Camera Clara: Improve your Photography

Class: Improve your Photography in Ten Easy Steps

Hello class, meet your camera. Don’t be shy — getting to know your camera is the first step to improving your photography.

To get familiar with our cameras, Rodger, our instructor, encouraged us to push some buttons, turn the dial, and look in our manuals to see what controls what. For example, even though we’ve moved to digital image making, today’s cameras still use some combination of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings to determine exposure. These combinations also affect the depth of field, focus, and graininess or digital artifacts (with intended or unintended results). Once we master how these relate, we can move the dial from Auto to M with confidence.

Steps 2-10 are about where our cameras are in space when we press the shutter. Rodger showed our Lifelong Learning class some striking examples of different perspectives, compositions, subjects, depths of field, and areas of focus to illustrate how to shoot the best image. Learning about our cameras through experimentation is key: the most awesome photo ever is just waiting to come out of your camera. If it’s the worst photo ever, we know how to use the delete button.


Above is an M-is-for-manual experiment: a self-portrait taken with a timer where I was testing long exposures and pretending to be a clock. I still have to perfect my clock-mimicking and jumping-in-the-shot skills, but I’ve gotten better at standing really still. The guy who unknowingly photobombed the image was quite impressed with my stillness. For the photo at the top of this post, I was impressed that the image of Double O Arch popped out of my camera with “aperture” written on it.

I’m pretty familiar with my point-and-shoot camera, but I still took the time after class to sit down with a cup of tea and learn more about it. Turns out there’s a whole menu that I didn’t know existed — fish-eye, Lomo, and other toy-camera shots, anyone?