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Thread: Using Your Camera (photography lesson)

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    Using Your Camera (photography lesson)

    A Basic Refresher On Using Your Camera

    Most adjustable cameras are quite similar. The camera in these pictures, a Nikon FE, is fairly typical. You should be able to use these pictures to find the controls on your camera however, we will also use a typical “Point and Shoot” camera in a few of the illustrations. Their controls are quite similar to digital camera controls.

    If you are ONLY concerned with digital cameras then visit Digital Cameras, I strongly recommend you follow my lead if you really want to learn photography, by focusing on your photography skills.

    Make sure there is film in the camera. There is only ONE way to be sure, wind the rewind lever (see pic, turn in the direction of the white curved arrow) about 6-8 times. If it tightens up you have film inside. If it winds easily, no film.

    Before you put film in be sure to set the film speed on the dial. On this camera it is the dial below the rewind knob. If you look closely you will see that the speed (800) is aligned with the red mark.

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    If you have a totally automatic “point and shoot camera you should have a window on the back. A slit that allows you to see what film you have inside. Check the photo at the left. If there is no film the slit will simply look black.

    Check the battery. If it is dead your camera will usually operate at one speed (usually 1/90th).

    To check the battery look for a small lever (usually on the left side of the back). When pushed a small red LED light should light up indicating that the battery is okay.

    Again, if you have a “point and shoot” camera it most likely does not have a battery test switch. However, you should be able to determine if the battery is working by trying to turn the camera on. If it fails to respond the battery is most likely dead. The camera pictured at the right has a dead battery. The lens failed to extend when the camera was turned on and the LED display (above the “Quartzdate”) is totally blank.

    If the light doesn’t light up, or the camera won’t work, try cleaning the battery before buying a new one. A pencil eraser does a real good job. These batteries tend to oxidize and you need to clean that coating off so it makes a good connection. (The battery is usually found on the bottom of the camera, underneath a round, slotted screw). On Point and Shoot, and digital, cameras the battery compartment is on the right hand side.

    If the camera still doesn’t work, get new batteries. If it STILL is kaput, take it to a good camera shop.

    To load the camera you need to open the back. A lot of cameras require you simply lift the rewind knob to open the back. Some cameras have a latch on the left (see red dot in the pic, the latch is just below it) that you must press to lift the rewind knob. Other models have a sliding latch on the left hand side of the body.

    Once open, place the film cartridge in the chamber, as shown, and push the rewind knob down to lock the cartridge in place. Then pull the film to the right and insert into the slot. Close the back and advance the film three frames.

    If you want to use a flash you mount it above the prism on the “hot shoe” mount. (See the mount at left edge of picture) You must set the shutter speed at the correct speed or below. The red number “125″ on the shutter speed dial (center of pic) indicates the fastest
    shutter speed you can use with a flash. You may use any shutter speed at, or below, the speed indicated in red. More on flash below.

    Notice that the wind lever is “open”. Doing this turns the internal light meter on. Pushing the lever inward shuts off the battery, saving battery power. You can read the light meter by looking inside the viewfinder. You will usually see pointers, that need to be lined up, OR you’ll see blinking LED lights. Green indicates proper exposure and Red means you must change the aperture or shutter speed. We usually set the shutter speed first….

    … and then adjust the aperture. You can see the aperture ring in the photo, it has 22 in yellow. To learn more about exposure control click Exposure Control.

    The round button to the right of the lens is used to unlock the lens for removal.

    At the front of the lens you will see a clear filter. It is a Haze filter, which helps reduce haziness AND is kept on the lens at all times since we don’t use lens caps (except when we pack for travelling).

    The SelfTimer is located (in the foto) to the left of the lens. It has a white stripe on the lever. Crank it downward, push the shutter button and dash in front of the camera to make a self-portrait. It usually takes 10 seconds for the timer to wind down and trigger the shutter.

    The Depth of Field lever is located above and to the right of the SelfTimer. It is either a round button or a lever like this. Depressing it will close the aperture (to whereever you have set it) so you can determine the approximate depth of field (sharpness).

    We try to avoid aiming the flash directly at the subject. Instead, aiming the flash upwards - bouncing the light off the ceiling - will spread the light and give a softer, more even lit picture without harsh shadows.

    [Using your Camera]

    Point and Shoot, and digital, cameras have flashes that cannot be bounced. I usually put a piece of Mystic tape over the flash head to soften the light. You can also put a piece of very thin napkin or toilet paper over the flash head. It really makes a difference.

    To rewind the film in most Point and Shoot cameras you must find the button on the base (bottom) of the camera. It will have a symbol near it that looks like O<<. You can see it towards the top of the picture at the right. Above that symbol is an indented slot
    with a black button in the middle. Use a pencil tip to push in the black button and the film should rewind. Make sure the winding has ended before you open the back.

    The threaded hole, at bottom left of photo, is used to screw in a tripod which will provide excellent camera support.


    We hardly ever keep our camera in the leather case that usually comes with it. These cases are too cumbersome and they discourage camera use. If you put a Haze filter on the lens you’ll protect it just as well.

    And we are reluctant to squirt lens cleaning fluid on the lens elements. Better to simply breath moisture SOFTLY onto the glass and gently wipe it with a lint-free napkin.

    Please write down the Hints (at right) and try to follow them for a few rolls of film. These hints will improve your photography quite a bit.

    PLEASE REMEMBER… when you push the shutter button DO NOT jab or punch that button. SQUEEEEEEEZE it. By doing so you eliminate any camera movement and improve you chances of making a sharp photo. In other words, punching the shutter release is the biggest cause of fuzzy photos.

    1. Read the directions!!!!!
    2. Stick with one film (and film) speed until you thoroughly understand how it works …. at least for the first 5 or 6 rolls.
    3. Stick with one good processor …. forever.
    4. Take notes on the first 5 or 6 rolls …. when you make mistakes you’ll immediately be able to troubleshoot your mistakes.

    You should have a solid knowledge of photography, optics, light, composition, etc. before you start going into the advanced courses.

    If you have forgotten the basics I strongly urge you to start at the beginning Photography 101. I cannot stress too much how important it is to have the information provided in the basic lessons. They provide a solid foundation and will definitely help you to make really fine photographs. MAKE fine pics, not just take em.

    Here is a diagram of controls for a typical SLR. See how many match your camera.

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    Well thats really cool info. My friend and I personally use a Nikon D300

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