Manual Settings

Years ago (far more years than I thought, when I was asked!) I took AS Level photography. I really enjoyed it, it was the first creative subject I’d taken and it was both a refreshing change and more of a challenge than the more academic subjects I’d taken up until then. I chose not to continue it to A2 level because I didn’t get on with the tutor and didn’t feel I could stick another year of him. I did regret that decision later.

We used 35mm SLR cameras and half of the course was developing the black and white films and printing the photos in the darkroom. It was before digital photography became as prevalent as it is today (and that makes me feel old saying that!), but after that I did of course start using digital cameras, just point and shoot ones, until I got my digital SLR camera in 2008. I was excited to have an SLR again but it was so much more complicated to work than my basic 35mm SLR and I couldn’t make it do what I wanted so I just used it on auto. All of the photos you have seen on my blog have been taken on auto, either on my DSLR or various point and shoot cameras.

Not being able to use my camera on manual has always really bugged me, and I secretly felt that it was pointless having a good camera but just using it on auto. I mentioned this in passing on my blog a few months ago and my friend Katherine  pounced on it and several email exchanges later we were booked onto an Introduction to Digital Photography Course in Leeds. It all happened rather fast!

I was worried that I wouldn’t know enough to get me through the day, and that it would be too complicated for me. Happily though, my fears were unfounded and I did know most of the theory already but what I didn’t know was how to make my camera do it. SO many buttons and settings!

We started out using the camera in the aperture priority setting, and taking photos with a shallow depth of field, and a deep depth of field. I hadn’t realised that it was possible to use auto focus in the manual settings at this point, so I felt quite frustrated at how difficult it was to focus as well. Looking back though, I’m really proud of the ones that did work when I was using manual focus (the two photos above this paragraph, and then the one below.)

After we had mastered aperture, we moved on to shutterspeed which of course you can use to freeze or capture movement. I still hadn’t realised how to use the autofocus in the manual settings by this point and I wasn’t happy with anything I took. I didn’t mind too much though because my aim was to learn how to do it, not to take wonderful photographs that day.

After lunch we moved onto full manual settings – and it felt hugely satisfying to be able to do it! I’m so glad I went on the course, and I got so much out of it. The confidence to try, to get better photos, feel happy about learning and improving myself. I have been a frustrated “auto” photographer for far to long! I’ve even been practising things since; I’m determined not to forget it all.

The course was run by Tom Poultney Photography and took place at Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds. We got a groupon voucher, and I think they are still available if you wanted to have a look. He was really good, knowledgeable but not patronising and happy to go into more detail when you asked.

Aside from all of the photography skills that we learnt, it was ace to spend a day with Katherine! We live quite far apart so our friendship mainly takes place over texts, emails and instagram but this is the first time we have seen each other with no children since before she had her daughter in 2010! Crazy. Oh and she has a request, if you don’t mind? Do you have write/read any blogs about sewing your own clothes? If so could you leave a link, she is after some new ones to read. Thanks! :-)

20 thoughts on “Manual Settings

  1. Those photographs are so lovely. I’m very much a ‘point and shoot’ photographer, so I’m in awe of you guys who can do these complicated things. It looks like you’re going to have lots of fun practicing!

    I can recommend a rather long list of sewing blogs, since they’re mostly what I follow! I hope at least some of these are helpful :) and both sell patterns, but have a lot of useful tips as well.,,, and are some of my favourites, and all include links to lots more great sewing sites. Hope Katherine has fun with them!

  2. Kathryn says:

    Lovely pictures Heather!!!!

    As for sewing blogs, I love craftiness is not optional,
    And , Tilly was on the Sewing bee last year, and is about to release a book on diy dressmaking, which looks super brilliant!! She also has three or four patterns available either for digital download or her newest pattern ‘Coco’ comes as a paper version with a super instruction booklet! Xx

  3. I’ve just recently turned my camera onto manual and I’ve got more or less to grips with it faster than I thought. It’s very satisfying to be able to get photos with blurry backgrounds at last (depth of field? Is that what that’s called?), although I feel I can never get my aperture down low enough to get REAL depth of field.

    I was going to recommend Tilly and The Buttons too, but there’s also Made by Rae – she has children’s and adults’ clothing patterns. I love the big butt baby pants!

  4. Your photos are great Heather! I haven’t used an SLR in a while now, I’m not brilliant with the settings because for me it’s one of those ‘use it or loose it’ things! I forget if I keep using my point & shoot… So keep up the manual settings :-)

    I read a nice blog by Jo called Three Stories High and she makes quite a lot of clothes for herself and children and more recently a coat which I was very impressed with :-)

  5. Sounds like a brilliant day Heather.
    I found lots of dressmaking blogs on bloglovin, in the “DIY & CRAFTS” section.
    Tilly and the buttons, Handmade Jane and Lladybird are good.
    Jacquie x

  6. Anne Marie says:

    I thought you had had some photography training, Heather, I may have mentioned it before but the way you positioned your shots told me. I used to have a rather nice 35mm film camera and one of the things I tried to use was the statement about the greater the F number – but hey ho, I’ve forgotten it. I still have an old light meter which I used too. My ex husband was a fantastic video film maker with the old cameras.

    I love your close photos up there. I only use my camera on auto now, as I’m usually taking them in a hurry. I was lucky enough to win a Leica digital compact about 3 years ago and the controls are so finicky I just can’t be bothered but I might be if I went on a course, maybe! My son takes photography seriously and has won awards for his photography but I really don’t see him enough for him to tutor me.

    I adore the way you have the depth of field in those close ups. Now, there’s another talent you have!

  7. Jo says:

    I went on a one day photography course last year with a groupon voucher, it was a different photographer than the one you went with though. We went in to Leeds and took photos around City Square and the new Trinity Shopping Centre. It sounds like they were very similar courses. I’m still not very confident in using my camera on manual but I do give it a go.

  8. Anne Marie says:

    Another posting, Heather. I have just heard my son and his wife are expecting in October.

    DiL has said that a crochet baby blanket would be nice, and I was thinking of it but just don’t want to do a ‘baby coloured’ one which would just end up being given away when baby got too old for it. I know you have done some lovely ones more my kind of colours.

    Can you give me some idea of what size one should be, if a ripple, or stripe, or squares, how many stitches? and/or measurement? I also wonder what sort of wool. I’m not sure if she’s the washing by hand sort of girl, she’s very quiet and I don’t see them that often. Of course there is the good old Stylecraft! I have some but not tried it. Maybe that for practicality?

    What do you think? Of course I will know more colourwise when they have had the scan. They want to know what it is, so that will be helpful.

    I’ve never been a granny before and am a bit stunned, more from the fact that it was so totally unexpected, as I was convinced they were going to spend their lives going on long, road trip type holidays, which is what they’ve done for the last few years. He is in his 40s and she’s a 3 or 4 years younger.

  9. Gemma says: – my friend goes into a lot of technical detail and likes using funky material. Definately worth a read as she has some interesting things happening this year.

    I love photography, I have an old 35mm SLR that I just don’t use any more now we have a digital. I also am not familiar with all the settings, just waiting now for a bit more child free freedom to learn.

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