How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Lesson 2/31 - Reviewing Photography Basics


How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR


Lesson Info

Reviewing Photography Basics

We have a lot of shooting going on in this course. We have to review, okay? So just a little quick review about what I know you guys already know, but it's important to get these kind of things in your head before we start shooting. That way you'll understand what I'm doing and the response to what I'm teaching you will become more automatic, okay? So for full in-depth content I want you to look up this course on CreativeLive and it's called, "The Beginner Photographer's Crash Course," by Khara Plicanic. Did I get it right? Oh my gosh, I got it right. I've been practicing her name all morning. I'm like, "I'm totally going to hash this. I will feel terrible." But she is an amazing instructor here in CreativeLive and she teaches some wonderful not only software courses, Photoshop and Adobe products, but she also teaches this beginner photographer's crash course. And she's going to really help you operate your camera. Okay, so let's review exposure. How many of you feel comfortable with e...

xposure? Like you can nail your exposure pretty much every time? No, no, no, yeah. I remember that feeling all too well. What's frustrating is it's one of the most important aspects to creating a quality image, right? If the light isn't hitting the sensor properly, you blow it out or it's too dark and it looks like crap and you're like, "Ugh, I missed it." And what a shame to miss a shot because it was not exposed right, right? It's frustrating. Now, can you fix it later in Photoshop? Sometimes, yeah. Especially if you're shooting it raw, you can. But the confidence you achieve in your heart and in your mind from nailing exposure every time is huge. Have you ever like a client wants to see the back of a camera and you're like, "No. No, you can't see it." Because you know you need to repair some things and you don't want to show that. How awesome would it be to be just like, "Isn't that awesome?" You know, turn it around to them and go, "I love it." That's the feeling that we want to get to as professional photographers or as hobbyists who are looking to go to that next level. So the biggest thing I think I want you to take away from this class is that your DSLR thinks in a certain way. I know that obviously technology can't think but it behaves in a certain way and it only can do a certain amount of things. So when you know that, you know its limitations, then you can use those limitations to their best advantage not only exposure but also in focus and things like that. So, there is a couple of different ways to meter and obviously, you guys all know that exposure is done through metering. So to get the correct exposure we have to meter the scene, correct? There's a couple different kinds of ways to do that. There's what we call reflective meters and incident meters. It's basically how light is measured in order to achieve proper exposure, right? A reflective meter is one where the camera is reading light that's bouncing off, okay? When I take my camera and point it at the wall, the meter inside here is measuring light that's bouncing off the wall back into the camera, right? Reflected light. Reflected metering. Make sense? An incident meter which I think I have in my camera bag... B, will you check and see if I have my meter in there? An incident meter, have you seen the little objects where they go, "Click" and there's a little round ball on top of it? An incident meter, I can go, "Click" and what's that measuring? It's measuring the light falling on the meter, okay? So there's a big difference. This kind of meter is so much easier to use it's not even funny. It's much more accurate because what it's doing is it's measuring the actual amount of true light that's coming and landing on the meter. A reflected meter on a white wall, it's going to give me a lot more light, right? If the wall was black, it's a lot less light. How much light is it? It all depends on the surface that the light is reflecting off of, correct? So an incident meter is a lot easier because it's like, "Light is light is light. This is the amount of light falling on the thing." And that's what it measures and reads. Awesome. We're good. Set the camera at that and go. This is why it's so hard for photographers to get metering correct and exposure correct in a camera because a camera reflects light coming off of a subject. That's what it's measuring in its meter, okay? So you have to know the surface of what you're metering and how it will influence the light. Make sense? So let me kind of move forward a little bit and explain it in a different way. So a reflective meter reads the light that is reflected off the scene. So if you're metering off of... remember there's these different modes: matrix, spot, and center-weighted metering in your camera. You guys all know that? I mean, we're familiar with that? I'm almost 90% of the time on spot metering, okay? If I put my spot on a face that's going to be a different reading than if I move over and do it on the wall, right? Why? Because the