Today we are going to look at dSLR cameras and shooting in Aperture Priority mode. If you have a compact camera you will be able to do some or all of these things too.

To start with I have made this video for you. It is about 20 minutes long. A long one I know! Later today I will send the written lessons, which will go through all the technical lessons that are in the video. 

Please don't feel overwhelmed or like you can't to it. You can. It will just take time and plenty of practise. And please don't forget to as in the Facebook group if you get stuck. 


 
 

My Camera Kit

I thought it would be a good idea to talk you through my my camera kit. I am not sharing this with you because I think you need to have the same but I always think it's good to know what a teacher works with plus I shoot with some reasonably priced lenses (well reasonable as far as lenses are concerned!) and if you have a dSLR you might be interested in those. 

I have four main cameras. Plus I have a couple of back-up cameras because when I worked as a wedding and portrait photographer I always needed a spare back or two. 

My dSLR is a Canon 5D Mk III. 

Some of you may want to know why I shoot Canon and not Nikon, or indeed another brand. The answer is really simple. My very first SLR camera was a Canon and for the past 22 years I've continued to shoot Canon. Once you start to build a collection of lenses it is incredibly expensive to change to another brand because you not only need a new body but a whole set of lenses too. 

To go with my 5D I have these lenses:

50mm 1.8 and 50mm 1.4 (Canon) - great for portraits, vignettes
50mm 2.5 (Canon) - great for close-ups (and you can also use this for portraits and vignettes but the bonus is that you can also get much closer to your subject than the 50mm above) *** I have been using this lens for botanical photography for over ten years! Just brilliant for flower portraits. ***
85mm 1.8 (Canon) - great for portraits
35mm 2 (Canon) - great for portraits
24-70mm 2.8 (Sigma, Canon fit) - a brilliant all-rounder
70-200mm 2.8 (Sigma, Canon fit) - a zoom lens
20mm 1.8 (Sigma, Canon fit) - a wide angle lens 

Out of all these lenses I use the 50mm 1.4, 50mm 2.5 Macro and 24-70mm 2.8 the most. 

My small camera is a Fujifilm X-M1, which I currently use with the 16-50mm kit lens and the 35mm 1.4 lens. I got this camera last July to take to the USA and I absolutely love it. It's small and light. It takes great images - even with the kit lens and I have loved getting the 35mm lens recently. I will share some images from this camera on Flickr/Facebook soon.

My film camera is a Polaroid SX-70. A much loved treasure that I now use for a little indulgence, usually when we go on holiday. 

My phone camera is an iPhone 6. 

I have a shoot sac camera bag plus a couple of LoPro bags. And now I have this camera bag, which is the most beautiful camera bag I have ever owned! 

What do you need? 

There is a lovely phrase that says "the best camera, is the one in your pocket" and I firmly believe that. You need a camera that you are going to actually use. So, please don't feel you need to spend lots of money no new kit. You don't but you might like to or you might want to save up for something in the future. 

So, what do you need? This is a hard one to answer because I don't know what you all have already and what you might want a camera for, so if you want to add to your kit or buy something new but don't know what or where to start then please message me in the Facebook Group. By asking me in the group my answer may help someone else, so it's better for all of us than email. However, please don't worry about emailing me about it if you would rather do it that way! I know that you all want to take photographs of flowers, so I would say get a macro lens but that might not be right for what you want to achieve, so definitely ask!

The first thing to think about is what your budget is. 

Then think about do you want a dSLR camera, a compact camera or a bridge camera that isn't quite a dSLR but you can change the lenses. The lessons that are coming up may help answer that! 

If you want a camera body plus lenses then you need to split your budget between the camera body and the lenses. As you will begin to discover in the next lesson, it is the lenses that are really important. A great body but a rubbish lens isn't going to get you very far but the reverse will have a bigger impact. 

If you have a dSLR with a kit lens then the first thing you might want to save up for (I would highly recommend that you do!) is a 50mm 1.8. In the UK they cost about £80-100 and it's such a good lens for grasping Aperture Priority and using it well. It is a fixed focus lens, so you also have to move to get the images you want, rather than zooming in or out with the lens. This is such a valuable lesson. Your legs are really important in photography and easy to forget if you have a lens that will move for you! 

I hope that is a useful kit lesson. I also reviewed some cameras for John Lewis last year, which might be useful. 

 

 
 
 

Hello! Right, here goes...it's time to move you away from shooting in Auto and teach you how to master depth of field in all your images, so you can create the look and feel that you want. 

You might not have a dSLR (or a similar camera that allows you to adjust the Aperture) at the moment but still read these lessons today because it will help you to think about whether you want one in the future or whether you are happy to stick to your camera phone. 

I am sure there are many of you who already shoot in Aperture Priority or Manual but still take this lesson in case you have missed something or you need to brush up on your skills! 

 

DEPTH OF FIELD

Before I start talking about numbers, dials and lenses let's start with thinking about depth of field. This is basically 'how much of an image is in focus.'

For example in the image on the right the 'Hello' card is in focus but the typewriter keys are out of focus. All the attention is on the 'Hello'. 

Look at these images below and you can see the differences in depth of each image. 

The image on the left has a shallow deep depth of field and only the box of paper clips is in focus. In the middle image the tape is also in focus.  And in the final image the notebook is also in focus, with a much deeper depth of field. 

There is no right or wrong way of capturing this image but each way gives a different feel, a different emphasis and has a different number of subjects. I am personally always drawn to images that have a shallow depth of field and it's very much a part of my style. But sometimes I might be working for a client who needs or wants a deep depth of field, for a product shot for example or an interiors shoot where you need to clearly see the room and all the details in it. Or all the items in a flat lay. 

Aperture

The depth of field is controlled by the aperture. The higher the number the deeper the depth of field, and the lower the number the shallower the depth of field. 

Aperture is measured in F-stops and the Aperture controls how wide the lens opens, and therefore how much light is let in. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture and the more light that is let in. 

Let's return to the first image again. This image was shot at Apeture F3.2. 

While this image was taken at F10.

Let's look at the three images from above again. This image was taken at F2.8

This image was taken at F5.6 

And this one was shot at F10. 

Shooting in Aperture Priority

Before we go any further with talking about Aperture Priority, I want you now to all go and turn your cameras to Aperture Priority. If you shoot Canon it will say AV on your dial. Nikon says A but please either use Google, your manual or our handy Facebook Group to find out how to set your camera onto Aperture Priority as all cameras are different. 

Once you've set your camera to Aperture Priority you will be able to turn your dial and watch the F number go up and down on your display and through your viewfinder (depending on the make and model of your camera). 

Once you've done that I want you to find something simple to photograph and then take several photographs of the same composition in different apertures, just like I've done above. 

Depending on which lens you have will depend how low your aperture will go. 

On the front or side of your lens you will find your Aperture number. If you have a kit lens it is very likely to say F3.5-5.6. This means that at some focus points you can go as low as F3.5 and at other focus points you can only go as low as F5.6.

Taking a few images like this will really help you to see what you can do with your lens and help you to think about Depth of Field. 

Remember to shout of you get stuck! When I'm teaching my London workshops this is the point where there is a lot of confusion and questions....and a queue of students with their cameras, so don't panic. It's normal to have questions! 

Good luck and enjoy. Shooting in Aperture Priority is going to give you so much more freedom and creativity. I'm really excited for you!