Taking the mystery out of digital photography

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Tue., Oct. 11, 2011
Rita Lombardi gives her class pointers on digital photography. Photo by Denise Coffey.
Rita Lombardi gives her class pointers on digital photography. Photo by Denise Coffey.

Rita Lombardi drew a small circle of students close to the front of the classroom. Nine students had signed up for her digital photography class at Quinebaug Valley Community College. They brought their digital cameras with them, Canons and Nikons, Sonys and Pentax. They all wanted to know the same thing: with all the fancy gadgets and gizmos at their disposal, how could they take good pictures consistently?

“Not knowing the settings isn't a character flaw,” Lombardi said, with a laugh. Her first rule of advice: read the manual. “If you go through your manual with your camera at the ready, you can actually try the things your manual is describing. You will also know what your camera is capable of doing.”

Her second rule of advice: use your camera before you have to use it. “When the birthday candles are about to be blown out is not the time to experiment,” she said. Play with it. Take pictures just to see what they will look like, she suggested. “Remember, you can always delete the bad ones,” she said.

She drew a triangle on the board and at the points she wrote the words “ISO,” “shutter speed” and “aperture.”

“If you change one, the others must change,” she said. “All of them have to do with light getting into the sensor of the camera. And everything depends on the light.”

Lombardi has found that many people have a hard time getting their heads around the terminology. “It comes off as a lot of math,” she said. Then she likened taking digital photographs to baking, a pastime she loves.

“Baking is a weird combination of science and creativity,” she said. “You have to be grounded in science to be a good baker.”

Rule number three: Know your audience. What you intend to do with the photographs will have a bearing on the settings you chose. Whether you want to print the photographs, post them to Facebook, or make a slide show out of them will help to determine the settings.

Rule number four: Keep practicing. “What's that saying about 90 percent perspiration, 10 percentage inspiration?” she said. “The more you use your camera, the better you'll get.”

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