These frothy delights are the first flowers I am seeing in my yard. They are Camellia japonica 'Ave Maria,' planted haphazardly by me maybe five years ago now, too close to the house but as such bursting forth with these prom-night poufs immediately outside the dining room window. February 25th — wow. That's a nice winter treat.
To take this photo, I used natural light in my kitchen, which is fairly dim in the morning and gives me this lovely, moody luminescence. I put the camera on my tripod (I always use a tripod for anything that's not moving), and set the 2-second timer. I almost always have my camera set to the "A" setting for Aperture-control. I open my aperture as wide as possible (this one allowed me to go down to f/4.9) and zoomed in on my flowers with the lens (meaning, the lens was pushed out all the way out to 300mm). Using a wide-open aperture and a zoomed-in lens will give you the shallowest depth of field possible — so the flowers will be in focus, but the chair in the backround, which is actually about eight feet away, will be blurry. To zoom in on the flowers, you actually want to pull the camera and the tripod back — I think I was probably four or five feet away.
To focus, you first want to make sure that your auto-focus is set to allow you to choose what the camera focuses on. If, when you hold your shutter halfway down, you see one little rectangle in the middle of the frame which beeps of turns solid when it has finally found its focus, you're in good shape. Use this little rectangle to focus on the spot in your composition where you'd like the focus to settle, but remember — this does not have the be the center of your final photo. To focus on that most forward-facing flower, I hold my shutter down halfway (mine beeps when its ready) with a small part of the petals of that flower within the boundary of the rectangle. Continuing to hold the shutter halfway, I recompose the shot, shifting the flowers a bit to the right. When you've got things where you want them, then you push the shutter down all the way. The timer takes over, and two seconds later snaps your photo, using a shutter speed of its choosing.
If, when you hold your shutter down halfway, you see several rectangles (gathering exposure and focus information from lots of places in your composition), you need to consult your camera manual to figure out how to turn that off. I prefer to control where my camera focuses, and from which places it reads the light. Once you get used to it, you'll find that this is a lot more fun. Don't be scared.
I try to explain camera stuff in a non-technical way because the technical jargon tends to make me start panicking. And again, this is just how I do things (or rather how I get the camera to do things), and what works well for me — and that's typically always changing as I learn more stuff, or as my habits and interests change. Mostly, I've found taking photos to be something that's best learned by doing. If you're unsure, pick one thing and learn a little bit about it — concentrate on that one thing for a while, playing around until you think you get it. A professional photographer told me recently that he shoots every still life at every aperture setting — then picks the one that works the best from the contact sheet. I love that idea. I also Photoshop all of my photos, and I can tell you about that too. But not today 'cause I gotta finish about four half-finished smocked things.
Also meant to say that if you know of any other photography tutorials that have helped you, please leave them in the comments, definitely.