Photography has been one of the integral parts of my fatherhood experience. So much so that I’ve created a small business out of what started as a way to document the once in a lifetime opportunity of raising my twin girls. It all began with the race to put the best camera into smartphones. For a long time that was the one thing that drove me to certain brands however, one day it dawned me. Why not invest in an actual camera?
There are dozens of articles discussing the digital single lens reflex systems written for photographers. This is a DSLR article for Dads by a Dad. Our goal is to encourage you to pick up that camera from the shelf and get out there to record a new memory with your kids. I should note that DSLR technically is not the same as the new Mirrorless camera’s that are coming out for the sake of this article DSLR will also include mirrorless systems.
Shoot in Manual.
Before you freak out, manual mode isn’t that intimidating. It’s like driving stick shift but for a camera. What manual mode does, is it gives you the user full control of how your image is going to be captured. You’ll be able to control the shutter speed (i/e freeze movement) the aperture (depth of field aka that blurry “bokeh” background) and ISO (the camera sensors light sensitivity). For some, it’s a numbers game. For others, it’s trial and error. I’ve broken down the three main settings below. Learning how each setting interacts with the other will give you tremendous results when photographing your kids. So much so that when the neighbor asks to take pictures of their kids you can say, “Sure, But it’ll cost you though!”
Track Moving Subjects.
Sure when the little ones are well, little, grabbing that snapshot of some sort of monumental moment is rather simple and our social media friends and family gush over the shared images. In my experience, at around two years old as my kids started to really move and explore the world I was glad to have a camera that could keep up with their sporadic decision making. Focus tracking is key in fatherhood photography and should definitely be top on the list if you’re in the market for a camera. Just remember that the higher you go in shutter speed, the more flailing body parts will appear frozen.
The aperture blades of a lens close and open just like our eyes. Think of squinting. We sometimes squint to see something far off in the distance, and we sometimes open our eyes wide to focus on something directly in front of us. Aperture works in the same way. The lower the number on the aperture setting the wider open the blades of the lens are. This grabs the nearest item on the focal plane and puts it in focus while blurring out the rest of the background. The higher the aperture value the deeper into a scene the focal plane will go to give you more pieces in focus. It controls our depth of field or the range of what’s in focus and what isn’t.
High ISO Performance.
This is a feature helps parents out there at their children’s sporting events, but it also applies to us regulars. For sports, and for those of us who find ourselves in poorly lit situations, ISO performance is everything. In the sporting application to freeze action we’ll drive the shutter speed up which will inevitably darken the scene. To make sure that everything is in focus we’ll also dial up the aperture which also darkens the scene. So the last and final piece of the puzzle is to bring the ISO up. All cameras have what’s called noise. This is little grainy dots on your image caused by bringing up the ISO speed values. Finding that sweet spot will give you the confidence needed to rock those sports photos of the kids game winning point.The ISO values indicate the amount of light the camera sensor will let in to the image.
Sharing is Caring.
The fourth thing you need to understand is how your DSLR shares images. Or if you’re in the market for a camera how you want to share your images. Do you want to download them from the memory card to the computer or do you want to share your images instantly via social media? Downloading to the computer would mean you’d need a memory card reader. You could copy and paste them to a hard drive or you could get a post processing program before sharing them or sending them off to be professionally printed. Most camera systems also have wi-fi or near field communication built into them. This allows us to wireless transfer images to our smartphone, posting it for the world to see instantly.
This is such an important feature that camera manufacturers do charge more for. It makes the camera system more robust and durable. However, it is rather relative as the lenses we pick should also be weather sealed. Many will scoff at this feature because it’s not like parents are intentionally going to be out with our camera and kids in a rainstorm, but think about how much liquid gets spilled in our lifetime. Just today my daughter got frustrated with a milkshake and threw it. Thankfully it didn’t spill, but could you imagine explaining to the Missus how your big money investment is now bricked due to a chocolate-strawberry swirl? We’d be in the dog house for a while for sure – even though it’s technically not our fault. Ahh who am I kidding? We’re Dads. It’s always our fault.
There it is. Six things you need to know about your DSLR.
Understand how your camera shoots in manual is the foundation. Knowing how the system tracks moving subjects is everything as our little ones begin exploring the world. As they get older and into sports having a camera that can handle high iso’s is everything. How would you like to handle your images? Saved on your computer or instantly shared with the world. These days there are options for both. Finally weather sealing. This makes the camera durable to the life of a parent.
Now that we’re slightly empowered and armed with know how I would like to add my own two cents. Knowing when to take the picture and when to share it is everything. Even with the privacy settings of social media it’s important to know that once that picture is out there. It’s out there. So identifying information such as say school t-shirts or the front of your homes can be used against us. I know that sounds terrifying and makes you second guess even picking up the camera but I say let those be parameters.
Get out there and start taking some epic pictures that tie to an emotion and tell the story. It’ll be worth it!
Why not use your new camera skills to share a photo in our Monthly Instagram Contest?
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