Digital 101: Photography Skills

Learn your camera's capabilities by doing, not reading.

Intimidated by your camera’s tech manual? Put it down and hit the backyard for an hour of trial and error. This exercise will teach you how your camera performs in typical outdoor settings.

The Setup

Pitch your tent facing the sun, with the back in shade. Use a stuffed animal or patient spouse as your subject.

The Test

Shoot the scenes below from different angles and distances using different zooms and modes. Keep firing and adjusting until you get results you can predict. Advanced users should experiment with metering, ISO, and other manual controls.

–Subject outside tent, shooting from the side. Because there will be little contrast, exposure and color should be fine. That makes this a good time to play with sharpening and tone controls.

–Subject in tent opening, shooting from the sun. Zoom in and out to see the effect a dark background has on your exposures.

–Subject inside tent, shooting from the sun. Subject is likely to be underexposed; use flash to compensate, zoom in, or put a light inside the tent. Check the white balance settings if color goes wonky.

–Subject in tent opening, shooting from inside. Subject is likely to be underexposed due to bright background. Use exposure compensation and/or flash.