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Photography School #1 :: Aperture

March 9th, 2012

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Morning y’all! I’m so pumped to launch an all-new monthly series called Photography School, led by our team’s fearless photographer (and videographer, director, cinematographer, key grip… the  man wears many hats) Mike Bullock. Remember my New Years goal to majorly up my photography game? Well, I’ve decided to take action, and I’m bringing you all along for the ride! Every month for the  next year, Mike & I will dive a little deeper into a specific photography function or skill, and hopefully shed some light for all of you who are hoping to improve your photog skills like I am. Sound fun? Great, ’cause today we’re jumping right in with lesson #1 on

Aperture.

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So Mike, tell us a little about aperture, and why knowing how to use it is key to taking great photos:

One of the first steps in advancing your photography is to turn the camera off automatic mode and take control of your shots. But learning everything about manual settings can feel daunting and technical (or in other words, boring) to most. So a great first step is to learn about aperture. Essentially, aperture represents the size of your lens opening, and controls two very important aspects of the exposure: the amount of light and the depth of field (the area in your image where things look more focused). Typically, you want to let in as much light as possible to avoid using on-camera flash, which often washes out the subject matter. And creating a shallow depth of field let’s you better control what’s in and out of focus from foreground to background, which can create a much more interesting photograph. Also, I feel that a shallow depth of field better emulates the way we see in our mind’s eye – focusing on one aspect of our viewpoint at a time. 

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Here’s an example of some shots I took on different aperture settings. On the left, my aperture was set at f/13, and see how it not only looks a little dark, but everything in the shot is in focus equally? On the right, I cranked the aperture setting down to f/1.8, and it gave it that magical kind of glow, where the flowers in the foreground are perfectly in focus and there’s a nice hazy kind of blur to the objects in the background.

The lesson: A lower ‘f’ value will let in more light, and create a more shallow depth of field.

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So, this is kind of embarrassing, but I’m going to be really vulnerable and share my photography “work” from exactly one year ago. Some of you may remember this Easter table that I styled and shot last spring. Not to be too hard on myself, but see how everything on the table is all in focus, with no real composition or background blur goin’ on? (not to mention the overexposure and horrendous shadows…but that’s for another lesson.) Anyway, I show you this to say that I am by no means a photography expert – I’m a total, 100% newbie. But it’s amazing that learning how to control an important camera function has totally transformed my photos! A few more images from the shoot…

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By the way, this was a little garden party setup that I did in preparation for my upcoming HGTV speaking engagement at the Epcot Flower & Garden Show! I’ll be sharing ideas on how to throw a simple garden party that’s anything but garden variety!

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Ash from The Byrd Collective designed the gorgeous flowers & foliage on our table.

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Cucumber-shrimp and radish tea sandwiches. (See the really shallow depth of field that allows those front shrimp and radishes to take center stage?)

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Are you guys as excited as I am about this new series? I can’t wait to share in this journey with all of you, and I’d love to hear your feedback along the way! Are there any specific problem areas or burning photography questions that you’d like to see Mike and I focus on this year? Please leave a comment and let us know, and stay tuned for another installment of Photography School in April!

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60 Comments under :: Photography School #1 :: Aperture
  1. Yayyyyyyy!!!!. Your photos look GREAT Camille.

    Thank you so much for this series. I am in the market for a professional digital camera. I would love to hear recommendations of what I should purchase. I am a event planner and I like to capture my work from start to finish. Prior to professional photographers working my events. I like to capture photos for my own personal use. This series is perfect. I am super excited!!!

    I can’t wait to hear from you.

  2. Amy says:

    So, so excited for you AND for this series!!!

    When I began blogging, I had NO idea I would grow to love food photography so much and I’ve learned a lot in the last year just by practicing, a lot. It’s fun (yet humbling) to look back on some of my earlier food photos too.

    Thanks so much for sharing your learning experience with us. Look forward to “growing” with you!

  3. SUCH a helpful series – thank you, Camille! :)

  4. OH WOW! this is going to be awesome — i was just looking at my DSLR last night wishing i actually knew how to use it creatively. Thank You!!

  5. I’m very excited! This is just what I need, as I am planning my first styled photo shoot this weekend, and have several others planned. It will be interesting to see how my photography skills progress as I follow your “photography school”. Thanks Camille!

  6. I LOVE this – I need to get out of the manual mode for sure, and my “photography” could definitely use some work!! Looking forward to the next class.

  7. Laci says:

    I love these photos. Thank you so much for the tips. I am trying to improve my photography skills a bit, too!

    Love,
    Laci

    lifeinterlaced.com

  8. I am so excited about this new series!! My fiance gave me a Canon Rebel for my birthday last year and I love it but know I am barely touching the surface of what it can do. I am so excited to learn more about the features and hopefully will take the plunge and start using my camera on manual before our honeymoon in June!

