Thursday, February 11, 2016

All About Metering

       Depending on your camera make, you will see a metering mode called Matrix, Pattern or Evaluative. This mode is typically the factory default on your camera and is considered a good all-around metering mode.  When using your camera in auto, or setting your exposure on your own in a creative mode, this metering mode helps you or the camera to pick the correct exposure to suit the scene, taking into consideration both dark and light area's. It's considered good for evenly lit subjects like portraiture and landscapes. It's also the way to go when you're not sure which metering mode to use. This is the reason why it's the default setting for fully automatic camera settings.
       As you can see by the images below, matrix, pattern or evaluative metering works by dividing the frame into zones, taking separate readings from each zone. The camera then takes a guess at what parts of the scene are important and exposes accordingly. For the most part, it does a pretty good job at picking the correct exposure.

But what if our subject is not evenly lit?  Let's look at 

      Spot metering should be used when you want to take an exposure reading on a specific area. It evaluates light from a very small area of the scene and allows you to set the proper exposure.

In the first example the camera was set to Evaluative Metering.  The meter looked at the whole scene and saw Highlights (water)  Midtones (sky) and Shadows (land).  It tried help me set an exposure that would capture all lighting conditions.  But the image ended up being a bit murky and underexposed.

When I switched over to spot metering, I placed the highlighted focus point I see when looking inside of my viewfinder (on my Canon I use the center point) on the midtone area (the sky) and half press the shutter button (or back button focus button).  This activates the in camera meter.  I set my exposure according to the in camera meter and my photo brightens up and looks something like this. 

Now imagine you are out taking a picture of a person.  You want the most important part of the photo to be exposed properly, the face.  You want the camera to ignore the areas surrounding the person that are bright or in deep shadow.   

 You have two choices:
1.  Put your camera into Spot meter mode and take a meter reading on your subjects face from where you are standing to compose the shot.  

2.  Choose any metering mode.  It will not matter.   Walk up to your subject, fill your viewfinder with her cheek or forehead, take a meter reading and set your exposure. 

 Now walk back to where you want to compose your shot, ignore what your camera meter is doing and do not change your exposure.  Take the shot.  You should see the same results, a properly exposed photo.  Why?  Because there was no background in viewfinder, so basically you manually controlled what the meter read or ignored.

There are a few other metering modes on your camera.  Many people don't use them, but they basically work the same way.  Each mode looks at a certain amount of area to determine proper exposure for a scene and ignores areas.  Here is a diagram that might help you understand what each metering mode is looking at and what it is ignoring.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson on metering.  If you'd like more classes, please feel free to contact me.  I offer one on one and group lessons.  
Email me at

Happy Shooting!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Focal Points and Focus Points

Focal Points and Focus Points
A focal point is the area in the scene that you want to be in focus. 
A focus point is a small dot that you see in your camera's viewfinder.  

Focus Points can be used one at a time or set to auto focus which may use more than one.

Have you ever taken a picture of someone or something and when you viewed the image your subject was out of focus but something else in the scene was in focus?   This is called missed focus and it is very frustrating!     Look at my photo below and then grab your camera and let’s learn how a camera focuses to discover why this happens.

I was just about to take a shot of the Prom couple in the car, when out of the corner of my eye I saw the mother walking around to Photo Bomb my picture.   I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped this photo.
What unfortunately happened was my camera locked focus on the trees and truck in the background instead of on the kids leaving for prom...or the photo bombing mom.   Sigh, it happens to the best of us!

When you buy your camera the factory default is set to Auto Focus.  The camera searches for an object to focus on.  It is assuming what or who your subject is.

When we look at the scene through our viewfinder and half press the shutter button to lock in or focus the camera, the camera will first try and focus on the object that is the closest to the camera assuming that is your subject.  Sometimes it’s not.
Or, if the lighting somewhere else in the scene is very contrasty, meaning there is a lot of hard light and shadows, the camera can “see” contrast better so it ends up focusing there instead, like in the photo above.

To avoid misfocusing, take your camera out of Auto Focus Mode.  Get your camera’s manual out and find the section on AF modes.  On my Canon DSLR, I simply press a small button on the back of my camera that looks like dots inside of a square and turn the mode wheel.   A single focus dot inside my viewfinder will turn red.   I set the focus point either to center or one of the other focus areas.  I place the red focus point over my subject.  Now the camera will not assume what I want to focus on .  It focuses on the object that is under my highlighted (red)  focus point.

