Photography Tips

Getting into Manual Mode | Lifestyle Photographer Columbus Ohio - Erika Venci Photography

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I will never forget how intimidating my new DSLR camera felt when I first unboxed it. So many buttons and wheels.. and this thing was so much bigger than any camera I had ever used. The only cameras I was familiar with were an old point and shoot from college and my iPhone camera. 

I watched SO many tutorials on YouTube to try to figure everything out and use the camera.. and they were very helpful but I am a hands-on learner so I started practicing with what I knew. I started in Aperture-Priority mode. This showed me my camera and lens' potential. I was blown away at how much better the images looked compared to when I had the camera in Auto mode. 

Once I mastered Aperture Priority mode, I started learning manual mode. Looking back, I do not know why I was so scared of going manual. Controlling everything about every single click of the shutter just seemed impossible. How did photographers do it? How does anyone master their craft? Practice. I started practicing. ALL. THE. TIME. I drove my family crazy (and still do) begging them to be my subjects or snapping away anyways like the paparazzi.

And I used to be self-conscious about being the photographer in the room.. not wanting to annoy anyone but now I really don't care. This is my passion and I am owning it. In 20 years when my family looks back on these photos I know they will be thankful for them and that's how I am always thinking. Ok, sorry for the tangent.. back to how I got started in manual mode. 

The first picture I took with my DSLR that I was really happy with! This was taken in Aperture Priority mode with my Nikon D5300 and Nikon 50mm f/1.4.

The first picture I took with my DSLR that I was really happy with! This was taken in Aperture Priority mode with my Nikon D5300 and Nikon 50mm f/1.4.

Once you are getting the hang of manual mode, it is also a really great idea to challenge yourself with different lighting situations. Take photos in low light, high sun or harsh light, golden hour, cloudy days, artificial light, after sunset, etc. All of these different lighting situations will help you learn your settings and what works.

One of the ways I got myself into different lighting situations was by starting my 365 project. I have to take at least one photo every day. Even the dark, rainy days or the days when it's 9:00pm and I realize I haven't taken a photo yet. Forcing myself to shoot in these situations has helped me so much. Now, I can walk into a lighting situation and already know approximately where my settings will be which is very helpful when you have a fast toddler you are trying to capture :)

Here are some examples of photos I have taken in different light situations and the settings for each. 

Low Light

Low Light - ISO 1600 f/1.4 1/13s SigmaArt 35mm

Low Light - ISO 1600 f/1.4 1/13s SigmaArt 35mm

Low Light - ISO 1250 f/1.4 1/250s SigmaArt 35mm

Low Light - ISO 1250 f/1.4 1/250s SigmaArt 35mm

Harsh Light

Harsh Light  - ISO 100 f/2.5 1/640s SigmaArt 35mm

Harsh Light  - ISO 100 f/2.5 1/640s SigmaArt 35mm

Harsh Light - ISO 100 f/2.0 1/4000s SigmaArt35mm

Harsh Light - ISO 100 f/2.0 1/4000s SigmaArt35mm

Golden Hour

Golden Hour - ISO 160 f/1.4 1/320s SigmaArt 35mm

Golden Hour - ISO 160 f/1.4 1/320s SigmaArt 35mm

Golden Hour - ISO 100 f/1.4 1/640s Nikon 105mm

Golden Hour - ISO 100 f/1.4 1/640s Nikon 105mm

Cloudy Day

Cloudy Day - ISO 100 f/1.4 1/800s SigmaArt 35mm

Cloudy Day - ISO 100 f/1.4 1/800s SigmaArt 35mm

Cloudy Day - ISO 160 f/1.8 1/320s SigmaArt 35mm

Cloudy Day - ISO 160 f/1.8 1/320s SigmaArt 35mm

Artificial Light

Artificial Light - ISO 500 f/2.0 1/320s SigmaArt 35mm

Artificial Light - ISO 500 f/2.0 1/320s SigmaArt 35mm

After Sunset

After Sunset - ISO 8000 f/1.4 1/100s SigmaArt 35mm

After Sunset - ISO 8000 f/1.4 1/100s SigmaArt 35mm

If you are on the fence about diving into manual mode with your camera, I want you to know that yes, it can be intimidating, but with lots of practice and putting yourself in various lighting situations you can quickly master it! 

For more on what I know about manual mode click here 

Thanks for stopping by.. If this blog post helps at least ONE person, I will be happy :)

Love and Light, 

Erika

3 Easy Tips for Using Window Light | Columbus Ohio Lifestyle Photographer - Erika Venci Photography

Besides Golden Hour light, Window Light is my FAVORITE.. With all of the rainy and dark days here in Ohio this winter and spring, I definitely was able to practice shooting with my camera indoors using window light.

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Another reason why I love using window light is because you can create awesome drama and mood with it! By using windows on just one side of your subject, you will create shadows and there will be light fall off. This all creates depth and a bit of mystery to your photos. It ALSO can hide the pile of laundry on the floor behind your subject! ;)

Here are 3 easy tips for using window light!

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1. Turn off the lights!