  9. Carly says:

    I am especially looking forward to this series because about a year ago I paid a pretty little penny for a Canon DSLR and I keep telling myself I’ll take a class but have just never gotten around to it. I know there’s probably a million things I am missing out on because I just haven’t taken the time to learn so thank you… :)

  10. LOVE this new series!! I just finished some basic photography classes about a week ago which was very helpful at learning what all the buttons and dials in my camera meant. So, it is nice to read on these posts and freshen up what I learned and maybe even learn a little more. Thank you!! Looking forward to the next post in this series!

  11. Emma says:

    Natural lighting lessons, please!!

  12. Lauren M. says:

    Great idea for a series! Look forward to learning some new tricks!

    I would love to get tips on photo editing. How do people get their photos to looks so vibrant and crisp using photoshop and/or Lightroom without compromising on the image quality?

    MyersMaison.blogspot.com

  13. kelly says:

    Looking forward to more of these posts. I used to be a photography expert in high school and I’m just now getting back into it. Thanks!

  14. Rachael says:

    Hi Camille – a lesson on using foam boards to reflect natural light when taking product shots would be great too. I had a friend show me how to do that and it changed my photography to “wow” instantly! I am sure you readers would love it.

  15. Amanda Bax says:

    Hey Camille, this is perfect! I have been trying to up my photography skills as well but I’m finding a lot of the books to be fairly boring. I would like to learn more about lighting. Thanks for the lesson!

  16. I’m so jazzed about learning from Photography School! This is great, as it is my goal to become a better photographer this year as well. I would love to hear more of these basics, and also about lighting indoors, and capturing indoor room shots to show off decor and design.

  17. Camille Styles says:

    I’m so excited about the response from this – and thrilled to have you all along for the ride as we learn more about taking great photos! Thanks to y’all who have shared what you’d like to learn, and keep the ideas coming!

  18. Alison says:

    THIS. IS. AWESOME! THANK YOU!!

  19. dustjacket says:

    I am SO excited about this series…I’ve just upgraded my camera and I need all the help I can get on learning to use it properly.
    xoxo

  20. Tonya says:

    Love it …….keep the photog info coming. Can never get enough info on the subject! My Canon and IPAD are always with me!

  21. Rachel says:

    Love it! Your first lesson was simple yet practical, great for beginners like me that get overwhelmed by too much technical speak. I can’t wait for more!

  22. Fantastic idea!
    I would love to know about lighting…

  23. SO informative! Oh, you know I’ll be tuning in! Shouldn’t I be paying you for this?! :)

  24. Jennifer says:

    This is SO exciting! Thank you for sharing what you know with us!

  25. Sierra says:

    Um, HELLO! SOOOOO excited for your series! Aperture is something I totally haven’t been able to get at all! I think this post definitely helped and I am going to practice! Thank you SOOOOOOOOOOOO much! :)

  26. GawgusThings says:

    Whoop, whoop! This is mega exciting! If you ever get the chance to visit my blog, you will see that I really, really struggle with photography. Can you remember what setting you had your camera on when you took the above photos and do you have a special lens or is it just the standard 18-55mm one that comes as standard with most DSLR’s? I really love this hazy effect, but it’s one I really, really struggle with.

    Thanks so much for this, I’ll really look forward to this series :)

    Emma xx

  27. Ashley Lyons says:

    I’m so happy to see this! So often I read a beautiful blog like yours and wonder how I can amp up my photography skills. Looking forward to knowing my way around my canon a bit better now. Excellent idea- thank you!

  28. Desi says:

    I’m so excited for this series. Thank you so much.

  29. Well, thank god! I am beyond tech-tard and have been bizarrely resistant to learning my camera because it’s easier to do things I’m already adept at, right? I am so glad you are doing this series.. perhaps there’s hope for me yet…

  30. So excited for these series of posts! I have been wanting to learn more about photography and now’s the perfect time. Thanks so much!

  31. Stephanie says:

    Thanks so much Camille (and Mike!) for sharing this information! I’m really looking forward to learning more tips!

  32. Silvie says:

    More! Please! Thank You!! :D

  33. Jessica says:

    Thanks for the great post! I have always wanted to take better pictures and this actually helps it all make more sense.

  34. Sam Lennie says:

    I’m really looking forward to this series Camille. My husband is a photographer and film maker although he has never got around to teaching me properly. I have a 550d (Rebel T2i for the Americans amongst us) with the standard lens. He is getting out his F1.4 lens for me to have a practice with and hopefully my blog images will start to look a load more interesting :-)

    Thanks for sharing x

  35. Kelly says:

    Thank you for the tips! As a photography beginner I’m looking for any help I can get. I can’t wait to see more in this series!