You will see that some of the focus points (boxes) are vertical rectangles and some are horizontal rectangles.  The vertical ones are made to assist you in focusing on vertical subjects such as trees, people standing, etc.
The horizontal focus points are great for objects running horizontal such as horizon lines, fences and roof tops.
The center focus point is a +, or a crosshatch.  It is the most sensitive focus point because it can “see” or focus equally on vertical and horizontal subjects.  Below is probably similar to what you see when you look through your Nikon (left) or Canon (right) viewfinder.

Camera Settings:  Set your camera mode to P.  Make sure you have a lens on your camera that can zoom.
Place a water bottle on your table. 
Zoom your lens in (you may need to step backwards a bit) so that the near water bottle appears closer to you.  (this is a very important step for this exercise.  Alway keep the lens zoomed in)
Adjust your focus points and put a focus point right on the water bottle closest to you.  Be sure you can see some background in your viewfinder and take a picture.

RESULTS:  The bottle should be IN focus and the background should be OUT OF focus.
My focus point was on the bottle nearest me

Now place your focus point on something far from you, be sure to keep the near water bottle in the viewfinder.

RESULTS: The near bottle should now be OUT OF focus and the background is now IN focus.

My focus point was on the package at the other end of the table

Keep practicing until you get it right.  Then walk around and try your new skill on people, pets, flowers, etc.

Thank you for showing interest in learning Photography.  I hope you enjoyed this quick lesson.  For more hands on lessons like this, please contact me via email at  I teach one on one and group lessons.  Day and evening hours available.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Now Teaching in Georgia

Now teaching in Evans Georgia!!

Daytime and Evening hours available.


Classes geared to DSLR users.
All skill levels welcome, from Beginner to Intermediate.
All camera makes and models!
Hands on learning.
Photoshop and Lightroom lessons too!
One on one classes or group classes.

$20 per one hour lesson.

Jodie Minniear

Friday, September 19, 2014

Shooting Sports

The question I commonly am asked is “what setting should I use to shoot my child playing this or that sport?”  I wish the answer was as simple as use this or that setting and you’ll get awesome photos!  But it’s not.  First of all we need to start by asking ourselves a few questions.

·        What is my goal?  Answer: To capture clean, crisp photos of my child in action.
·        Do I want to show motion or freeze motion?  Answer: Typically we want to freeze motion.

 There are a few variables to take into consideration when shooting sports, so let’s look at them.

Photography is all about light.  What time of day your child plays their sport is very important.  Do they play in the day or evening?   As you know, there is more available light outside on a sunny day than there is in the evening.  Your daytime images are looking pretty good, but how do you keep your evening images from being blurry?

Again, this is very important because we are not only dealing with the amount of light we have to work with, but the color of the light as well.  The light inside a gym for a basketball game or volleyball game can make your photos look very green.   I can hear you thinking, how did she know my basketball and volleyball photos are green?

Having the right lens in your bag can make or break your ability to shoot good sports photos.  If all you have is the kit lens that came with your camera (often an 18-55mm lens) you might not have very much reach to isolate your subject.  You will end up photographing the entire field or court and your images will all look similar to one another. Many people find this out rather quickly and run out and buy a telephoto lens, typically the 75-300mm zoom lens.  You put it on your camera for the first time and get all excited about your new ability to zoom in and isolate your subject on the field.  But wait!  Now your pictures are blurry.  What’s going on?

Let’s unpack these 3 variables and learn to take better sports photos.

Time of day:  Shooting outdoors in the morning or afternoon on a nice sunny day usually results in pretty crisp and clean images.  Why?  Because there is an abundance of light to work with and the camera will often times select a fast shutter speed and narrow aperture to let just enough light into the camera to get proper exposure.  Whoa, back up..Shutter speed, aperture, now you’ve lost me.  

Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter (little doors) within the camera stay open to allow light to pass through and land on the image sensor to make an image.  

