One with the Camera
Updated: Mar 19
Whether it be film or digital, you should know what your camera is capable of.
Every camera is different and every camera has its own quirks. Knowing your camera takes time, practice and a little research. However, you don't need to do a deep dive of the web to find out about how your camera works. All you need to do is flip through the cameras manual, something I wish people had sometimes. The camera manual will more than likely come with the camera and if it doesn't they are usually accessible online with a quick search of your camera's name. With manual in hand, understanding the camera will be easy.
To truly understand the camera's abilities and practice your own skills there are a few controls you need to learn. These controls are all major factors to controlling the exposure of the images you'll be taking. With photography, there can be such a thing as too much or too little light. Creating images is about balancing your controls to properly expose an image. Exposure is all about the highlights and shadows, if it is too dark or too bright you won't have as much detail in the image. (Exposure refers to the amount of light entering the camera.) The major camera controls you need to know to compose and shoot great pictures are, aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
Aperture is the opening within the camera lens that allows light to pass through into the camera. The aperture is represented by F-stops, which comes from the focal length and is also known as the focal ratio. F-stops are the ratio in which the aperture opens and closes to allow light to enter the camera. They begin around f/2 and typically go up to about f/22 depending on the camera lens used. When the aperture is set as f/2, it means it is opened up to allow more light to enter the lens. Therefore if the f-stop is at f/22 it is stopped down to let less light enter the lens. I like to think about the aperture like the pupil of the eye. The larger the pupil is, the more light is entering the eyes to receive information. When the pupils are smaller they let less light in. Our eyes, like the camera's aperture, need to adjust to different lighting conditions to allow the correct amount of light in.
Shutter Speed controls the exposure time. The speed is the length of time, or seconds, that the aperture is held open to allow light to pass through the lens to the sensor. Knowing this, allows you to understand which f-stop the camera should be set as. If the aperture is wide open you want a faster shutter speed so as to not allow too much light in. Shutter speeds are read as time intervals, 1 second and then from ½ second to around 1/8000 of a second. The longer the shutter speed the more light will enter the lens. Shutter speeds also allow the photographer to stop moving objects in the image. The slower the shutter speed the more blur of moving objects and the faster the shutter speed is the more in focus moving object will become.
ISO is the abbreviation of International Standards Organization. ISO is the cameras measurement of sensitivity to light in the digital cameras image sensor. The ISO assists the aperture in allowing light to enter the lens to expose your images. Opposite the aperture, when your ISO numbers grow they cause your image to be brighter and when they go down they cause the image to be darker. ISO numbers appear on the camera from 100-6400 as well as an Auto setting. These settings are sometimes referred to as ISO speeds. However, changing the ISO settings may cause your images to be more grainy or look as though they have visible pixels. This happens when using a high ISO and is referred to as noise. The ISO should really only be used as a last effort to brighten your image. When photographing we should keep the ISO around 100 or 200 and adjust the shutter speed and aperture when needed.
image 1: Silhouette - Lens: 24mm, ISO: 3200, Aperture: 4, Shutter: 1/200
image 2: Window Light - Lens: 24mm, ISO: 250, Aperture: 4, Shutter: 1/160
image 3: Stopped Action - Lens: 24mm, ISO: 1000, Aperture: 4, Shutter: 1/2500
image 4: Blurred Action - Lens: 24mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: 8, Shutter: 1/30
image 5: Panned Action - Lens: 24mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: 10, Shutter: 1/50
image 6: Shadow - Lens: 22mm, ISO: 125, Aperture: 4, Shutter: 1/1000
image 7: Leading Lines - Lens: 24mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: 4, Shutter: 1/1000
image 8: Wide Depth of Field - Lens: 19mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: 22, Shutter: 1/30
image 9: Shallow Depth of Field - Lens: 24mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: 4, Shutter: 1/1000
image 10: Rule of Thirds - Lens: 24mm, ISO: 100, Aperture: 4, Shutter: 1/1000