Photography Classes' Lesson 4 - Camera Control (part 1)

Camera Control (part 1)

This lesson took much longer than I had anticipated, so I am going to break it down to several mini-posts.

Getting started with handling your camera

To take beautiful photographs with your digital camera is to understand the basic functions of your camera. However, you're a creative person and all these technical nuances are stopping you from being the creative photographer you want to be. Right about now, the digital dSLR camera must look more complicated than it needs to be, but let me reassure you that this is by design for the future photographer you will be. The photographer who will require the quick dedicated buttons to respond to every situation. Functions that I will touch upon in this post.

But first let's look at the most fundamental camera operation. How you hold your dSLR camera. Beyond the obvious, where the hands go with your camera, you want to take on 3-points of contact position to allow your camera maximum stability to reduce camera shake. By pointing and pushing your elbows inwards toward your body and have the viewfinder pressed against your face gives you the maximum stability for hand-held shooting.

Relax and breathe

Additional to this posture is to use a control breathing technique, where you slow down your breathing, and on the end of the exhale, you press the shutter. Leaning your shoulders on a wall can even further stabilize your shot. And these are the basic ways to hold your camera. There are more advanced ways design to stabilize your shot that's based on the type of lens your dSLR camera has attached on. By bending your arms in US Army snipers adopted this method due to the rifles long barrel.

Alternatively, you can always use a tripod to stabilize your shot. A tripod is a collapsible three legged stand, and the center of where the legs meet is the tripod head, where your camera is attached and sits on. The tripod introduces more options of genres of photography to you, such as landscape, night time, light painting, that is, if not impossible, very difficult to pull off by hand held. A camera support systems like a tripod, offers the best kind of stability for your dSLR camera for the sharpest shots in any speed settings, and, lastly, allows the photographer to be free from holding the camera all the time. Once the shot is framed, the photographer can walk away from the camera to work with the set or model and not worrying about re-framing a shot. And a tripod is just one of the few kinds of camera support system for your camera.

Tripod types and uses

There are camera stands that professional studio photographer uses. It starts with a heavy based that's wheel-based with a brake, a pole that gives the camera it's vertical movement, X axis, and arm that gives the camera it's horizontal movement, the Y Axis. Attached to the very end is where the "tripod-head" sits for you to attached your camera. Unlike a tripod, the camera stand have a very small profile compare to tripod on the ground and is less likely for people in the studio to trip over. And there is the mono-pod that offers an alternative to travelers who wants the stability of the tripod-like camera support with very fast setup time as opposed to the tripod. And lastly, there are specialized camera support designed for a very niche situations.

The construction of the camera support is also very important as the material can be subjected to minor vibrations that the ground generates and cause some blur to details of your photograph. Another consideration is the weight of the tripod as it will be part of your camera bag for the length of time of your travel. Also, the design plays a role in how quickly you can readjust your camera.

Hands on experience

As you can tell, I'm a product photographer as my primary trade in photography. So naturally, I know I will gravitate towards to camera stand in the studio setting, but it doesn't mean you have to use one over your tripod. In fact, I only use it for product photography and well the cheapest good camera stand I would recommend cost over $900. The tripod is still a great middle ground tool because it can be in-between the two extremes, the slow cumbersome setup of a camera stand to the quick and savvy mono-pods.

I actually own them all for different purposes and genres. My tripod is a light, carbon fiber mini tripod that can fold into the inside of my pack and is about 3 pounds for my interior photography jobs, where I have to shoot at clients homes and businesses all over the New York City. It needs to be light for me because I'm not the young photographer I used to be. And my mono-pod is setup for my dSLR video setup. The bottom mono pod grips the ground and pivots in a fluid motion for camera pans. There are others like a nodal point tripod heads for 360 degrees photography, but they are more like toys to me. The tripod, camera stand, and mono-pods are my bread and butter tools for camera support.

What's the point?

The whole idea of using the tripod is just one form of operating the camera to get the sharpest image capture. And the most conventional way of using the tripod is to use a timer function of your dSLR camera. Set the composition and let timer count down as most camera system have a timer mode. Some advance dSLR cameras have more options like a 10 seconds and a 2 seconds timer. Why 2 seconds? Even if your camera is snuggle up on a tripod, when you try to operate the camera by using your fingers to operate the shutter button will still introduce some form of camera shake. So a 2 seconds timer is to save the photographer some time from waiting for the 10 seconds timer.

Alternatively, you can use a remote. A remote comes in generally in 2 kinds: wired or wireless. The wired remote is directing attached to your camera, and can be simple or tricked out to be programmable. And wireless remote can by radio or infrared triggers, but let's stop for today. I will follow up with the next post on remote triggers and kinds of genres of photography that opens up for you with the remote trigger.

Question time

What kind of support system do you think you'll need at the beginning?

This is Charlie Wang, signing off. Please be sure to click on the G+ button at the bottom of the page to follow me and never miss an update. Thanks again!