Dani's Photo School


It seems like EVERYONE here at ModCloth  has a new camera from the holidays, and being the resident photo geek, I have been getting asked all sorts of questions about the new gadgets.  I thought it would be helpful to answer some of the questions here on the blog. Feel free to send your own questions to danielle@modcloth.com or leave them in the comments below.  Everything is fair game, from operating your camera to lighting.  Because let’s be honest, what good is having the brand new Canon Rebel (Emily) if we don’t know how to take it out of auto mode?

Now onto the first batch of questions and your assignment…

What the heck is a dSLR?  What is the difference between that and a point-and-shoot?

The simplest answer I can give is that dSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex)  tend to have detachable lenses, give you a lot more control over your settings, and are significantly bulkier than a point-and-shoot camera.  Point-and-Shoot cameras are made to be more compact and consumer-friendly; anyone should be able to pick one up and take a decent snapshot without knowing anything about fstops, shutter speeds or lighting – you simply point and-shoot.  The actual term SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex and has to do with the mechanics behind getting what you see in the viewfinder to appear identical to what you photograph.

I remember the term ISO from when I used film, how does it apply to my digital camera?

When using film, the ISO rating refers to the film speed and typically ranges from 50-3200.  The lower the ISO rating (approx. 50-400), the better the quality of the final photo. Higher ISO ratings (800-3200) result in grainier images with less detail. However, higher ISO ratings enable you to take images with less light, avoiding blurry or underexposed pictures.  Super-low ISOs can typically only be taken outside on sunny days or by using a flash. With digital photography, although the mechanics between film and your digital chips have changed, the idea is the same. So if you are finding that your photos are turning out a bit blurry or dark, ONE way to fix it is by cranking up the ISO (as long as you don’t mind a little grain).

This weeks assignment is going to be about experimenting with higher ISOs. Many point-and shoots give you the option of turning up your ISO (even if they don’t allow you to specifically turn it to a number, it should have a high ISO option).  Crank it up as high as it will let you, turn your flash OFF, and start playing around. Take some photos outside, some indoors where there is lots of natural light, some in a room where there is little light, and also photograph both moving and still objects.  Grain is often an effect that many photographers like to artistically incorporate in black and white images, so convert all your images to black and white and load them up to the ModCloth Photo School flickr pool!

(Image above:  This image shows the difference between  ISOs starting from 400 – the lighting, fstop and shutter speed remained the same)


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  1. Avatar
    Hannah 01/23/2009 at 7:50 pm #

    My camera doesn’t have (Olympus Stylus 850 SW) the setting to manually change the IS0 level, but there is an option for high ISO…my problem is that when I do that, it doesn’t let me take the flash off….any suggestions? Thanks :]]

  2. Avatar
    Megan 01/23/2009 at 10:41 pm #

    I have a Cannon rebel xti.

    and i got a wide angle lens for Christmas,

    Any neat things i could do with the new lens or the camera?

    THANKS! 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Danielle 01/24/2009 at 11:12 am #

    <p>Hannah – I’m so jealous…your camera can take underwater photos!!! I’m not too familiar with the Olympus Stylus, but I looked up some info online and it seems like you have many program options…try the “Available Light Portrait” program and see if it will let you turn up the ISO.</p>
    <p>That may work…. there will be a few cameras that won’t give you a lot of manual control, but you can sometimes work around it if there are a lot of shooting program modes.</p>
    <p>Let me know if it works…</p>

  4. Avatar
    Germaine 01/24/2009 at 11:25 am #

    I an definitely a “consumer” with a camera, not a photographer at all. But that tip on ISOs was great! I often try to take pictures indoors/at night…but besides turning off the flash, had no idea what to do. Thanks!

  5. Avatar
    Danielle 01/25/2009 at 9:18 am #

    Germaine – I’m glad you found the tip helpful. The higher ISOs are fun to play around with when there is less light, though sometimes you can’t avoid using your flash if there is not much available light to work with.

  6. Avatar
    Hannah 01/25/2009 at 3:42 pm #

    Thanks Danielle! I figured out how use the available light feature and it’s amazing what comes out…thanks for the tip :]]

  7. Avatar
    Rachel S. 02/02/2009 at 10:57 am #

    Danielle, you rock! I hope to just have you capture all the important stuff on film for me. I’m better at operating a food processor. Let me know if you want any tips.

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