A couple weeks ago, I went to my grandson’s first basketball game of the season. Naturally, I brought my camera to take pictures. During the game, I noticed one of the dads from our team was taking pictures too. A few days after the game, we both posted a selection of our photos and tagged the team Facebook page. At the next game a week later, the dad came over and jokingly complained about my photos making his look bad. After we laughed about it for a few minutes, he compared our cameras and lenses and asked about the settings I used. There was wasn’t much of a difference. Finally, he said “Okay, I give up. What’s your secret?” My answer, which probably made him think I had a few screws loose, was simple: “I had a conversation with my camera.”
Now, y’all know I don’t like to dive super deep into the techy side of photography but sometimes, it’s kind of unavoidable. Understanding how your camera works really is key to taking awesome photos. In this case, we’re going to talk a little bit about camera settings. I like to think of settings as having a conversation with my camera. For this particular basketball game, a transcript of the conversation between me and my camera would’ve looked something like this (And before you ask, No, I don’t literally talk to my camera. It’s a metaphor folks. Work with me here.)
Camera: Fired up and ready to go. What’s the lighting situation today?
Me: Well, we’re shooting indoors so you won’t have much light to work with. But the good news is that this gym has better light than most. There are even windows on one end so there’s even some natural light. Overall, it’s not too bad. Sets ISO to 800
Camera: Got it. I’ll make sure my sensor is a bit more sensitive to light for indoor shooting. So, what are we taking pictures of today?
Me: We’re shooting photos of a basketball game so I’ll need to freeze fast-moving action. I’m hoping a shutter speed of around 620th of a second will work but I might go even faster if there’s enough light.
Camera: That’s not a problem. What aperture do you want?
Me: Not sure. It could change depending on the shot. If I set the shutter speed, can you handle setting the aperture that will work best with it?
Camera: Sure but I’ll be honest, I’ll be limited by whatever lens you attach to me.
Me: Yeah, I get that but it will be easier than trying to manage all the settings myself. Turns the camera’s control dial to Shutter Priority mode.
Camera: No problem. We good to go?
Me: One more thing, when you’re figuring out what the aperture should be, can you focus your attention on what’s in the middle of the viewfinder?
Camera: Absolutely. But keep in mind, depending what you’re shooting, that middle area may still pick up some of the background too.
Me: Yup but I’m going to make a point of avoiding really dark or really light backgrounds so your built-in light meter doesn’t get fooled into using a bogus aperture setting. Goes into settings and chooses Center Weighted metering.
Me: Alright. I think that’s it.
Camera: Let’s do this.
Look, I admit. It’s a little weird to think about talking to a camera. But honestly, it really just comes down to figuring out the camera settings you need to get great shots. If it helps to think of it as a conversation, great. If you have a different approach that works for you, that’s great too. The main point is that you don’t have to spend hours reading through your camera manual, learning about every possible feature and setting but if you take the time to learn the basics, it will make a huge difference in the quality of your photos. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a chat with my camera to see if it has any suggestions about the annoying people who walk in front of me when I’m taking pictures at games. I’ll let you know what I find out.