Basic Digital Single Lens Reflex Photography Class

by mary May 30, 2014

What a difference a good camera, lighting, & knowing a little bit about how to use your camera can make!  I recently took a 4-week class on beginning DSLR photography that was both a lot of fun & even more importantly, it helped me to finally understand the "exposure triangle" (aperture/F-stop, shutter speed, & ISO) & to really appreciate "white balance"!  For the first time since starting to make jewelry, I feel like I am on my way to taking decent photos that will actually show off the jewelry I make!

But, let's start at the beginning . . .

Initially, the only reason I took photos of my work was so I could remember what I had made after it sold -- as a result, the quality of the photo wasn't all that important.  It wasn't too long, though, before I thought about entering juried art shows & setting up a website, which meant that photo quality was going to be very important.

For equipment, all I had when I started was a basic "point & shoot" digital camera.  No matter how hard I tried to set up good lighting inside the house, the pictures always turned out "off-color".  Here are 2 photos of a pair of earrings I took using our point & shoot camera -- the first is without the flash, the 2nd is with the flash.  While the 2nd photo is a bit better in terms of color, you can clearly see the camera flash reflected in the glass -- not so good!

One thing I often did that helped a lot was to take pictures outside in natural light -- but that brought its own set of complications -- for example, I had to find shade or take photos on an overcast (but not raining) day to get the best light, & if there was any wind it was hard to keep things in focus.  It also meant I had to haul out whatever I wanted to use as a back-drop or props every time I wanted to take photos.  And, of course, being in Iowa, it was too cold to do this comfortably for a good portion of the year!  Here's a picture of the same pair of earrings taken outside in the shade -- better more accurate color, but again with a fair amount of reflection & a less "controlled" background.

So, we decided it was time to make an investment into better equipment.  We started out by getting Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, so I could do at least some basic editing of my photos.  Next, we invested in a DSLR camera - the Canon EOS Rebel T3i; & pretty shortly after that, we picked up a basic lightbox (to help soften the light) & set up a permanent area for me to take photos.  However, with my limited background in photography, for the first several months, I was taking pictures strictly on the "automatic" setting -- in other words, treating my new more expensive camera as if it were still a basic "point & shoot" rather than a DSLR!  Here's a picture of the same pair of earrings using the Canon EOS Rebel T3i on automatic & taken in the light box.  In this case, there's a lot less reflection (thanks to the light box) which is a good thing, but the color is way off.

And, then a month ago, I saw in the Des Moines Community Education catalog that they were offering a 4-week course on basic DSLR photography -- and I thought, here is my chance to actually learn more about what I should be doing!

And, while it was a bit overwhelming at first, the instructor Gil Lea did a great job of explaining about the importance of light; the elements of the exposure triangle; & the effects of adding light through wider aperture openings, lowering shutter speed, or increasing the ISO number.  He also provided guidelines for composition & creative lighting that I hope to incorporate.  And, we did some fun activities to actually experience what we were learning -- including taking "ghost" pictures, painting with light, & night photography.  Here are a few of the photos I took down on Court Avenue the night we experimented with night photography!

And, finally, here's a picture of that same pair of earrings that I took in my lightbox using manual ISO, F-stop & shutter speed, as well as with a custom white balance setting!

All in all, while I still need to practice in order to increase my comfort & skill using the manual settings (especially the manual focus), & I want to experiment more with composition, I'm feeling much better about my photos -- thanks both to better equipment & to Gil Lea's class on beginning DSLR photography!


Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books

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About the author

Pauline's Jewelry Box was founded by Mary Nelson in 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.  I chose the name Pauline's Jewelry Box because my mother's name was Pauline & I have many fond memories of looking through jewelry box & playing with her jewelry

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