Life-Skill: Working a Camera

One of the most satisfying things you can do for your personal — or even work life (more on that in another post) — is learn how to properly use a camera.

Life is about making memories. Capturing those moments are crucial.

Now, in the past I never, ever wanted to be the “tourist”. you know, the guy carrying around the camera, armed with a deadly fanny pack, and taking pictures of everything that moves while likely missing the experience altogether.

What I’ve learned is that with a good camera that you know to work properly, you actually save yourself from being that guy.

You can simply pull out your camera, take a couple great pictures, know that they’re great, put it away, and move on.

Otherwise, without a good camera and some skills, you end up with a phone that has 3000 pictures of your kids with 40 alternates of the exact same photo hoping to get something good.

This compounds because you really couldn’t be bothered to go through all of those photos and pick out the good ones. So they sit in never-never land until your kids need a wedding slide show full of terribly awkward photos where you’re not sure which of the 6 blurry people in the photo is actually the bride.

With a little investment in money & time up-front, you’ll save yourself hours and hours in taking and sorting through photos.

Plus, you’ll end up with way better pictures.

Now I’m not saying I’m the best photographer ever, but the photos are solid (the photo above I snapped this weekend) and I haven’t had to do any formal training — just a little reading an experimenting.

So here’s what you need to do:

1. Buy a good digital SLR

I know, it’s a lot of money when you have other priorities. But spending $700–800 (the total I’ve spent on a camera, extra lens, and memory cards) on something that puts you down a road to actually capture memories that you’ll treasure forever is incredible value.

Dare I say it’s some of the best money you’ll ever spend.

I don’t think there’s a better feeling in the world than capturing a beautiful shot of your family.

Whether it’s an interaction between grandparents & your kids or those perfect smiles from your nieces & nephews, when captured properly, you can get an awesome hit of dopamine just from looking at some pictures.

But in order to do that, getting a good camera makes a huge difference. Couple of reasons.

1. A digital SLR takes a picture when you press the button.

Trying to get kids to stay still for the 5 seconds between the time you press the button on your cheap digital camera and it actually takes the picture just doesn’t work.

2. Your phone’s camera isn’t very good indoors

Yes, they’ve come an incredibly long ways and can take some great photos outdoors, but the tiny little lenses on your phone struggle to let in enough light inside to get a good photo. They either end up being blurry or grainy. And we spend half our year or more indoors in Canada.

3. Camera phones aren’t setup for good portraits

Take a look at the photo above. See how it just jumps out at you? It’s because the face is in focus and the background is blurry. Cameras on phones are setup to do the opposite of this to keep everything in focus. That works when you’re trying to take a picture of a bunch of people or things, but when you’re really trying to capture a moment — not so much.

2. Learn how to use it

I bought the good digital camera and just stuck with the “auto — no flash” setting for the longest time. I still captured some good photos, but once I spent a little bit of time actually learning a bit about how to use the camera, I started capturing some really good photos.

It takes a bit of time, but again, it’s an investment in capturing memories.

Totally worth it.

Depending how you learn, you can read, watch YouTube videos, or simply experiment by yourself. However that is, you need to do it. I may even write a blog post on the basics…

Then you can start to do a few key things for capturing memories:

1. Make a face jump out of a photo

Capturing people’s faces has to be a top-priority for taking pictures. By learning how to blur the background using your aperture settings, you can do some really flattering work (see my picture above).

2. Capture moving objects properly

Kids move a lot. And capturing them in action is a special thing. I wish I could share it, but I have a picture of my son being throw in the air by his grandpa in the pool. Every droplet of water is perfectly still, but more importantly, the giant smile on his face is frozen in time. It’s magical.

3. Capturing a good group photo

There are times where you don’t want to blur the background. You want to capture everyone’s faces and the picturesque mountains in the background. Makes a much better memory of where you are. Knowing how to work the camera gives you the option.

3. Start experimenting

Go out there and just try stuff. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. But it’s important to get out there and try.

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