LEARN THE CORNERSTONE OF DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY CAMERA BASICS
It’s all about the light!
As beginners in digital photography you’ve no doubt experienced that some of your images will come out horribly white and blown out while others will be unrecognizably dark. This is a result of EXPOSURE, the amount of light let in through the lens that reaches your camera’s sensor. Too much light results in an over exposed, overly white photo and too little light gives you an under exposed, dark photo.
The 3 key elements of exposure, often referred to as the exposure triangle are:
- Shutter speed
Aperture is the opening or diaphragm of your lens that lets the light in. A big opening lets in more light, a small opening lets in less light.
Shutter speed is the amount of time the aperture stays opens to let in the light. Less time, less light. More time, more light.
ISO is the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light. A higher sensitivity, bigger number, increases the amount of light captured. A lower sensitivity, smaller number, will decrease the amount of light captured.
Each one of these elements Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO has to be properly balanced to get a perfectly exposed image and the good news is that with a basic understanding and lots of practice you can quickly master this important process of photography.
Luckily, today’s digital cameras have various modes you can choose to take shots & practice the theories. You can use auto mode, which chooses all the settings for you, or as I’m sure you are going to want to do, move to manual mode where you choose all the settings. To get to manual mode you can first use the in between or partially automatic modes, such as aperture priority or shutter priority, where you get to control one of the parameters and let the camera set the others.
Aperture is the opening of your lens that lets light in. A big opening lets more light in, a small opening lets less light in. The different sizes of the opening are measured by f-stop numbers which can be a little confusing at first but just remember, they’re inversely proportional, a smaller f-stop number means a bigger opening and a larger f-stop number means a smaller opening, for example, f/2.8 is a much larger opening than f/8.
Moving from one f-stop to the next, following the above chart, will double or halve the size of the opening.
Knowing this you can achieve the same exposure by either increasing your aperture opening by one stop, going down to a smaller f –stop number to let more light in, or slowing down your shutter speed by one stop which will also let more light in. ISO will also come into play here in the same way and I’ll explain that further along.
DEPTH OF FIELD
Depth of field (DOF) is a very important function of aperture. It’s the amount of your shot that is in focus. A shallow depth of field, a small f-stop #, large opening, has your subject in focus but much of the foreground and background out of focus or blurry. A large depth of field, a big f-stop #, smaller opening, has more of your image, subject, foreground and background, in focus.
Typically landscape photographer’s will use large depth of fields, eg f/16 or higher, to get their entire image in focus, mountains in the far distance and a meadow in foreground.
On the other hand portrait photographers generally prefer to use a shallow depth of field to highlight their subjects face by keeping the background a little more out of focus or blurred. This out of focus background, is referred to as bokeh, can be a lovely aesthetic effect.
In the following photo’s of a statue in front of the Parroquia cathedral, a landmark in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico, you’ll see a good example of depth of field.
Photo Example 1 – SHALLOW DEPTH OF FIELD:
Here we see a shallow depth of field with the statue in the foreground in focus but with the cathedral in the background out of focus or blurred. F-stop, f/5.6.
Photo Example 2 – LARGE DEPTH OF FIELD:
Below is an example of a large depth of field with the statue in the foreground in focus and the cathedral in the background also in focus. F-stop, f/36.
OK, so now it’s time to get out there and practice the theory of aperture you’ve been learning and take some shots using various f-stops.
Set your camera to aperture priority and manual mode and see what you come up with. You’ll be amazed to see some of the cool effects you can achieve.
And, how wonderful it is with today’s great digital cameras, you can take as many shots as you want, and delete as many shots as you want, with no expense, so let’s get shooting and have fun!
Stay tuned…In the coming weeks I’ll be going into more depth on ISO and Shutter Speed.
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