5 Lies Your Camera Likes to Tell

Think your camera is your best friend? Think again. Heed these 5 warnings and better equip yourself with the knowledge needed to walk away with better images!

Your camera is a marvel of amazing technology but you still need to use your brain when you shoot. Even if you’re in full Auto mode, don’t assume your camera knows what’s best for you!

Here are five common bloopers and how to avoid getting tripped up on your next shoot.

Lie #1: It’s Exposed


Technically exposed shots don’t always make the best looking images.

Your camera has several automatic metering modes to help you catch the right amount of light without you needing to whip out the calculator. Are you using the right one? Spot, center-weighted, and multi-zone metering are great for many situations–so be sure you know which one is best for you.

For example, you may want to over-expose when shooting in situations like snow to be sure you get that fluffy, clean white stuff you’re used to seeing. No one likes gray snow.

Finally, let your artistic creativity be your guide. There’s no shame in flooding your summer portraits with light or even leaving in a bit of flare if you’re going for a sun-soaked, dreamy mood. Similarly, underexposing your shots is your key to super-dramatic clouds, abstract shadows, and gritty street shots.

Click here for more info on metering modes and how they affect exposure.

Lie #2: It’s in Focus


Always make sure your intended subject is actually in focus.

Despite the reassuring “beep-beep!” of your AF system, there’s still a lot that can foil your focus. The most common culprit is motion blur if it’s too dark in the room. As a rule, you want your shutter speed to be at least 1/(focal length) for your shot to have a chance at being sharp. If it’s not possible, try bumping up your ISO to compensate for lack of light. For example, if you are shooting indoors with a 50mm and you are not using motion blur for artistic effect, try not to shoot at a shutter any slower than about 1/60th of a second.

Also, be sure you’re focused on the right spot. If you’re shooting wide open (low f-stop numbers) your depth of field gets smaller, meaning it’s easier to accidentally focus on your subject’s nose, not their eyes. We love bokeh as much as you, but missing the focus can make or break a perfect portrait.

Lie #3:  You Have Enough Card Space


The content of your image may affect how quickly you blow through memory cards.

Your camera’s telling you your memory card can hold 386 more shots but did you know this may not be the case? The size of each photo file you shoot depends on the data in each, which usually translates to how busy your pictures are. A zen, monochrome ocean scene makes a smaller image file than a colorful fisheye of Times Square. So be aware if you’re worried about space on your hard drive or on your memory cards.

When in doubt, pack extras.

Lie #4: You Need an Upgrade


You can create great images no matter what kind of gear you have.

“Great shot! What camera was that?” We’re sure you’ve heard this before but, contrary to popular belief, the camera doesn’t make the image. YOU do. You don’t need to upgrade your equipment just to run with the big dogs and top-of-the-line gear isn’t carte blanche to the photographer’s Hall of Fame. So be proud to carry your favorite camera into the field. As long as you know what all the buttons do and have a grasp of fundamental principles, you’ve got everything you need to take an awesome photo.

For instance, the above shot was taken with a 4 megapixel Canon Powershot point-and-shoot.

It’s not the size of the ax; it’s how you…click it!

Lie #5: Auto Means You Don’t Have to Do Anything


Learn how to override settings, even in “auto mode”.

Even if you switch on your camera’s Auto modes or semi-auto modes (green square, Tv, Av, scenes, etc), don’t switch off your brain. Auto modes work most of the time to get you better shots with less fiddling but they can also be fooled. For example: when shooting in unusually bright scenes (snow), unusually dark scenes (backlit subjects) and when you want to freeze action.

Take that extra second to think about what you’re shooting, the picture you want to get, and how best to make it happen. You can manually bump up or lower the exposure when using most automatic modes, so consider over (or under) exposing your scene intentionally to get what you want.

5 Lies Your Camera Likes to Tell was reprinted here with permission by SmugMug.

Alexandria Huff's photography and lighting tutorials can be found on 500px and her blog. See her lighting tutorials here. She is a Marketing Associate Manager at BorrowLenses.com. She learned about lighting and teaching while modeling for photographers such as Joe McNally and has since gone on to teach lighting workshops of her own in San Francisco. Before focusing on studio portraiture, she shot motorsports for X-Games, World Rally Cross, and Formula Drift. See her chiaroscuro-style painterly portraits on her website.


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