Aperture is the size of the opening inside the lens that allows light to pass through.  Think of Aperture like allowing light to enter into the camera through a hole the size of a straw or the size of the mouth of a milk jug.  Or like the pupil of your eye.  When you are outside on a sunny day your pupil becomes small to control the amount of light entering your eye.  When you come into the house or enter a dark room, your pupil dilates or opens wider to let more light in so you can see in the dim room.  That’s exactly how aperture works!

So back to time of day.  If you are shooting in AUTO MODE in the evening or indoors and there is not much available light to work with, your camera will probably pop up the flash.  That’s all fine and good if your subject is right in front of you and you want to make a portrait of them after a game, but not if you are up in the stands at a football game and want to shoot your child out on the field.  The flash will illuminate the heads of the people in front of you because flash only reaches about 12 feet from the camera.  The field will become darker because the shutter does not have to stay open long when using a flash due to a flash being a bright light source.  To avoid flash you can turn your camera to P - Priority Mode.  This mode works a lot like Auto, but it lets you tweak some settings.  It will not pop the flash up for you, you have to manually pop it up.   However, I don’t recommend P – Priority Mode for sports, especially those shot in the evening.  What I do recommend is Aperture Priority Mode - AV (Canon) A (Nikon) or Shutter Priority Mode - TV (Canon) S (Nikon). 

Let’s explore both of those camera modes.

Aperture Priority Mode
Canon: AV: Stands for Aperture Value    
Nikon: A: Stands for Aperture
In this mode you make the decision on what aperture you want your camera to use and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed. (Use caution in this mode, because your shutter speed can drop too slow and cause motion blur.)  Often a sports photographer will set the aperture to the widest setting for the lens they are using.  In the case of the 75-300 mm telephoto lens that would be f/4.  Why do they do this?  They want to enable their lens to let in as much light as they possibly can.  Now the common 75-300 mm telephoto lens is a variable aperture lens. Meaning when you zoom the lens to magnify the image, the aperture will vary between f/4 and f/5.6.   We will talk more about this later in lens choices.  Another reason a photographer might choose the largest aperture opening is that the aperture controls depth of field.  Objects further in the background begin to blur or become softer.  This will allow you to isolate your child and let the crowd, other players or fence behind them drop out of focus.

Shutter Priority Mode
Canon: TV: Stands for Time Value          Nikon: S: Stands for Shutter Speed
When I shoot sports I like to put my camera in Shutter Priority mode.  I ask myself this question, do I want to show motion or freeze motion?  Since I am trying to freeze motion I will choose a shutter speed that is fast enough to freeze motion.  The average shutter speed I start with is 1/500 of a second.  If I am shooting on a bright sunny day I can certainly set it faster!  If I am shooting an evening sport and I just can’t get enough light to shoot at 1/500 I will go as low as 1/350, but not any lower.

Now I want to introduce to you a little friend of mine named ISO.  He is part of a family called The Exposure Triangle.  There are 3 parts of The Exposure Triangle: Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO.  ISO is a feature on your camera that controls how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light.  Back in the days of film, ISO referred to film speed.  ISO 100 film was great for shooting outdoors on a sunny day.  ISO 100 on a digital camera is great for the exact same thing!  ISO 400 and 800 were faster speed ISO films.  They enabled the Photographer to shoot with a faster shutter speed during low light situations.  Today on our modern digital camera ISO 400 is great for shooting outdoors in the shade because you can set a faster shutter speed in lower light, or on a cloudy day or in the house during a bright sunny day with the window shades open and light flooding into the room.  ISO 800 is great indoors in the evening before sunset outside when there is still plenty of light to see. Why, because again, you can use a faster shutter speed.  Digital ISO’s continue to double in number and as the number gets higher the sensor becomes more sensitive to light.  ISO 800 doubles to 1600 and then to 3200 and to 6400 and so on.  Depending on the age and hobby/professional level of your camera will determine the highest number of ISO you can use.  And yes, some cameras do have ISO in 1/3 stop increments, but for the sake of this post we will use full stops.  

So now that we know what ISO is, why is it important and when should I use it?

Why? You may have noticed that when I spoke of ISO I used the term “because you can use a faster shutter speed in lower light” more than once.  Shutter speed as we learned earlier stops motion.  Whether I am chasing a small child, or shooting a runner on a track, I want to have a clean and crisp image.  If my shutter speed is too slow, my camera will record movement and I will end up with an out of focus photo. 

