Playing with Pictures

Several years ago I bought a DSLR kit on ebay.  The kit that came with it contained two lenses.  Both claimed to be “autofocus” but one worked and the other did not… something about Nikon changing where the autofocus motor is located (either in the lens or the camera).  A while back the autofocus feature on the one lens that DID work broke so for the last few years I have been trying to focus my camera manually while using the other “auto” features for shutter speed, etc. (I did take a class when I bought the camera that taught me how to shoot in full manual, but I quickly forgot everything and have been shooting in auto ever since).  Needless to say my pictures are a mess (especially my indoor photos).  I will have one good shot for every 200 I take and what looks in focus in the viewfinder is not actually in focus when I load them on to my computer.  Grrrr.

I purchased Say No to Auto and Get Focused by Kristen Duke (Capturing Joy) and those books (while short) were packed full of information that helped me finally get the hang of shooting in manual.  I actually bought them in the hopes that it would tell me how to focus better since my autofocus was no longer functioning, but as it turns out that is one “auto” feature that is kind of a necessity.

Long story short I am in the market for a few good lenses and possibly upgrading all together.  I’ve been using a Nikon and it’s great but the whole autofocus but not autofocus really bugs me so I’m thinking of switching to Canon (which doesn’t have that issue).  I’ve also read that Canon works really well in low light (which most of my pictures are) but Nikon images taken outside will have a certain je ne said quoi.  I’ve also read that the “husky” quality that outdoor Canon shots have may be due to the use a lower quality lens (which can easily be remedied).  I don’t want to buy a Nikon replacement lens if I’m going to end up switching to Canon later.

Regardless I’m not going to buy a “kit” this time.  It’s certainly more bang for your buck but last time I ended up with a lot of stuff I didn’t use and always wished I had better quality lenses.

Thoughts?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

In the mean time, howz about I tell you about some of the pictures I took today?  Forgive my amateur skills and wannabe use of photography jargon.


For this image I used my “kit” 70-300mm) lens (which is a lot easier for me to manually focus). Henry is about three feet from the window and it’s a sunny day. I used an ISO of 400, f 4.8 and shutter speed of 1/160.  You can see why I would like something that works a little better in low light.


This is right out of the camera with no adjustments. Not bad but not great.  To be perfectly honest I don’t know enough to know what I can expect from these kind of conditions.  The only thing I changed was the ISO setting (to 1600). It doesn’t seem like should have had to have it that high but maybe some of my other settings were off.


In Photoshop I adjusted the color using a screen overlay of the original image and then applied MCP Action’s Soft Color. Finally I brightened the eyes a little bit. I’m not happy with how grainy it is and I can’t lighten it up as much as I want without his face looking washed out.  This is the kind of picture I would love to blow up and put on our wall, but I don’t think I would be able to.


In this image, used the same 70-300mm lens but changed the ISO to 800, the aperture to f 4 and left the shutter speed to 1/160. This is straight out of the camera.  Lowering the ISO reduced the grain but in order to have enough light I needed to open the aperture.  Such a delicate balance.


When I tried editing this in Photoshop I didn’t get very far, but I was very pleased with the adjustments in “Aperture” (an Apple program similar to but more advanced than iPhoto.)

After playing inside we went outside to wait for Matt to come home from work.


This was taken with my 18-35mm lens (the one that used to autofocus correctly then broke). ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/160. My ultimate goal is to take a picture that needs as little editing as possible or editing only for artistic reasons, not to compensate for light, etc. We’re getting much closer with this one.


Here I adjusted the lighting in Photoshop to realistic levels and then used MCP Action’s Mini Fusion to bring out the colors.


This has all the same settings as before but I zoomed in a little bit :)


Same edits as before (BTW, whenever I put my pics online the colors aren’t nearly as good as they are in PS.  What is UP with that?  I mean… I know WHY, it just bugs me.


See what I mean about focus? 90% of pictures I take are like this. I really need my autofocus to work.


Then we add these… in focus but not wall material.


Ahhh… much better. ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/160


This picture is interesting because the only difference here is I changed direction. Now I’m facing away from the driveway yet the change in direction of the sun makes a huge difference. Clearly I have a lot to learn :)


Obligatory silliness :) Same settings as above, edited with Mini Fusion.


“I crack myself up!”

6 thoughts on “Playing with Pictures

Add yours

  1. Unless you don’t like the feel of your camera body, stick with Nikon (I love mine). Canon and Nikon are pretty much equal, but good photos come down to good glass (lenses). Kit lenses stink. Buy a couple good lenses and finally see what your Nikon can do! Start with a relatively cheap 50mm f1.8 (about $200) and get the feel for it. If you want some basics, check out FroKnowsPhoto on Youtube. He knows his stuff. He also sells a basics video that is very helpful…about $80…but his YouTube stuff is good. Also Greg Cazillo. I look forward to hearing more! You can see some of my Nikon picks on my Facebook page: Pbotolagraphy.


  2. I am very new at all of this but I do know that Canon lenses cost less. I bought the lens mentioned above recently and paid half that price. I’m going to see if I can get those books from the library! Thanks!!!


  3. Any newer Canon and Nikon both do well in low light- my d700 has up to 6400 ISO plus a really low light boost, although I rarely go above 2000 indoors. Prime lenses will always give you a better image- the 50mm is the bomb for canon, I like the 35mm for nikon. I also find that Nikon seems to produce slightly sharper images than canon, but it’s only noticeable on a close up zoom.


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