camera assumes that everything you're pointing at is 18% gray. Middle gray. Middle exposure. So it's trying to put everything in the middle. Make sense? So I have to look at a scene and evaluate and go, "This is a bright wall." I don't want to put the metering dial right in the middle because it'll turn the thing gray, right? It will be an under-exposed image. So I have to know that that light bouncing off that white wall is going to be a higher reading exposure in my camera meter than it would if it was an 18% gray wall. Do you see what I'm saying? So with that being said, you look in your camera meter at the bottom here. This gives you the little dial in the middle and it either goes left or right. You're familiar with all that, okay? Correctly exposed it's supposed to be right in the middle, okay? Over-exposed is supposed to be to the right. Under-exposed is supposed to be to the left, right? We're like basic, I know this is second grade, but I want to get it into your head because it depends so much on the scene. A bright scene will naturally, to get the proper exposure, will naturally meter further to the right. Make sense? So that's why those of you who are in your camera trying to put everything in the middle are under-exposing every bright scene out there. Okay? And when you're in a dark scene and you put it in the middle it's going to over-expose it, right? Because that meter should fall naturally to the left if I'm on a black wall with a dark scene and a dark... you know it's going to naturally fall to the left, the overall scene. That's why I love spot metering so much because when I pinpoint on a spot, say, for example, this works best with a dark scene but imagine a black wall, okay? And a caucasian-skinned girl in a black outfit. So it's the complete opposite of what I'm wearing, okay? The complete opposite of what I'm wearing on a black wall, okay? A caucasian girl, her face is white, right? I If I matrix metered overall scene, the scene would meter very dark, right? If I spot metered just on her face, this is the beautiful part about taking portraits is the face for the most part, not when you have really dark skin and really light skin it matters, but for the most part, most skin reads as 18% gray. So if I meter on the face I will get a correct exposure almost no matter what. That's the beautiful thing about shooting portraits. If I do spot metering I tell the camera, "What is this exposure? What's the reflected light coming off this?" And put that in the middle, I'm going to get a good exposure, okay? So this is where understanding how your camera thinks becomes very critical in taking a good portrait, okay? Questions? Make sense? I see little, confused faces. Little confused. Are we good? Moving on? Okay. The first two are (inaudible). So let's talk about the portrait shoot which is what we're going to do first here. The portrait shoot, okay? First of all, lighting. Lighting for the portrait shoot can be either short or broad when you're starting out. It's kind of all I'm going to give you at this point. There's lots of other lighting techniques, butterfly, clamshell, glamor lighting, Hollywood light, (inaudible) all these kinds of techniques. But for the most part, right now we're going to focus just on short light and broad light, okay? I'm going to do that here in the portrait scene and I want you to see it as I shoot it, okay? Different styles of lighting look better on different people and I want you to flatter people. We're also going to talk about posing and all that good stuff, but for the most part here is the golden rule. The golden rule if you're going to write anything down, write this down. When you're looking for light, look for the shadows. They tell you where the light is, okay? As much as I want to say that this soft box scatters the light, B.S. Light physics, light travels in a straight line, okay? Yes, it can be scattered but for the most part when I'm sitting here, look at the shadows on the wall. Light travels in a straight line. So if you look at the way the shadow is falling on the wall behind me, you go, "Oh. There's the shadow. The light must be over there." You can tell exactly where light is by simply looking at the shadows. It's one of those things where the inexperienced eye will tell you one thing. The shadows will never lie to you, okay? So always look for the shadows no matter what. Every single shoot we do in the next two days I want you to look at the shadows only for light direction and light source, okay? Posing people, women especially as you know I'm pregnancy and newborn photographer a lot, so I pose a lot of these ladies. But we're going to talk specifically about being aware of a few things: the body, the shoulders, the head, the chin, and the hands. And as we get into group dynamics and group portraits we'll get even deeper into this and how to make people look good. The other thing we're going to discuss is camera angle, okay? This is a classic business headshot. We're going to do that this morning. Nothing out of this world, but the way starts simply, okay? Camera angle is huge, but also lens choice works with that. And that's one of the reasons I think this is tough for folks is