When?  When your light is fading or you’re shooting in a low light situation turn to your buddy ISO to help you out.  Here is an example of using ISO within The Exposure Triangle.

Test Shot
Better Exposure

Example: I am at the Friday night football game.  Before my son takes the field I adjust my camera settings to my typical start point.  It’s 7:00 p.m., the light is low, but the field is lit.  I set my ISO first, to let’s say 800.  Second, I set my camera to Shutter Priority and dial in a shutter speed of 1/500.  I take a test shot and the aperture in my viewfinder is blinking at me or the image looks too dark.  I check my aperture.  According to the lens that I am using, the camera set the aperture to the largest opening that is available for that lens, so I leave the aperture alone.  I could slow down the shutter speed to let more light in, but that may result in a blurry photo, so I leave the shutter speed alone.   I turn to my friend ISO.  I adjust the ISO of 800 up to 1600. Now I take my test shot again.  Great, no blinking aperture and my image looks good!  I can keep my camera settings here as long as the light does not change.  When I notice the sun has gone down and my images begin to get a little darker I adjust the ISO again and so on.

Shooting Indoors vs Outdoors
I love to shoot outdoors, there is usually plenty of light to work with during the day and I can leave my camera on Auto White Balance (AWB).  My images are bright and colorful and very similar to the way I see the scene with my own eyes. But, when I shoot inside, say in the school gym, I get ugly greenish images that just don’t look right.  What’s going on? 
This is called a Color Cast.  In a nutshell all light puts off a color cast according to the kind of light it is or the color temperature of the light.  Large gyms tend to use Fluorescent Lighting. Fluorescent Light has a green color cast.   We want to Neutralize the color cast.  We do this by using the White Balance tool in our cameras.  Simply find the white balance button on your camera or in your menu and set it to Fluorescent.  The White Balance tool will apply a magenta (pink) filter to your image as you take it.  Magenta neutralizes Green!!  Same goes for shooting on the football field under the lights.  The lights are usually Tungsten which put off a yellow color cast.  I set my WB to Tungsten and my camera neutralizes the yellow with blue!
Strange Yellow/Orange Color Cast

Color Cast Corrected with White Balance Adjustment
If you are shooting outdoors in the shade and see a blue color cast on your images, set your WB to shade and the camera with use a yellow filter to neutralize the color cast.
Sometimes AWB- auto white balance, does a fantastic job of determining the color cast on it’s own and using a filter to neutralize the scene.  But now you know what to do if AWB isn’t getting it right and you need to eliminate a color cast!

What lenses are in your bag?
There is a saying that “camera models come and go, but a good lens lasts forever.”  It’s true.  Camera change from year to year.  There are always new and better features coming out. So my advice is buy the best camera you can afford and then invest in glass.  Let’s look in a typical camera bag.

18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 kit lens  (kit lens means the lens that came with your camera)
75-300mm 1:4-5.6 telephoto lens

Great!  You have the ability to shoot wide angle (18mm) and to shoot telephoto (300mm).

An 18-55mm lens is a great everyday lens.  Great for capturing lifestyle images of your family and dabbling a little in landscape photography.

Canon 75-300 1:4-5.6 Zoom
A 75-300mm lens is awesome for vacations, daytime sports, macro shots in the flower beds, etc. but you may run into trouble with both lenses in low light situations.  Why? Aperture.  Let’s look at that strange string of numbers on the lens.  I call it Lens Lingo.

The 1: stands for f /stop.  An f/stop is another word for aperture. In the aperture world, large numbers are small openings (f22 is like a straw).  Small numbers are large openings f1.8 is like the opening to a milk jug).  Crazy, I know, but keep that in your head, forever, k.
The 3.5 tells me that the maximum aperture this lens can open up to is f/3.5, but only when it is not zoomed in at all.  You must use the lens at 75mm to achieve f/3.5.
-        The hyphen says, wait…there’s more!
The 5.6 tells me that the maximum aperture that this lens can open up to is f/5.6 when the lens is fully zoomed in to 300mm.
The amount you zoom in between 75-300mm will result in different maximum apertures, like f/4, etc.

The good news is you have some great lenses and can shoot a ton of different images with them.
The bad news is you will have problems in low light situations that require a fast shutter speed, like sports.

