomb for blogging and they don’t call it the ‘nifty fifty’ for no reason! It’s a brilliant lens for every blogger! It has a really low f number (refer back to aperture and depth of field) giving you killer blog photos with the beautiful blurred background. You can pick this lens up for £50-£60 quid and it’ll be the cheapest DSLR lens you will ever purchase!
Exposure | Okay, let me try and explain this as simply as I can..this could be a long one guys to get comfy! Exposure is how much light reaches the cameras sensor when you take a photograph. If there isn’t enough light we end up with photos which are dark, also known as under exposed (see image below) and if we have too much light we end up with an image too bright, also known as over exposed (see image above). Now I wanted to make a point and mention something here. There isn’t anything wrong with having an image a little over exposed. I’ll use myself for example, I always over expose my photos slightly, I prefer a whiter image than a darker image so I choose to personally have more light than less in my images. There is nothing wrong with that, what we want to avoid is a blown out photo. Where you have too much brightness and you really cannot quite make out what’s going on in an image. So how do we control it? Get it how we want it? You know earlier on when we spoke about ISO, shutter speed and aperture? These are the beauties that make up your exposure in an image. If you ISO is far too high..over exposed, if your Aperture has a really high number and all your other settings are really low to get a brighter image..it’s going to be blown out. If your shutter speed is too high 1/800 for example our images are going to come out far too dark. It’s a tricky little tool to get right and you know what will help? Practice, do it whenever you can and accept that your going to make mistakes. Hell, I still have to add things up on my fingers and still get addition wrong haha so mastering the inside of your camera isn’t going to happen as soon as you first attempt it. I’m still learning with my camera, my images aren’t perfect! I did a much more indepth post all about exposure if you want to learn more!
Exposure Triangle | You might not hear this one quite as much as the others but I want to touch base on it so I’ve offered you guys plenty of information! So picture yourself a triangle (or just see the image below hah!) and on each three points is ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture. These three things all work in harmony with each-other to make up the exposure of a photo. Which means if you change the iso, you need to change the other settings to compliment it. You can’t have one without the other kinda deal when it comes to the exposure triangle. So if your image is too bright you might knock down your ISO a setting, try another snap and see that it’s too dark. So from there you might lower your aperture number from say 3.4 to 2.8 and it’ll brighten it. There are thousands of articles on this but I just want to give you guys the general jist of it so it makes some sense to you all!
Sweet mother of Jesus I cannot even tell you how long this post has taken me to write. With over 79 revisions on the post, editing it every single day over the course of 3 weeks to pack the most useful information into this post for you all. If you’ve made it to this point you all sersiouly deserve all the pizza in the world and you know what I deserve? A bottle of wine, I need a bottle of wine to celebrate getting this post done ha!
I know it was long but there was no other way! I wasn’t willing to comprimise on the information I wanted to give you all so I hope you all enjoyed it and what I want to know is. What was the most interesting thing about photography you learnt today? Please let me know in the comments below and if you want any more photography themed posts!
PS IF YOU COULD PIN THIS IMAGE ON PINTEREST I MIGHT EVEN SHARE MY WINE WITH YOU ALL! (I probably wont but if there is a chance for wine, why not!)