because there's so many parameters. A lens will make a difference, a camera angle will make a difference, a lighting angle will make a difference, and those are the three things we are going to hone in on you guys, like me like a madwoman on the next two days: camera angle, lighting, and posing angle. Camera angle, lighting angle, posing angle. Those three things. If you can nail them you will nail portrait every time. Camera angle, lighting angle, posing angle, okay? A high camera angle tends to slim but it depends on the lens choice, okay? A low camera angle can add weight but it can also add authority. If I'm shooting a CEO in a portrait, getting down on a lower camera angle makes him look more powerful. Again, let's go back to the Time Magazine picture of Trump. You guys all remember that? Person of the year or whatever it was. That camera angle was so storytelling. So, use your camera angle to tell a story if it works that way. Also this is Belinda when she was 12 weeks pregnant. A low camera angle versus mid versus high. Do you see how anything closer to the camera appears larger? And this goes for posing, too. So if I'm down here, obviously her hips are the closest thing to me, right? Just so you know, women don't really like that. But if I'm up here, then her face looks a little distorted compared to the rest of her body, right? But a nice high-to-mid camera angle makes her chest and her face the most forward-thing closest to the camera, so of course, that is the most flattering part and the part that I want you to focus on is her face in a portrait, okay? So hence the reason I do a lot of my shooting from that kind of mid-to-high angle, especially with women. Men it's a little different story. It just depends on what story they're trying to tell in the portrait that we're creating for them. Consider foreshortening. That elbow coming towards me makes it look extremely short and kind of funky, doesn't it? Just pulling the shoulder back and rocking the elbow back one direction removes that foreshortening, okay? So anything coming at the camera is going to shorten it and distort it. Lens choice. This was shot with a 200-millimeter F2 lens at F2. Compression occurs enormously with these long lenses. It makes the background elements appear larger than they are, okay? It also brings the focus to the subject at hand when you're shooting wide open with a lens that compresses like that. So long lenses, your telephoto, your portrait lenses tend to compress, create better bokeh. That background out-of-focus especially when you shoot wide open with them, okay? The short lenses, the wide angle for portraits they tend to distort people a little bit. They exaggerate lines, they make things look further away than they are in the background. You ever done that? You shot with a really wide-angle lens and you're like, "Whoa, that car looks like it's two miles away and it's only 40 feet." You know? Have you ever seen that? That's what compression is, and it works in reverse with different lenses, okay? So for portraits I generally shoot with a longer lens because it does that compression thing. It makes them look better, so let's look at Belinda, shot the same way with different lenses, okay? The wide angle lens kind of distorts her body a little bit. Do you see that? Her legs look a little short because they're going away from me. The normal lens looks pretty good, but as I go to the portrait lens it starts to even her out a little bit because it's compressing everything. Do you see that? And the telephoto lens using a 200 millimeter or more does it even more, so when I do portraits I tend to stick in the 85 to 105 range, okay? I happen to love that look, and again this is a personal choice. Some of the coolest photographers out there make amazing portraits with super wide angle lenses and you're like, "Dang, that's really cool. It's totally distorted." If it's fantasy, it looks kind of neat. That's a style. As a matter of fact, I have an entire course we did last August here in CreativeLive about finding and defining your style. So every one of you is an artist with your camera in your hand. How are you going to make your look look? So compression works in reverse with, as you come in closer to a subject see how big her nose is? Sorry, B. She's like, "I really don't need to see my face that close." But, as I stand a little bit further back from her versus going up close with that wider lens, a 50-millimeter lens, all of a sudden now her nose looks twice the size of her eyes, right? You see that? This is training your eye to see things. So let's start shooting some portraits, okay? And I'm going to pull a couple of you out of the audience and we're going to talk about posing. We're going to talk about short light, broad light, and how I'm using those lenses to create a beautiful shot.

Class Description

Julia has a great way of explaining even some of the most technical things so that you can understand them. This is a great class to get your feet wet and then use what you learned to start swimming. - Barry Miller, CreativeLive Student

Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.  



Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....