I’m not normally one for New Year’s resolutions. This is because, for the most part, I can’t keep them. My “I’m going to eat healthy” doesn’t make it past the first encounter with Mackinac Island Creamery ice cream. However I have two for this year. The first is to get at least a few of the quilt patterns in my head written up and on paper to share. The second is to improve my blog photography, in the hopes of creating the sort of eye-candy I like to cruise on the web.
That’s harder than it looks. My journey down this path started when my poor, ancient Kodak Easy Share finally refused to give another pixel. I finally had reason to invest in a new camera. Now, you certainly can take excellent pictures with point-and-shoot cameras or even cell phone cameras. (Let’s be fair, the average cell phone camera today is much better than my poor, deceased little Easy Share). But, while I’m not a huge photography bug and need another hobby like I need a whole in the head, I do have an appreciation for beautiful pictures and wanted something that would let me take things up a notch.
My new baby is a Nikon D3300 purchased as a factory refurbished model via Amazon. Thus far, I’m pretty happy with it. I have noticed that camera people seem to fall primarily into the Nikon or the Canon camp. Lots of bloggers are big fans of the Canon Rebel series. My one regret about the Nikon is that it does not have the feature that some Canons do that allow you to set up a wireless connection between your computer and the camera. More about that in a bit. Otherwise, I got more camera for my money on that specific day by going with the Nikon. It varies, based on what is available.
My second purchase – recommended by a shutter-bug fried – was a small polarized filter that screws on over the lens. I think I spent about $8 on it. It doesn’t really affect the picture quality, other than to cut glare on very sunny days. But what it DOES do is protect the lens. Since this is a significant part of the cost of the camera, I think it’s $8 very well spent. I don’t, now, worry about sand blowing around when I’m taking beach pictures. Or little fingers when I’m trying to get close-ups of my kids. Worse case scenario – I buy a new filter.
The third think I bought was a book entitled, “From Snapshots to Great Shots.” They publish this title for a lot of specific models of camera. Go buy one. It’s so much better than the included manual for explaining just what all those little buttons really do – and how to use them to your advantage.
I’m also going to say, here and now – I am NOT an expert at any of this. What I’m going to do is to share with you my learning curve. Sound good?
So, here are some shots I took this morning. I’ll give you a brief explanation of what I was doing, and what I feel went wrong or right for each one.
Mostly, for this first attempt, I was playing with getting better lit photos than I normally manage. The first thing I learned is that it is really hard to take good pictures indoors with only natural light in Michigan in the winter. For this shot, I also set up my “daylight” bulb seed starting light to add to the open window that is just to the left of the platter. There is a piece of white foam board to the right to provide some reflection. The main thing I didn’t like about this shot were the strong shadows behind and to the right of the stack of fabric. I turned off that extra light, and continued on.
Next, I moved the platter back a bit, and placed some other photos in front of it. I was shooting in “aperature priority” mode the whole time, today. That’s the little “A” on the dial on the top of your camera. It lets me control the aperature, while the camera then tries to adjust the other settings to match. In this case, I should have opened up the aperature a little more. You’ll notice that the front of the fat quarters are quite blurred. I think this shot would have looked better if they were clearer. I’ve admired that “blurred out” affect you see in some photographs (especially food bloggers), but this is a little TOO blurred.
On another note, the fat quarters in front are from the Riley Blake collection, “Fly Aweigh”, while the stack on the platter is “Off Shore.” The colors blend well enough, and so do the themes that I’m likely to be combining the two for TWO different baby quilts. And, hopefully, checking off that other resolution, at the same time!
Next, I decided to get out some fabrics that had inherently less contrast than the first set. I did open up the aperature a little more, to get a bit more depth of the field in focus. And then I stood on a chair to get a better angle. I do love this collection, by Lecien. It also has a future in a design to come. I’m not sure I love the composition – or the way things are laid out in the photo. I stacked them back up to try again.
This was an interesting view from above, but I’m still not happy with this shot. It’s too dark toward the back, there is a little slip of paper peeking out back there that I somehow missed, and it really doesn’t show the fabric to it’s best advantage.
Coming down to a different angle makes things a lot better. The fabrics could still be arranged better, but the whole composition is more pleasing to the eye. However, I seem to have lost a little too much depth of field, yet again. This is where the ability to slave the camera to the laptop and see the result immediately would be handy. I just can’t catch some of the subtleties on my little LED screen. However, there was enough change for me to decide to play with angle a little more.
Taken, again, from atop a chair. I pulled out a few representative fabrics, so that I could see how much of the pattern showed up. It’s OK, but the composition is, again, a little off. Let’s move down a little.
That’s a bit more interesting, though less of the fabric can be seen. Still, I really like the reflection of the stand in the table top.
Dropping below the level of the edge of the platter gives me a much more visually arresting look AND has a bit more of the fabric exposed. I could probably have made it even better by pulling them over the edge of the platter a bit more. I had the aperature set so that I was using an F-stop of 4.0, so the top of the stack of fabric blurs out. I rather like the effect, in this case. I’m really taken with the detail on the bottom of the stand and it’s contrast with the fabric peeking over the edge. We have a winner.
A few quick notes. ALL of these pictures were edited. I’ll cover that more, later. Remember what I said about it being dark? I had to lighten them all up a lot to have anything decent to show you. That’s something I’ll be working on, as well. I’ve started shooting all my pictures in RAW format, as well. That way, none of the data is lost and I have a greater ability to salvage under- or overexposed shots with editing software, later. Everything was shot in Aperature Priority mode, with my white balance set for a cloudy day.
What do you think? Was this helpful? Look for me to share more exercises with the fancy new camera as I get time and the light cooperates. Leave comments for what you’d specifically like to see.