Most artificial light has color to it that can suck the life out of your photos. For example, the lights in our kitchen have a yellow tint to them and they can make everything look yellow. I really HATE yellow lighting in my photos so I always do my best to eliminate it. When I am shooting inside, I always try to turn off as many lights as possible (during the daytime, obviously :) ) This allows me to use natural light coming through the windows. 

Mixed light sources (aka window lights plus your table lamp) can also make your photos look flat and can create unflattering shadows.. especially if the light source is directly above your subject's head.

2. Side light, Silhouette, or Front-Lighting

There are several ways to use window light. My two favorite are using it as side lighting (which I do a LOT) and you can also use it to create a beautiful silhouette image. You can also use front-lighting, however, I love shadows so I rarely use this method (it can be very flat with minimal shadows on your subject).

Below are a few examples of side lighting. When side lighting, your subject is perpendicular to the window.

Side Lighting

Side Lighting

Silhouettes are one of my favorite things to shoot! When you are taking a silhouette image, you will place your subject between yourself and the window. The highlights in the window will be very bright, creating a silhouette of your subject. You can underexpose your subject as well for a true black silhouette of them against the window. Silhouettes can also be taken with your iPhone camera!

A couple of examples below:

Silhouette Lighting

Silhouette Lighting

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3. Expose for your subject

Using my DSLR camera in manual mode, I meter for the highlights on their face but I slightly under-expose. This helps to create shadows and depth. I love when I have my son in front of a singular light source (one window, for example) and I get great shadows behind him and light fall off. I usually enhance these shadows and also bring up the exposure on him in editing using the brush tool in Light Room.

If you are using an iPhone camera, you can expose for your subject by tapping on your subject's face on the screen. You should notice a change in the lighting when you do this and the camera will know which part of the image you want exposed. 

Another thing to note is that if the window itself is a part of the photo, it will become overexposed and white but that is ok. I actually like this because the white window is less distracting than an outside scene and makes the subject the focus of the photo. 

I hope you all find these tips helpful! Sometimes a great photo opportunity trumps lighting technicalities.. but when I am able, I follow these three tips religiously.

A few of my favorite window light images:

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Love and Light, 

Erika

5 Easy Tips to Get The Most Out of Your DSLR Camera | Columbus Ohio Photographer - Erika Venci Photography

Ok, so you just got your first DSLR camera--GREAT! Now what?! How in the world do you use this thing?! If you are like me, when I got my first camera, I had no idea where to start with learning how to use it properly.. So, I just set it to "Auto" mode and started shooting. This worked ok, BUT I knew if I was going to be paying this much money for a camera, I wanted to learn how to use it properly!

iPhone or phone camera users- you can STILL take amazing photos! Phone cameras have come a LONG way in the last couple of years. For your tips, skip to #3!

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1. Learn how to shoot in MANUAL MODE

This is by far the most challenging thing to learn when you first get your camera.. but if you can learn this, I promise you, it will only get easier with practice and soon you will be able to adjust your settings without much thought. Shooting in manual mode means you are controlling your aperture (your depth of field), shutter speed (how long the shutter is open to let the light in) and ISO (your camera's sensitivity to light). 

Learn More About Manual Mode HERE

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2. Use the VIEWFINDER

Stop using the screen on the camera!

When I got my first DSLR camera, I always used the screen to see what I was shooting. This slowed me down and was really difficult to do once I started using manual mode. I know it feels weird to use the view finder at first, because after all, our phone cameras don't have viewfinders! HOWEVER, looking through the viewfinder, you will be able to adjust your settings more quickly and also focus faster. Stick to it and after a while, it will feel normal and less awkward!

The only times I use the screen on my camera are if I am doing an "above the scene" shot where I am holding the camera up really high above my subject, if I am taking a self-portrait, OR if I'm shooting video. For everything else, I use the viewfinder.

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3. Shoot during GOLDEN HOUR

Golden hour is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. It is when the sun is at it's lowest point in the horizon. The benefits of shooting during this time are awesome. The light is softer and not as harsh and best of all, it is GOLDEN. This is very flattering for photos and allows you a lot of flexibility because you don't have to hide from or work with harsh mid-day sun. 

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4. Use BACKLIGHTING

There are MANY ways to shoot in natural light, but my favorite by far is backlighingt! It is easy to learn and very flattering for your subjects. Shooting with backlight means that you are shooting with the sun behind your subject. This works GREAT during Golden Hour.

Backlight prevents harsh shadows on your subjects face, illuminates the hair to create "rim light" and is just GORGEOUS.  When you are shooting with back light, you will want to underexpose your subjects a little bit and then bring up the exposure on your subject when you are editing. This will maintain details and colors in the background and make sure the sky is not blown out and white.

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5. Keep your camera READY

While you are shooting your subject, especially if it's children, keep your camera UP and ready to click! Children are quick and if you keep your camera up to your face and ready, it will be much easier to capture unexpected cuteness! When I first started, I cannot tell you how many pictures I missed because of this. My main subjects are young children and babies so learning this has helped me immensely! 

I hope you have found these tips to be helpful! Please leave a comment if you have any questions, I would be happy to help in any way that I can! 

Love and Light, 

Erika