Master Your Camera to Boost Your Indoor Photography Skills

Today's digital cameras are more powerful than ever before. Whether you have a pro-level DSLR or a basic point-and-shoot camera, you've probably got access to an amazing photographic tool. If you'd like to learn how to get the most out of it, this basic indoor photography guide will help enhance your photographic IQ!

* Take Control Of Your Camera

The first step to taking great indoor photos is to stop letting your camera make all the decisions for you! Most digital cameras have preset modes that are supposed to make it easier to take great pictures. These are called the "Icon" modes because they're marked with little pictures. While these settings are handy for taking on-the-fly shots where you have no preparation time, you'll never get the best results using them. The settings you want to use to sharpen your photography skills are the ones marked with letters. Terms can vary between manufacturers, but here are the four sacred modes: program, aperture, shutter, and manual.

* Understanding Photography

Strap in, because here comes the complicated stuff! There are three qualities that determine what your picture is going to look like when you press the button: aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. This gets tricky because each quality controls more than one aspect of the photo.

Higher aperture settings (referred to as f-stops) give you wider depth-of-field but a darker picture. In a wide DOF shot, everything is crisp and clear. With a shallow DOF, distant objects turn fuzzy -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing!

ISO is poorly named. It actually measures the amount of digital brightness correction your camera creates for your picture. Increasing your ISO number will make your pictures brighter but also add a graininess to them. Lower ISO numbers come out crystal clear but often very dark.

The last quality, shutter speed, at least has a name that makes sense. Increase the shutter speed and your camera snaps photos faster. This means less motion blur, so fast speeds are great for moving targets. Faster shutter speeds translate into less light entering the camera, so that means darker pictures, again! Shutter speeds are measured in fractions, so that fast ones (e.g. 1/800) are actually smaller than slow ones (e.g. 1/30).

How do these qualities relate to your camera's modes? Manual mode lets you dictate individual settings for all three qualities. Each of the other modes lets you concentrate on a single quality; your camera will set the other two. The aperture and shutter modes are (hopefully!) self-explanatory. If you look at what's left, the purpose of program mode is
clear: It lets you set a specific ISO while your camera handles the aperture and shutter speed.

* Why Indoor Photography Is Ideal For Experimentation

That's a whole lot of information to digest, and a whole lot of settings to play with! Indoor photography is the best place to get to know your camera and learn what it can really do. You can use manual mode to see the full range of possibilities; bear in mind it's the hardest mode to master. You'll probably want to concentrate most of your time on learning aperture mode. It's the most broadly useful option of the four standard modes. Program and shutter speed modes are like emergency back-ups; you'll rarely need them unless you turn into a full-time pro.

* Your Strongest Ally: Natural Light

The best place to do your indoor photography is close to one or more windows. You may have noticed up above that fooling with your camera's settings tends to produce darker pictures. The best way to avoid this is to maximize the amount of natural light you get on your subjects! Sticking close to your windows is also terrific once you feel ready to take portraits of your family. Window treatments make outstanding backgrounds and lend a portrait photo an air of professionalism.

* Gearing Up: Reflectors And Tripods

You can vastly improve your indoor pictures just by practicing regularly with your camera. For even better results, a few simple pieces of equipment can make huge differences. Invest in a tripod or a monopod to add stability to your shots. This is especially useful for photographic still lifes or doing close-up macro photography indoors.

A reflector will help you with tricky lighting situations. Reflectors are just shiny surfaces that you place opposite your subject and your light source. They bounce ambient light back onto the subject and cut down on unwanted shadows. Professional reflectors are cheap enough, but you don't even have to spend a dime on your first one. A simple sheet of white posterboard will do the trick!

Once you've gotten comfortable with your camera and learned its advanced features, you can document important moments in your family's life with greater confidence. You may also get bitten hard by the photography bug! Mastering all of the detailed settings available to you will give you complete control over the photos you take in the future.

This contribution comes from Rebekah McClelland, a newborn photographer in Cleveland and the surrounding areas. Check out her website to see pricing and her newborn photo gallery.

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