On Monday we posted our absolutely enormous review of the Sony NEX, and chatted a ton about how awesome it is for people wanting to shoot their travels and their lives! And that probably got you pretty excited! Either to get a NEX, or even just to take whatever little camera you have and get out and shoot.
So, today we’re going to give you three tips for having creative control over the Sony NEX.
Tip #1: Shoot In Manual Mode
One of the fastest ways to learn about light and the technical stuff of photography is to shoot in manual mode. It forces you to understand what is going on, and how to adjust for the scene in front of you. And it lets you make the creative decision about the exposure! Don’t let your camera do your thinking for you!
Even though manual mode is a bit scarier at first, you’ll pick it up quickly if you stick with it, and soon you won’t want to shoot in any other mode! Honest. You’ll get addicted to being in total control.
Happily, the NEX lets you adjust your settings in Manual mode quite easily. The first thing you need to get familiar with is the flywheel.
That little guy is what you’ll use to make your adjustments. The key is to toggle between shutter speed and aperture by pressing down on the bottom of the flywheel. Then just spin the wheel, and see the results in real-time on the LCD. Mega fast learning tool.
Also, make sure to install the firmware update (see links at bottom of post) and set the center button of the flywheel to switch to ISO. You’ll also control that with the flywheel.
IMAGE DATA: 16mm, 1/4000 SEC, f/4.5, ISO 200 This shot just wouldn’t be possible unless I was taking control of the camera. When the light is behind your subject like this it’s called backlighting, and it totally confuses cameras. The camera will think that you want to expose for the sun, and the result is that your photo is super dark! Shooting manual lets you expose for exactly what you want.
Tip #2: Adjust In The Right Order
Making your shutter speed, aperture and ISO adjustments in the right order will save you a lot of frustration, and help you get your perfect exposure super fast!
First, set your ISO. If you’re shooting outside ISO 200 or ISO 400 is a good bet. Those work for everything from bright sun to cloud. Keeping it low when you’re outside lets you have better image quality as well (less noise in the image). If you’re inside and it’s dark, you could be anywhere from ISO 800 to ISO 3200. If you want to shoot without a flash (which generally looks way better) you’ll need to bump up your ISO to let in more light.
Then, set your aperture. This is a creative decision—how much background blur do you want? If you want to blur as much as possible, set your aperture low (2.8 or 3.5 on the NEX, depending on which lens you’re using). If you want more of the scene in focus, set your aperture higher.
Finally, adjust your shutter speed. This is the last step, and you make the shutter speed adjustment to get the right exposure. The awesome thing about the NEX is that you can see in real-time the exposure you’re going to get before you take the photo. Just adjust until it’s perfect! Shutter speed is going to be the setting that you adjust the most, so get to know it!
Be careful here. If your shutter speed gets too low, you might end up with blurry photos. You probably don’t want to go below 1/60 SEC (the image below is at that speed, and I have a bit of motion blur in his hands as a result). If you are going below that, you’ll need to increase your ISO or lower your aperture to compensate. And practice standing really still to shoot at lower shutter speeds!
IMAGE DATA: 16mm, 1/60 SEC, f/2.8, ISO 800 There was very little light at this steakhouse we visited in Buenos Aires. I had to increase my ISO first because of how dark the room was.
Tip #3: Shoot RAW + Edit in Lightroom
The NEX shoots RAW, so take advantage of that. RAW is the highest quality format to capture your images in, and allows you to bring the best out of the image in post processing (for a deeper explanation, read about why you should almost always shoot RAW)
See, when you shoot RAW you’ll be able to take full advantage of Lightroom, which is seriously the best program for photo editing. It is super fast and easy to make adjustments to exposure, contrast, brightness and saturation. You can create perfect black and whites, custom colour toning, crop your images, reduce noise and sharpen. And more. Seriously.
When photos come straight out of a digital camera they rarely look great. They need a little TLC. Get into the habit of using Lightroom to spruce up your photos and you’ll be amazed at how much better they look!
And hey, if you are looking to learn how to use Lightroom, we made a video tutorial that’s super easy to follow, and teaches you what you need to know, fast! Check it out now.
IMAGE DATA: 16mm, 1/1000 SEC, f/5.6, ISO 400 The bold lines and shapes in this image made for a killer black and white. I used Lightroom to edit the photo, and get the perfect tones I was looking for!
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Is That All Too Much But You Still Want Creative Control?
If all that stuff seems a bit overwhelming, and you’re just not there yet, never fear. There are some other options on theass=”caps”>NEXto give you some control!
First, you can shoot in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority mode. These give you more control than just sticking it on Auto, but are less work than shooting in Manual.
You can choose from a variety of scene selections (portrait, landscape, sunset, etc.) to adjust the settings to the situation. I used the sunset mode once (when shooting a sunset), and it totally helped!
There’s a mode called Intelligent scene selection on the NEX that lets the camera take care of all the technical stuff. But you can still have some control! You can use the flywheel to control how blurred your background is (more crisp, or more defocused). Sony calls this feature “Background Defocus”, which is really just letting you control aperture without needing to know what the numbers mean.
Finally, the NEX has some Creative Settings to let you add some variety. You can shoot in black and white, or add a bit more pop to your colours.
If you’re just getting into photography, make sure to check out the Shooting Tips built in to the camera. They’ll give you guidance on how to get the shot you’re looking for!
Are you a NEX shooter? What’s your favourite way of shooting with this awesome little camera?