Practice makes perfect is a phrase we’ve all grown up hearing, and it’s one that really applies when learning photography. Without practice, we won’t know what setting does what, or indeed how each one impacts on the final photo.
As I’ve been practising during the last few weeks, I’ve found that shooting the same object with different settings, and then comparing the results, is the best way to go. Playing "spot the difference" is just another way of training myself to know which settings to adjust in any given situation, and by how much. It means I end up with dozens of photos of the same object, each with subtle differences, and after a while my vision tends to get blurry from it all.
As I’ve found out, this requires consistency and steadiness. Even the slightest change in angle, or distance, can affect the way your shot turns out, and unfortunately I don't have the steadiest of hands. As you could probably tell, the photos I took in my previous post were all slightly different. I knew they were, but I didn’t think too much about it until it was pointed out to me.
Take, for example, these two pictures from my first post:
I knew that they weren’t exactly the same, but I also wasn’t aware that more than just the aperture had been changed when I took the second shot. I’d thought I had gotten the angle “close enough” to the original for it not to matter (also taking into account I wasn’t 100 percent clear on what aperture actually did at the the time). In fact, the camera had automatically adjusted both the shutter speed and the ISO, so pretty much everything was different. The “benefits” of using a semi-automatic mode, I guess?
In any case, the point I’m trying to make is that, in order for comparison shots to actually work, you need to minimise the variables. It means that the shots I take should have the same distance, angle, lighting and focus — which seems virtually impossible when you’re holding the camera in your hands.
This is when a tripod comes in handy. Once you set up your camera on the tripod, you don’t need to adjust it again; all you need to do is press a few buttons and you’re good to go. The likelihood of your shots retaining the same settings goes up, and your spot the difference game becomes much easier.
I didn't have a tripod when taking these shots, because I hadn’t thought it necessary when first starting out. One very helpful reader suggested that I use a beanbag, or a wheat bag, instead. Luckily I have an abundance of wheat bags, the kind you microwave to use as a heat pack for aches and pains, so I gave it a go. It seems to work fine — I can make minor adjustments to my camera without completing changing the settings — but it still can’t compare to a real tripod, of course.
I’ve ordered a miniature one to use for now, but I'll have to invest in a proper one later on. If anyone has any suggestions of which ones to get, or where to get them, please let me know!