WFMW – Photography Lessons

Doesn't work for meLest the title of this blog mislead readers, I should inform you that this week at Rocks in My Dryer, Shannon is hosting What DOESN’T Work for Me. Hearing the week’s theme, I hemmed and hawed, trying to think of something to post. Obviously my life is too full of glorious success stories to come up with something that doesn’t work. I was completely stumped.

Or maybe the list of possibilities was just too long.
And pathetic.

Dying houseplants, lawn full of weeds, eternally messy home (bless it’s heart and hearth), arguing children, jeans fitting a little too snugly, cereal for dinner (again).

It was all a bit depressing. Plus, who wants to read about those dreadful topics? I decided to forget the Works for Me Wednesday post and instead download the day’s pictures. As I scrolled through my shots, I immediately recognized the subject for the day’s post.

what's going on here?

That fancy aperture setting didn’t quite capture the “look” I was going for.


More specifically, self-taught photography. Tim bought me a wonderful camera for Christmas, the Nikon D40X. It’s a digital SLR, comes with two lenses and takes incredible pictures.

a little dark, isn't it?

Great pictures unless you try to mess with the manual settings and end up in the dark.

If only I could figure out how to use it. Beyond my two favorite settings, that is – auto and flash off. Yep, I end up taking most of my pictures either in auto mode (which tends to mean “flash”) and flash off (for my outside, brighter lit pictures).

Today I pulled out my Nikon D40/D40x Digital Field Guide by David D. Busch. It’s a beautiful book with full-color illustrations, detailed instructions and chapters full of information.

this is a cool book

I still don’t get it. I get lost in ISO settings, aperture and f/stops. Oh, I understand the concepts, it’s the application that trip me. Undeterred by past failures (I’m nothing if not an optimist – it usually Works For Me. Har, har.)

I went outside, book in one hand, tripod in the other and my camera around my neck. I tried, really I did, to change my settings and experiment with the manual features.

david gives me

Even this picture taken on the Children setting looks a bit ‘off’ to me.

It wasn’t pretty. I guess, until I can get some professional help (HEY, I heard that snort!), I’ll stick to my basic settings and continue my study of Photoshop. A little photo-editing goes a LONG way.

If this exercise in voyeuristic failure viewing appealed to your dark sense of humor, please by all means, visit Rocks in My Dryer and check out what else doesn’t work for people.

Project 366 – Day 127

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13 thoughts on “WFMW – Photography Lessons”

  1. What a cute little boy, whether the camera setting worked or not! And a handyman at work… I think you guys are getting the Big Things in Life right, so let not the eternally messy home etc. eat away at you too badly. We had pancakes and leftovers for supper last night – not a huge step above cereal!

  2. My dad got a SLR camera for his anniversary. Rebecca will get to use it for a photography class.

  3. Oh, I hear you! DH has a fancy-schmancy camera ( but for the life of me, all my shots look like trash. ARGH!! There is some kind of mental block for me and the understanding of aperature and lens and all that jazz.

  4. Keep experimenting! And thanks for the post! Im still learning too, one day Im going to get a shot of a soaring eagle. I dont know how all those settings work, but I did find a photography blog about taking shots of birds in flight so Im going to try out what they have suggested and increase my knowledge in practice that way. If you like, check out the picture I got of a possum this week!

  5. The book that I really liked that helped me with lots of stuff like that was Understanding Exposure. It was an easy read and things were really written in a way that were meant for a person to actually understand, instead of priding itself on being really technical.

  6. I got the D80 in November and was disappointed at first b/c my pics didn’t look that much better than with my point and shoot. You really do have to learn how to shoot in manual mode to get the best results. However, if you use the AP mode, you should be able to get decent shots, as long as you set your white balance and ISO manually.

    I did find a photographer for some lessons, but I also learned a tremendous amount from Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure. It’s the best $15 you could spend.

    I’m no expert, but I’m getting better! If I can be of any help, let me know. Happy shooting.

  7. Can I suggest a site for you that might help?

    This site has free tutorials on how to take better photos with your digital SLR camera. In particular, the 12 week online tutorial for better digital photography was great! I tried this tutorial out, also using my handy dandy user guide that came with my camera. You might find it useful!

    Good luck!

  8. Ha! I had to laugh…okay laughed inside because everyone is still sleeping, but..I was just thinking about this very thing! I love going to she has great stuff, especially photography. Anyways, I was there today and she was talking about aperture. I have Nikon D40 and mainly use the presets…I haven’t ventured to try and figure out the manual stuff. So I went outside to try the aperture setting and it ended up looking like your first picture. Guess I”ll have to try again. At the same time, I think I take some great pictures using the pre-sets!!

  9. I never could figure out the settings on those fancy cameras. We have an old Cannon something or other with several lenses and gadgets, but neither of us really knows how to use it. My sister and brother in law use all the settings on thier cameras and take great shots.

    At least we’re in the digital age and not using up a ton of film!! Keep practicing and you’ll get it you smart lady you. :)

  10. The reason your picture was blurry set on Aperature Mode (I’m asuming) is that with the aperature set where it was, you shutter speed was too slow. To get the right amount of light the two have to balance out… like being on a seesaw. The lower in numbers your aperature is set, the higher in numbers your shutter speed has to be. Try setting your aperature number as low (f/2.8, 3.2, etc) as your lens will allow (though you have to be careful to focus on the right thing or it will still be blurry… the lower the aperature number is the less stuff is in focus.) Another idea is to set your camera on the shutter priority mode (usually the “S” option.)

    We shoot everything manual usually, though we do sometimes shoot weddings in aperature priority (my husband especially and his pics always turn out a little better than mine). The down side is that soemtimes that shutter speed gets down low… this won’t matter though if you are using a tripod and your subject is still (i.e. not on a swing!) :)

    Definatelly keep experimenting… use the light meter in your camera (I have a D200, but I assume yours has one too.) When the pictures don’t matter and you are just playing around, try manual mode and switch things around until your light meter is right on in the middle… then note what your setting were and what the effect was. :)

    Oh… one note on ISO… if it is bright and sunny, ISO 100 is the best bet. Your pictures will turn out better. As you have less and less light, turn the ISO up. As you do this, you can use a faster shutter speed etc. :)

    I hope this helps!

  11. Thanks Babychaser for the tips! I have a SLR camera (FILM!!) along with my extra telephoto lens and love it!! only I don’t always understand all the photography mumbo-jumbo…

    Kathy, I’m with you…just point and shoot, fiddle with the buttons a little bit and hope for the best! Okay, I do want good pictures but could someone please explain the manual to me???

  12. Honestly when I first started with my DSLR I was the same way. Manual? ARe you kidding me??? Who does that????
    Then I bought this lens that for some reason I thought I would have to shoot everything in manual…don’t know why I thought that but I did. So I jumped in and just started shooting and messing up all kinds of stuff. Well, in my trek down the manual lane I found this guide
    it’s not perfect but it’s a starting point for me. LOVE IT!
    Don’t give up. If I can figure some of that stuff out you can too.,
    This website offers fun stuff with instructions ( a must have for me in learning….
    I didn’t link you to the home page but to one that taught me something.
    Go try it out!

  13. Aperture, ISO, it all sounds rather algebraic. I tried it. Once.

    For now, I’m happy if I move my camera to sports/motion, scenery, or close up mode. I figure the auto’s there for a REASON, and I’m not going to let it go to waste!

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