Pentax K1000 camera
the Pentax K1000 was my first film camera. It taught me a lot about focus and exposure.

It’s so easy to rely on today’s DSLRs to think for us, but you can get even more out of a camera when you know and can practice the principles of photography. I wanted to share some photography tips that you can put into action the next time you shoot.

ISO is the foundation of a good photo.

Back in the day, ISO was also called the film speed. If you bought a roll of ISO 200 film, you were stuck with it no matter what shooting environment you were in. The ISO setting on your DSLR informs the sensor’s sensitivity to light. Adjusting ISO based on shooting conditions is the first step toward a properly exposed photo.

Don’t substitute depth of field for good focus.

A smaller aperture delivers a sharper image, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore focal points and proper focusing. Using depth of field with good focus makes for a much stronger photo. 

Shutter speed and sharpness go hand in hand.

A good rule of thumb for figuring out the right shutter speed for the sharpest photo is 1/focal length of the lens. For example, if you’re using a 200mm lens, you should start at 1/200 for your shutter speed and adjust accordingly based on what you are shooting.

Your histogram and your LCD screen tell the whole story.

Learn to use your histogram! Looking at the photo on your camera’s screen won’t tell you everything you need to know. Take a second to look at the histogram to ensure you’ve properly exposed the photo and that you’ve captured enough detail in the highlights or shadows.

The significant factors in manual shooting mode are …

Finally, it can be overwhelming and confusing to try and figure out what setting should be what when shooting in manual mode. Here are two simple questions to ask yourself after you’ve set your ISO; the answers will influence your camera settings:

1) Is there motion? If so, set the shutter speed first.*

2) Do you need a specific depth of field? If so, set the aperture first.*

*Depending on the goal, one setting has more significance or is more dominant than another.

Happy shooting!