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How Do I Use the Advanced Features of My DSLR Camera? (or How to Get off P Mode and Into Manual Mode)


This post is for those of you want to start using the more advanced functions of their camera and begin to really unleash your creative side with your photography. Those of you who are more advanced can skip this post altogether and read something else.

Who is this post for?

1. People with a new camera (especially a new DSLR) who want to learn how the camera works and how to use it better.

2. People who are ready to break out of ‘P’ mode on their camera and take more creative control over it

3. People who love to learn and want to make better photographs.

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Light Painting Party Trick – Write with Light Slow Shutter Speed

This is an idea for a shot I discovered playing while playing around with a toy flashlight.

Here’s the result:

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Camera capable of manual mode shooting.
  • A small led flashlight, something you can easily handhold and draw with.
  • Tripod
  • Flash capable of being manually triggered. Any old Canon or Nikon flash will work, as will an old school Vivitar or whatever you got! 😉

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Mount the camera on a tripod.
  2. Dim the room as much as you can. You may need a flashlight to hit your subject to set the focus, then lock the focus so it does not hunt during the frame.
  3. Set up the camera in manual mode, with a middle aperture (I chose f8). You’ll also need to set a fairly longish shutter speed, at least 5-10 seconds (This exposure was 10 seconds).
  4. Trip the shutter, and have the subject write their name with the small flashlight. I like to use a cable release for this, and put the camera in bulb mode. That way you can do the whole frame, then close the shutter without worrying that you’re going to miss the end of the frame.
  5. After they are done writing, the subject poses.
  6. Trigger a flash manually or via remote to freeze the subject in their pose before the shutter closes. Depending on your aperture, you may need to change the flash power setting or move the flash forward/backward to get the exposure right.
  7. Once you have your shot, you’ll need to flip it so the wording works left to right (It will appear backwards when you shoot it). You can do this in Lightroom, Photoshop, or Picasa pretty easily.


I’ve found this to be a lot of fun at parties, especially if you can shoot tethered and everyone can see the photos as they come up.

Here’s a few more to get you thinking…

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Miriam & Brian Lake Tahoe

Miriam and Brian had a great wedding ceremony in Lake Tahoe on the North Shore at Sand Harbor Park. Good thing we started early, because there was a line out front at 8:00AM with people looking for a spot! It was a beautiful and amazing spot, and Miriam and Brian had a very romantic day in what may be one of the most breathtaking spots in Lake Tahoe.

Congratulations to the couple!


Trinity & Make-A-Wish

Last Sunday I was honored to be a part of the Make-A-Wish fundraiser for Trinity Upton to go to Disneyland and to have tea with the princesses. Trinity is a 6 year old girl who is suffering from a brain tumor. The event was backed by local vendors and a ton of community members that came out to support Trinity, of which I was one. Special thanks go to Scott Lance and Russ Melendez at Auburn Auto Haus for hosting the event, Katy Baker at My Adagio Event for coordinating the event, and to the Sacramento chapter of Make-A-Wish. You can read more and see all of the vendors from the day here. The story was also picked up by the Auburn Journal. The Placer High School Jazz band was there, and they were fantastic! The drummer especially had mad rhythm and could drum like someone many years his senior. If anyone has a link for them I’d love to hear it in the comments, I couldn’t find one.

It’s not too late to contribute if you are so inclined – you can go to the main page at Auburn Auto Haus and Paypal the money over. As of 11-8-10, they are at $3,000 on a goal of $5,000.

All of the photos I shot during the day can be found here, and my favorites are below.

M o r e   i n f o