  36. Hi Camille, This is such a great series I have just purchased a DSLR camera and am trying to get to know it better, these posts will help so much. Can’t wait to read the rest.
    Have a great week x

  37. Oh, this is such a fantastic series! I bought a DSLR about six months ago, and I’m still trying to get a handle on it. I’m looking forward to seeing the next month’s lesson!

  38. Love this series! Can’t wait for the next one in April.

  39. erin (aka bows & sparrows) says:

    Love this! Super excited to see what is to come in this series!

  40. Ginny says:

    Thanks so much!! This is exactly what I need and I can’t wait to see the rest of the series

  41. cathy says:

    I am excited about this series, time to get out my DSLR and capture the beginning of spring. great blog by the way.

  42. Camille, this is a brilliant series, thank you so much for starting it! I’m so keen to learn more about the art of photography so the timing is perfect – thank you! xx

  43. Hi Camille, I found you and your blog through Will from Bright.Bazaar. I love your new series and I will definitely come along on your photography ride. I got a DSLR camera for my birthday {and Christmas} and I need to work on my skills, I’m 100% newbie myself… Thanks for sharing all this! I’m totally excited. Have a lovely day, xo from Germany, Helene

  44. Christel Rung says:

    So happy someone is generous enough to share their knowledge !

  45. Looking forward to this segment a TON!!! One lesson per month is perfect for my pace. I will practice using what I know, and that’s verrrrrrrrrrrrry little and what you’ve shared with us here, about Aperture…it’s my kinda pace. Gracias!

  46. Anna says:

    Also here from Will at Bright.Bazaar. I got a new DSLR for my birthday and so far just been testing it out with the little knowledge I have. Really looking forward to these monthly posts.

    Very pleased to now know your beautiful blog.

    Anna x

  47. Katherine says:

    Thank you so much, Camille, for posting this. I’ve been frustrated as to why my “up close” shots have been lacking depth and interest — you have solved that for me. I look forward to this month’s installment of “Photography School”!

    Best, Katherine

  48. [...] 8. Photography school with Camille Styles – all about aperture. [...]

  49. I been struggling with the photography part of my business for a while. I’m afraid I not to good. I did get a new camera, and I think I have improved some. I’m always looking for more helpful tips to help me improve. The manual that comes with the camera never really explains what the different functions are. Thank you for explaining and for the wonderful tips.
    Linda

  50. [...] our resident expert, Mike Bullock. If you missed the first one, hop on over and get acquainted with Aperture. We’ve already received such an overwhelming response on this series, and I’m thrilled [...]

  51. Megan says:

    Thank you so much for sharing and I am looking forward to the next class in May! This post has been a great help and I immediately starting to try it out myself. If you feel like, you can have a look at my results on my blog: http://meganinberlin.blogspot.de/

    Looking forward to see your results from the farm!

  52. [...] by our resident expert Mike Bullock. We’ve been doing our homework and putting our lessons in Aperture and Lighting to good use over the last couple months, so we’re super excited to add another [...]

  53. [...] Lightroom 3 for a little photo editing and shadow effect. I’ve found Camille Styles’ photography series and Sugarbelle’s photography tips helpful for my new journey. What do you [...]

  54. Thank you for these tips! was wondering if you need a separate lens for your SLR in order to achieve such a shallow depth of field. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks!

    Michele

    • Chanel Dror says:

      Hi Michele, that’s a great question! We just took it up with Mike and here’s what he had to say:

      It’s tough to achieve with standard (ie “kit”) lenses that come with most entry to mid level DSLRs. All of those shots were taken with higher end “prime” lenses. There are lots of choices and price ranges. The best deals are usually found in either 50mm or 35mm with f/1.8 capability. For a few hundred dollars, you’ll get plenty of separation and shallow depth of field. Plus excellent low light ability.

      Hope that helps :)

  55. [...] the image. For more on lighting and using your camera, be sure to visit previous lessons in Aperture, Filling the Frame, and Ambient [...]

  56. Jane Hewitt says:

    Thank you for this, I have shared a link with my group of adult photography students ( blog address above), hope that’s Ok, Love the images Jane

  57. Wendaree says:

    As everybody else has said Thank YOU!! I am a newbie to the M mode of my camera. I am so happy you are going to give a ‘class’ on photography. If I had a dream job I would be a professional photographer that takes awesome shots~~ Wendaree

  58. […] not the only ones getting our homes and gardens ready for the warmer weather. Remember that springtime garden party we showed you a few weeks ago? Well, we thought we’d give you another sneak peak into the […]

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