So what is a girl to do?
Save A lot of Money… because here is a great lens for shooting sports.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens  $2299.00

Let’s dissect the lens lingo a minute:

EF stands for Electro-Focus
70-200mm is the focal length of the lens
f/2.8 is the maximum aperture this lens will open up to.  Notice there is no hyphen after 2.8 and no other aperture value follows it?  This is a Fixed Aperture Lens.  What this means is no matter if I am shooting at 70mm, 100mm, 200mm, etc. I can ALWAYS open the aperture to the max.  Yea! That means more light can enter my lens when I am shooting in the evenings! More light means I can use a faster shutter speed!!

L stands for Luxury as in this is an expensive piece of luxury glass!  You will only find L on top of the line Canon lenses.

IS stands for Image Stabilization.

II means this lens is a second generation.  They’ve made improvements over the first gen lens.

USM means it has an Ultra Sonic Motor.  A fast and quiet motor to assist the lens with focus.

The same lens for a Nikon camera is the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens  $2395.00

I know, I want one too, but the price was a little too steep for me as well. So I went with a quality brand name lens for a little less money.  (Tamron and Sigma are the only other brands I trust)

Meet my Tamron

LD Di SP Tamron AF 70-200mm 1:2.8 (IF) Macro

You will find all of the Lens Lingo for Tamron here

Basically, it’s the same focal length, the same fixed aperture lens like the Canon and Nikon, but mine does not have image stabilization.  
With Image Stabilization $1499.00 and without $769.00

I’ve shot sports, weddings, portraits, lifestyle, vacations, you name it.  I love this lens!!

It gives me the reach I need to shoot from afar.  It gives my great depth of field when needed.  It is a heavy lens, but it has a nice tripod mount bracket on it.

Speaking of Tripods, one of the best investments I've made for shooting sports is the Monopod.
It really takes the weight of the camera out of your hands and helps to steady the camera when shooting at longer focal lengths.

Photographer using monopod
It is lightweight and compact.  Mine collapses down to about 12 inches or so.  I just toss it in the camera bag and take it with me to all the games.

I hope you were able to gleen alot from this post.  If you learn to control your camera and really understand using the Exposure Triangle, you will find that you can apply these principles to many different photography subjects.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the comment section.

Happy Shooting!


Want to learn more?  One on one or group lessons are available.  email: for more information.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Now Teaching in Tennessee

Now Teaching Classes in Mt. Juliet Tennessee  A suburb of Nashville

I am teaching one on one photography classes weekly.  Classes are $20 per lesson.  Each lesson is 1 hour and is hands-on.  Call me to set up a lesson:  812-480-5253

If a classroom environment is more to your liking, I teach at The Scrap Room in Mt Juliet.
141 Adams Lane, Suite 21, Mt. Juliet, TN 37122
615-758-9596 /

The next scheduled class will be 4 hour workshop Saturday January 26th from 11-3:30.  $75
Call to register. Space is limited.

We learn to take the camera out of Auto Mode by exploring all of the creative modes.  Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual Mode.

Class Outline:
Lesson 1: Navigate the buttons and dials on your camera while learning Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and Focus and Depth of Field.
Lesson 2: Learn about metering, focus modes, seeing the light, using flash and white balance.
Lesson 3: Putting it all together. We will discuss composition and the right camera settings for a variety of situations like sports, landscapes and portraits.

This class is designed for, but not limited to the DSLR camera owner. All makes, models and cameras types welcome!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Discover Digital Classes

Did you get a new camera for Christmas?  Wondering what all of the buttons and dials and bells and whistles are all about?  Consider taking a Discover Digital Photography Class.

One on one training (or invite a friend).  $20 per session.
5 classes: 4 Camera/Photo classes & 1 Photoshop Class.
Jodie : 812-480-5253 or

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Discover Digital Photography Classes

I am so excited to announce that the spring session is sold out!  If you are on the fence about taking this class, please sign up early!  The summer session will be June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30.
Registration is now open!

What are we learning???

We're learning to understand all the buttons and features of the digital camera.

We're learning how to compose a good shot.

We're learning how to capture great sports action.

We're learning how to create those beautiful images where the background is blurred out.

We're learning how to get the right exposure in the manual camera modes.

And much, much more!!!!!

Don't be confused or frustrated by your digital camera any more!
Sign up today!