Aperture, ISO, exposure — so many words and so little knowledge about what they mean. Using an actual camera is a little more complicated than pressing a button on your phone. Sure, you can set it to automatic, but that’s cheating. If you want to get the most out of your camera and make your photos look professional, consider this your guide: “Cameras for Dummies.”
The most enticing part of camera work is that you do not need prior experience. You can learn everything relatively quickly, cultivate amazing pieces and make long-lasting connections in the field; it all starts with learning to use a camera.
Through YouTube demonstrations and classes at the University of Miami, you can learn the ins and outs of digital photography. Maybe you even have a camera-savvy friend who can teach you. Whichever avenue you choose to take, there are many ways to seek guidance and learn the initial steps.
Ethan Robbins, a senior majoring in creative advertising, has a great deal of experience in the film industry, even working with ESPN and UM’s athletics department over his academic career.
The most essential first step to camera usage is deciding which camera to use. For the most basic and introductory experience, Robbins said he recommended the Canon Rebel.
“The Rebel is useful for body and lens-based photography that allows you to focus on your shot. All you have to do is point the camera and it does the work for you,” said Robbins.
The camera is also comparatively cheap; refurbished Rebels typically cost somewhere in the $300 range, and a completely new Rebel stands at around $550.
Ryan Novak, a junior majoring in motion pictures, recommended the Sony A7iii, which is commonly used in UM film classes. Novak, a filmmaker himself, recently won the award for Best Intro Film at the 2022 ’Canes Film Festival, not to be confused with the one in France, for his film “Clouds on the Horizon,” which he wrote, produced, directed, and edited. Novak said the best camera on the market for both photo and video purposes is the Sony A7iii.
“This camera is one of the best cameras that works fifty-fifty [just as well] with videography and photography,” said Novak.
After figuring out your camera of choice, it’s time to figure out how to get your best quality shot, which can be obtained through multiple practices. Figuring out your ideal shutter speed is a good place to start.
The shutter speed refers to the number of frames being clicked per second. Typically, you want to aim to shoot with a shutter speed of either 1/50 or 1/60. However, it depends on whether you’re adhering to the motion picture standard, which is 24 frames per second, or the broadcast standard, which is 30 frames per second. If your aim is to decrease shutter speed, shoot closer to 1/100 and for a more crystal clear look, adjust it to 1/1000.
Adjusting the aperture, or camera opening, is another essential task, as this dictates the focus of your shot. This is dependent on your depth of field, pertaining to whether you want a narrow depth or not. You adjust the aperture of your camera by adjusting the part of the camera called the iris to choose the amount of light let into the camera with units known as “f-stops,” which is the lens focal length divided by the diameter of the entrance pupil of the aperture.
A lower aperture sits around f1.8–2.4, and an f22 means the image is more focused and less narrow in depth.
In correlation with the aperture strategy, Novak said he recommends getting a prime lens for your camera. This lens has a set length with no zoom features, which allows you to focus on shooting your image over getting lost in deciding the depth of your shot.
“I strictly use the 35mm, that’s what’s worked best for me in my experience,” said Novak.
The following important technique is to work with the camera’s white balance. This tool can be set to determine how colors are processed through the camera’s image to ensure the shot is correctly lit and colored.
UM professor Edmund Talavera gave input on the struggles students face in the while learning the craft of camera work. Above all, he mentioned the importance of having a strong storyline.
“There is a reason even large multimillion-dollar films are bad: scriptwriting is hard. If you don’t have a great story, no fancy equipment will save your film,” said Talavera.
The professor, who also serves as the faculty director of the annual Canes Film Festival, also recommended amateur film makers pay attention to the lens and clarity of an image, as it takes importance over the type of camera you use, and that beginner cameras can create incredible pieces.
Now that you have some techniques down, it’s time to try them out — who knows, you may just end up creating a life-changing piece and win an award of your own …
Tips and Tricks
Rule of Thirds: Place your subject in the left or right third of an image and leave the other thirds of your shot more open to create a clear, flattering result.
Zebra Feature: This is a setting on your camera that pulls up “zebra” striped lines that help determine exposure levels.
Adobe Resources: The Adobe Creative Cloud is free with tuition at the University of Miami and allows you to access applications such as Adobe Lightroom and Premier.
words_jamie moses. photo_valeria barbaglio. design_marita gavioti.
This article was published in Distraction’s Fall 2023 print issue.
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