How’d She Do That? | Photography

Photography Tips and Tricks -


Today I am back with some more photography tips.

Here is a before and after of a recent photo session: mbphotographybeforeandafter

Camera settings: 1/200, f 2.8 ISO 1000 50 mm (on manual mode)

To explain those settings:

ISO = 1000:  I was inside and while there was natural light coming in, I was down in a basement area. So it wasn’t super bright.   I explain a bit more about ISO and how to pick your ISO setting here.

Aperture/f-stop = 2.8.   2.8 is my happy spot. I linger here a lot. So what is aperture? Here is a great article about aperture.

Here is how I explain it in very simple terms…  Do you ever see a picture where the background is blurry and the subject is in focus?

Here is an example from Christmas with the twinkle lights in the background:


Nice blurry back ground right? This is done by setting the aperture/ f-stop to a low number.  Now if you don’t know how to adjust your aperture/f-stop on your camera, get out the manual and look it up. It will be a number on your camera that starts with F.  Here is an iPhone picture of the back of my Canon. (kinda funny).   You see the highlighted green square that says F2.8?  That is my aperture/f-stop.  Learn how to adjust this number.


At this point, you might be trying to figure out how to get your f-stop down to a low number, for example you just can’t get it under 4.   Your f-stop range is dependent on your lens not your camera.  If you are using the lens that came with your camera (kit lens) it won’t go down very low.  I suggest that you buy a lens with a f-stop of at least 2.8.  It might cost a bit more, but totally worth it.   Below is a great lens to start out with. Often referred to as the “Nifty Fifty”, it has a great price, and a low f-stop that won’t disappoint. I think you should buy this lens if you don’t already have it (Canon users).

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens

You can see in the description of the lens, the f-stop goes down to 1.8.  Of course you can buy a lens that the f-stop goes down even further, but the price is likely to go up 🙂

Not only will a low f-stop give you a blurry background it also will let in light into your camera.  So if you are in a dark situation you might have to set your f-stop low in order to get more light (and not use your flash).  This isn’t always the most ideal situation, but sometimes you have to work with what you got and make some choices.

Below is my general guide regarding f-stop:

I use a f-stop of 1.8 to 2.8 when:

  • I want a blurry background
  • If I am shooting 1 – 2 people or a still object. If I am shooting 3 or more people in the picture there is the chance that the people on the edges or towards the back will start to become part of that blurry background, not good.
  • If it is dark and I am looking to get more light into my camera, I use a low f-stop.

I use a f-stop of 2.8 to 5 + when:

  • I want the background to be sharper
  • I am shooting a group of people.  A good rule of thumb is to have the f-stop equal (or one stop up) of the number of people in the shot.
  • If don’t have to worry about light – so usually outside.

Again – I linger around 2.8 a lot.  But sometimes that gets me in trouble too, especially if I am taking a picture of a large group and  don’t stop to adjust up.  But generally if my camera is sitting around, this is what it is set to.  So my everyday pictures are mostly shot at f-stop 2.8.  I am not adjusting this number every time I take a picture.  I generally set it and leave it unless I know I need something different.  When I do a photo session I will adjust based on the number of people in the shot or the look I am after.

Shutter speed = 1/200.   Right before I snap my picture I use the light meter to pick my shutter speed. With an ISO of 1000 and an f-stop of 2.8 my light meter was showing me that 1/200 was an acceptable shutter speed, so I snapped the picture.  If I didn’t like where the light meter was telling me to have my shutter speed I would have gone back and adjusted my ISO and then possibly my f-stop.

You have to travel around the triangle from ISO to f-stop to shutter speed to find the right combination.

I then used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom  to edit the picture.  I cropped the picture, adjusted the white balance, upped the exposure, and blacks, then added a bit of clarity to get this:


Did you get all that?

If you have a photography questions for me, let me know by leaving me a comment below. I will try to address them in my next Photo Tips post.  Next time I will try to share a bit more about setting shutter speed. In the mean time… Happy Picture Taking!

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2 Responses to How’d She Do That? | Photography

  1. Great post, I never realised why my f-stop wouldn’t go down lower! Now I need to save up for a new lens! x

  2. Emily says:

    Helpful reminders. I have been getting lazy recently and always using the auto setting on my advanced point & shoot camera. I used to love experimenting with the manual settings and seeing what happened. Thanks!

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