Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Test Your Skills

An awesome capability of digital cameras is being able to get instant feedback via the LCD screens on the backs of cameras. Not only can you see what you've just shot, dSLRs display histograms which give you even more feedback. I probably wouldn't be going too far out on a limb by saying these features have saved plenty of photographers' photos and asses, pros and hobbyists alike, on a fair number of occasions. I know they've done so for me.

While all that instant feedback is much appreciated by photographers, myself included, it sometimes comes with a price: a learning price. At the risk of sounding overly old school, there's much to be said for shooting film -- especially with an all manual camera -- in terms of honing your skills. After all, when shooting film you don't get to immediately see what you just shot unless you're shooting Polaroids. Because of that, you need to rely on your technical skills in order to be confident your pictures are properly exposed.

 Personally, I think many photographers who have never shot anything but digital might benefit from spending some quality time with a film camera. Still, I'm not suggesting that everyone logs onto eBay or checks out Craigslist in order to buy, and then shoot, with a film camera. You already have a camera which will help you do that, that is, act somewhat like an old film camera-- it's your dSLR.

Here's a really simple exercise to help increase your technical skills. It's especially helpful if you have a light meter. Learning to use a hand-held light meter is another great way to increase your understanding of exposure. You don't need a modern, highly sophisticated, light meter. If you're shooting available light, the simplest, old, analog, light meters (not necessarily a flash meter) will do the trick.  It's likely your dSLR also has an exposure meter visible in the viewfinder which you can use.

Step One: Find something to attach and cover the LCD screen on the back of your camera. Example: Cut a 3x5 index card to the size of your LCD screen and attach it with some tape so it covers the screen.
Step Two: Set your camera to "M" for manual exposure. You can also practice this way using the aperture and/or shutter priority functions.

Step Three: Spend some time shooting in manual or shutter/aperture priority without the benefit of instant feedback via the LCD screen and the histogram.

Step Four: When you're finished shooting, THEN review all your images.

I think you'll find this little exercise will help develop your technical skills as well as your creative skills. The sudden removal of instant feedback forces you to pay more attention to exposure, the details in your viewfinder, and more.

The pretty girl at the top is Tori from a shoot the other day.  (Click to enlarge.)  Tori donned some boxing gloves and posed as if ready to punch me out. If you're wondering what's gong on with Tori's expression, it's because I said to her, "Can you give me some Rocky lips?"  She said, "Rocky 1 or one of the sequels?"

Here's another. This time, Tori assumed the character of a sexy baseball player.


Paps said...

When you said "test your skills" I was somehow expecting a "recognise the pretty girl by one of her pretty parts. That prolly says a lot about me :D

jimmyd said...

@Paps: LOL! Well, it's true, there's a fair number of pretty girls whom I have the skills to recognize by their pretty parts. :-)

Paps said...

Is that a photographers' thing or a male thing? ;)

Anyway, this post reminds of the time I ran around with a slide frame to learn the frame the world :)