p is sarcastically for perfect

This week I started a class about using my DSLR.

I’ve had my Canon Rebel XS for about two years now, and other than some helpful tips from a lovely professional (and amazing friend, I might add), I haven’t done a whole lot to learn the darn thing.

In fact, I tend to put it on the P setting and go for it.

P is comfortable.  It’s not automatic and it’s not one of the “picture” settings (what is that?  A running man?  Are those dunes? And why is the hair NOT attached to that profile of a woman?), but it’s not so manual that I have to choose anything either.

I just know the flash won’t pop up and that is all I want.  No yucky flash.

One of my instructors from class calls it the “perfect” setting.  P is for Perfect.

Only it’s not really perfect.  I mean, the camera thinks it’s being all perfect because it’s following the rules of the lighting you are shooting in, but in reality, the camera does not know WHAT you are trying to shoot in that lighting.  It can GUESS.  But then you get pictures like this when it guess wrong:

um, camera? the baby. I want the BABY in focus.

Anyway, the class seems like it’s going to be good since I already learning things.

Like find your owner’s manual and have it in your camera bag.

Oh. Um. About that.

Yeah, I don’t know where mine is.

Moving on…

We talked a lot about shutter speed and aperture in this class because we were discussing exposure.

Shutter speed is how fast your shutter closes and opens (duh), and aperture is the tiny little opening inside your lens that lets light in.

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second.  So 1/30 a thirtieth of a second.

Today I played with my shutter speed.  All pics are of the same adorable subject.

taken with a pretty darn slow shutter speed...of like 1/8

and now…

taken with a super high shutter speed of like 1/2000

and finally…

taken with a shutter speed of 1/30

So since a shutter speed of 1/30 looked pretty good on my snuggly, not moving subject, I decided to play with the aperture.  No flash is used and this is all natural light coming in from the front window.

(Aperture is the number with the F in front of it, by the way.  Some call it the F-stop.  Although my teacher never called it that, which I thought was weird since that is what I have been taught it’s called…but maybe I am weird since I am a beginner and what do I really know, right?)

Aperture set as high as it would go at 22. not enough light let in.

hmmm…ok…the other side of the extreme…

Set as low as it would go...a 1.8. too much light.

now playing around to find something I like…

here we are around a 4 or 5. still a little to bright, but better.

If you don’t want to mess with one or the other, you can set your camera to either A (or AV) and you just have to choose the Aperture (f-stop) and your camera will do the shutter speed for you.

Or you can set your camera to S (or TV) and you pick the shutter speed and your camera will pick the aperture.

Then there was a bunch of stuff about setting the meter to “happy”, but that is hard to explain.  Basically it’s that little thing you see when you look through your lens.  It’s at the bottom and it goes from like -2 to 2.  “happy” is in the middle.

And really, if you put it on one of those semi-automatic settings, it will do that for you.  I think if you are trying to take a picture you like, it shouldn’t matter if the meter is “happy” or not. It matters if YOU are happy with the photo.

A “happy” meter just means the camera thinks you’re doing it right.

But what does the camera know?  It had a “happy” meter when I took this:

this? is not "happy". it's fuzzy. but the lighting is nice, so maybe that is why the camera was happy.

Anyway, I guess we are going to talk about ISO next week.  But between you and me and that cup of coffee over there?  I’ve been playing with my ISO for a while.

In fact, it’s the reason I wanted a 50mm lens (which one of the teachers totally called me out on and THEN was snarky about since I am just a “beginner”.  Whatever dude, I have a nice lens.  Just teach me to use it and keep the comments to yo’self.).

ISO is that thing that can make the camera focus on one thing while making the rest fuzzy.

I love to play with my ISO.


power to the people...er...your ISO skillz, mom.

So yeah next week we are meeting at the tulip gardens for some “on site shooting.”  Heh heh.

You know I’ll be filling you in.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Eeek, I’m so jealous you have a DSLR!! I’ve been wanting to get one for ages, but I’m scared I’ll just flop at it, and revert to my semi-DSLR Canon with the P setting. Which yes, I’m still using and it’s still better than the fuzzy pictures taken with my Android.

    Oh, and Charlie? P for Perfect.

    • you know, I wanted one, but I didn’t believe I could use it well either. But my mom and hubs decided I needed to go for it, and together they bought me the camera for my birthday. I am in LOVE with it!

  2. Tell that teacher to keep his comments for your blog. The nerve!
    I love seeing your progress.

    • thanks. I am a firm believer that the camera does not make a photographer. TALENT makes a photographer. And I am not a photographer. But I do like to take pictures, and I would like them to not suck the big one.

