Okay, y'all, in honor of
Raise your hand if your significant other/bff/mom/whoever-you-can-rope-into-it takes your outfit pictures. Now, keep your hand raised if that significant other/bff/mom/whoever-you-can-rope-into-it also happens to be a photography expert. Nooooo?
Yeah, me neither.
Actually, my husband really doesn't care about photography at all--he just cares enough about his wife (me) that he's willing to do me the huge favor of taking zillions of blog pictures. (awww)
I got myself a DSLR for Cyber Monday (a Nikon D3200), and asked for an additional lens (a NIKKOR 35mm 1:1.8) for Christmas. I took a photography class in high school (developing prints and everything) so after a bit of brushing up, I could take decent snaps in manual. I can do it.
But... all I really want is to have nice, "top fashion blogger" photos with sharp details and a blurred-out background. And I want my husband to be able to do it with minimal effort, because the simpler I can make it, the less frustrated he gets, the more pleasant the whole blog-photos-please thing can be.
After a bunch of messing around on different settings, I think I have cracked the code and figured out the easiest possible way to create that "manual" look with literally NO effort or photography know-how necessary.
First, put your camera in Aperture Priority mode, usually represented by an A on your dial. This allows you to dial in your preferred aperture. The lower the number, the shallower the depth of field, so you can get outfit in focus and have the background blurry. For most of my pictures, I set my aperture as wide as it goes/as low as the number gets, or 1.8 (for my lens).
Aperture Priority mode is a step up from Auto, but basically just as easy. There are two basic elements of taking a picture: the shutter speed and the aperture (well, there's three, but we're just going to ignore ISO for now). If you are in manual, you're in charge of both. In auto, the camera is in charge of everything. It will always get the exposure right but won't get any of those nice effects you are looking for. In Aperture Priority you're in charge of the aperture, and the camera adjusts the shutter speed to suit the light levels.
Next step is focusing, and here, we want to make this as automated as possible. There are two settings that control focus on my camera. Focus mode controls how your camera focuses, and AF (that's autofocus) Area Mode controls how it knows what to focus on. The magic combination, I've found, is setting the focus to Auto-Servo Auto-Focus, and the focus area to Auto-Area Auto-Focus. This basically lets the camera choose what to focus on and how to focus on it. I have found that it works pretty well, especially for the type of pictures you're taking for style/sewing blogging: outfit shots, detail shots, etc.
Are these photos going to win awards? Um, probably not. BUT until I can afford to hire a pro photographer to follow me around 24/7, this is pretty simple and foolproof. You can hand your sister/husband/mom/whoever the camera set in this way, they can literally just point and shoot and you should end up with some decent photos!
EDIT: Since I took the pictures in this post, I've tweaked one more thing--instead of using matric metering (the default mode), I've been using spot metering, which uses the spot your camera is focused on to control the brightness. That way, if you are standing in the shade but it is bright behind you, it will use your face to determine the brightness.
Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or if you want to know anything else about my photography or gear or whatever. As I said, I am not an expert, I've taken one photography class (10 years ago)--and then experimented a lot to make this as simple and easy as possible.
If you try out these settings, let me know how they work for you: If it's bad, I'd really like to continue improving this method, and if you try it and like it, I'd appreciate it if you linked back to this post, if you want to.