This is where it gets a little bit intimidating.
I am a bit of a one trick pony. I photograph nature. My camera is nearly always hand held and everything moves so I have to be fast.
The first trick that I learnt was to drop my exposure a couple of clicks. On my first camera (Panasonic FZ50) I could do that whilst leaving the camera in intelligent auto mode.
It was the only thing that I knew how to do and I took these photographs.
I was happy and encouraged. I took hundreds of pictures like these.
As long as you have got enough light then dropping your exposure a bit will give you a faster shutter speed and a sharper picture. I still think that this is a good trick for beginners and worth trying before you get into the more complicated stuff. If your camera will let you do that.
Unfortunately the fellow that I am writing this for can’t do that. In auto mode he has no control over exposure. (I have got his manual in front of me)
So how do you get speed?
Most cameras have got a Shutter priority option that allows you to set the speed as fast as you like. I can’t really figure out why. (Okay you can achieve motion blur but who wants that?) If you set your shutter speed too fast you will just get a black picture because there is not enough light for such a fast shot.
I always have my camera set to Aperture priority. I usually want the fastest shot that the available light will allow. So to get the fast shot I have to mess with the light not the speed.
What is an aperture? It is the hole that opens when your shutter opens and allows light into your camera, you can determine how big that hole is going to be. The bigger you let it be, the more light will get into your camera and you can take a faster picture.
The animal will move if you hang about 🙂
I want a wide aperture and by working in aperture priority rather than auto I can stop my camera from doing stupid things that I don’t want it to do.
How is this easy!!!
Well I am a one trick pony, remember? I always want a fast picture so I don’t have to keep changing things. I set my camera to Aperture priority and I set my aperture to f.2.8 and that is basically all that I do. It is just as easy as having my camera in auto mode 🙂
Okay the other thing that I do is that I play with the exposure constantly. That is the way that I control the amount of light that I am letting in but all that means is that I keep my exposure as low as possible (almost always underexposed) whilst still letting enough light in to get a picture.
It is not very clever but it works for me.
The down side of using a wide aperture is that it has a knock on effect on depth of field and what that means is that only a small area will be in focus.
Generally that is okay for what I do because insects are quite small.
You wouldn’t want big insects because they can be quite mean.
With big things like butterflies I sometimes struggle to get the whole animal in focus.
But sometimes that is okay.
So that is enough tricks for now.
If you want to explore aperture priority my friend then it is on page 82 of your manual.