  3. I purchased the Canon Rebel T3 and have had a blast with it. I have not fooled with aperture or shutter speed but I want to. I also want to get the blur like you get, though mine is supposed to get it.. mm yeah not so much

  4. I am so jealous of your DSLR. I ended up settling for one of the in between cameras (I got the Nikon COolPix L120).

    • those can take some pretty kick ass pics though. It’s all about the talent. I am convinced people with talent can take an amazing picture with a disposable, but someone with no talent will take bunk pictures with even the best camera on the planet, ya know?

  5. I have serious camera envy over here! I’ve wanted a DSLR for years.. Actually, I wanted an SLR before that. I just can’t convince myself the investment is worth it.
    I have a big point and shoot with the flash that you can leave closed & a decent zoom. The newer version has an even better zoom & with boys playing sports, I’m seriously considering upgrading.
    My dilemma is do I simply get the point & shoot upgrade for $400 or invest in a big girl camera for close to $1000 after lenses.

    • I think if you take lots of pictures it’s totally worth it. Besides, you don’t have to get all the lenses at once. The one that comes with the camera is good for learning. I mean, if you’re going to spend $400 on an upgrade, you might as well spend a couple extra hundred and get a DSLR. But that is just my opinion.

      Can you tell I love my camera?

  6. There must be something about infants and all the beautiful photos your friend took of your baby that stirs up these kind of things. I sit and go through her pages of beautiful photos of infants and look at my two new grandchildren and I want to know how to recreate those images. Will you get lessons on how to get them to sit in that perfect position too?
    I am glad you’re doing this. It is a good time for you to be out and about, and then use those skills at home with your beautiful family. Keep us posted, I am taking notes!

    • I have no idea how to pick a position…Charlie just lays there and I take is picture 🙂

      But I am glad you are liking the photos! Charlie is an easy subject!

  7. OMG! I have a DSLR and out of all the tutorials and things I’ve read, THIS was the most helpful!! Thank you!

    • really?? That makes me feel so good! I like to give the credit to the fact that I’m a teacher, but it’s probably because I understand best when explained in very, VERY simple terms. 🙂

  8. Truth here…I use my camera on the iPhone. If I keep following your photo lessons, I’m going to have to send you the bill for my nice, new, beautiful expensive camera.

  9. I was seriously distracted by Charlie’s adorable little face. My DSLR ended up at my dad’s house because it was too cumbersome for me. I think I might borrow it back for another try though. I love how you captured Charlie’s little fist! So cute.

  10. I think the best way to shoot before you move to manual is AV, I think controlling aperture is the best way to go…especially if you’re taking pics of your kiddos mostly…
    good luck!
    iheartfaces dot com has awesome tutorials too…

  11. photography is so fun, i took some classes at grcc when i was very young. since then i have pretty much forgotten everything i learned and i have a boring old automatic camera these days. i’d like to get a fancier one though. good for you for taking a class, that’s pretty cool!

  12. You do realize that now I want a camera like this so that I can play with it too. Looks like you are learning a LOT. Power to the mama! 🙂

  13. I have a love/hate relationship with my DSLR. Mostly because it is old and I covet a newer one. I love to see people learning more and more about their cameras and learning how to grab some great photos!

    I think you may be a little confused on what ISO does though. ISO pretty much controls how sensitive your camera is. So if you are in a place with lots of light, you can use a low ISO, but if you are somewhere with little light, you need to go higher. The problem on going higher, depending on your camera, is that your picture will become grainier. (See Courtney Kirkland’s tutorial on ISO: http://www.courtneykirkland.net/move-to-manual-iso/)

    What you are ACTUALLY doing when you make the background blurry is you are controlling your depth of field – and to do that you do control the amount of light, but you do it with aperture. I LOVE to keep my camera on a 1.8 and try to maintain a pretty high shutter speed so that I get the bokeh (blur) behind the subject I am shooting. Again, I’ll point you towards Courtney’s blog about aperture, because she compares photos at different f-stops to explain: http://www.courtneykirkland.net/understanding-aperture/ (I hope by posting links and an uber long comment I won’t get marked as spam!). I’m surprised that your instructor didn’t mention this while he was teaching you about aperture.

  14. Thanks for that update I liked how you explained about shutter and aperture speed… I could understand that better than anything I had read previously. I hate it when it gets too technical. It helped to have the pics as comparison. Love Charlie’s little fist.

  15. I don’t really speak “camera”, but I’m learning slowly. It’s a hard language!

  16. Can’t wait to see your progress… How fun!

  17. I love playing with my wife’s D-SLR, and I’m pretty sure I’d benefit greatly from a class (I’m actually going to bookmark this post so that I can go back & remember what the fancy-schmancy terms are . . . doesn’t f-stop sound a little dirty to you?)