Pursuing photography as an amateur can be intimidating. As new technology arrives, second-hand professional cameras become a viable option for those who want to foster a new hobby in photography. Older models of newer cameras produced in the last 5-10 years are still capable of taking artistic photographs and are a cheaper investment for someone on a tight budget. In conjunction with a vintage lens, you have all the tools necessary to take professional-looking photos. As a new photographer, taking photos using your camera’s “auto” setting may be appealing, but learning how to shoot in full manual is a valuable skill to know.
Understanding Your Camera’s Controls
Looking at your camera, it may be overwhelming to see all of the buttons and knobs scattered around. There are some basic controls on your camera that you need to locate and be familiar with before you start taking photos. These controls change what mode your camera is in and control the basic settings that allow your camera to take a proper photo.
1. Find the mode selector. The mode selector has different letters and symbols that represent what mode your camera will take photos in. Manual mode is typically denoted by the letter M. This mode will allow you to set all the parameters for a photo.
2. Look for the aperture knob. The aperture knob adjusts how much light can pass through the lens. Aperture is represented by “f/” and a number. A larger aperture (lower number) means more light enters the lens, and a narrower aperture (higher number) means less light enters the lens. Additionally, a wider aperture produces more background blur, which is better for portraits. A narrower aperture produces a greater depth of field. Ignore this knob if your lens has an aperture ring.
3. Locate the shutter speed knob. The shutter speed knob adjusts how long the lens shutter will be open. Shutter speed is denoted in seconds, and the shutter is typically open for a fraction of a second. Depending on the lighting of a shot, a longer shutter speed will create a brighter image, and a shorter shutter speed will result in a darker image. If the camera is not steady, a longer shutter speed may result in motion blur.
4. Identify the ISO knob. Adjusting ISO changes your camera’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO creates a brighter image, and a lower ISO leads to a darker image. However, a higher ISO can lead to noise in an image, resulting in unwanted grain. So, adjusting ISO should be done after the aperture and shutter speed is set.
5. Look for the shutter button. The shutter button is what triggers your camera to take a photo. You press the shutter button once you are satisfied with your photo composition.
Understanding Your Camera Lens
Vintage lenses are an excellent option for beginner photographers because they offer the same functionality as a modern lens, at the fraction of the cost. Depending on the condition of your vintage lens, they should have the same photo quality as any modern lens. Some vintage lenses may even add unique characteristics to photos that you may find appealing. Fundamentally, all prime lenses have the same controls that adjust aperture and focus.
1. Identify the aperture ring. The aperture ring on your lens functions the same as the aperture knob on the camera body. Rotate the ring to your desired aperture by lining up the number to the mark.
2. Look for the focus ring. Turn the focus ring back and forth until your subject is clearly in focus. Markings below the ring signify the distance between your camera and the subject in meters and feet.
Now that you are familiar with the controls on your camera, you are ready to start taking photos in manual mode with your vintage lens.
1. Find and position your subject. Place your subject in a spot where there is suitable light. If there is too little light your camera adjustments may still not be able to compensate for the darkness.
2. Set your focus using the focus ring. While remaining steady or using a tripod, twist the focus ring until your subject is clear.
3. Adjust the aperture with the aperture ring. Twist the aperture ring until you reach the desired brightness or background blur. If you are satisfied with your background blur but your image is still too bright or too dark, continue to change the other settings. For images with larger or more subjects, keep your aperture narrower so you can have more in focus.
4. Set the shutter speed. Rotate the shutter speed knob until you reach the brightness you want. If you are holding the camera with your hands, or if your subject is moving quickly, keep the shutter speed as low as possible to reduce the chance of motion blur. For long exposure shots, set your camera on a tripod and utilize a remote or timer so that your hands don’t shake the camera.
5. Fix the ISO setting. Set the ISO setting to compensate for any minor changes to brightness. Try to change ISO settings last in order to reduce noise in your photos. If your photos come out noisy, adjust the aperture and shutter speed first.
6. Take the shot. Press your shutter button and listen for the camera shutter to open and close. Review your shot and change your settings as necessary.