Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 20 • 1/125 sec
Hey my fellow shutter-bugs! It’s been a while since I had a lesson, so I owe you one – and it’s just in time for you to take all those crazy family pictures during Christmas! Previously, I talked about Aperture and Shutter Speed. Today’s lesson is on ISO, as well as answering the question: so what’s the point of all of this?
ISO (International Standards Organization), or as old-school photographers would say, Film Speed, is simply a measurement of how quickly the media in your camera can pick up light. For example, think about the last time you moved. If you had to pack a truck, how long would it take to fill if only you were working? How long would it take if you had a whole team of movers? These scenarios would represent low and high ISO settings, respectively. Higher ISOs “pack in” light faster than low ones, allowing you to shoot better pictures in low light. They also introduce film grain (pixellation) at higher levels depending on your camera.
So now you have all three pieces of the Exposure Triangle, every photographer’s rule to taking properly exposed pictures. The main point is to keep the triangle balanced. When you adjust shutter speed down, you may need to open your aperture or use a higher ISO. When you set a high ISO to shoot at night, you will need a longer shutter speed or wide aperture, etc. You will know these three are balanced when your camera’s light meter is centered.
Now comes the fun part: with this knowlege, you can shoot any camera in manual mode and actually know what you’re doing! 😀 You can try several combinations of the three elements, just remember how else they affect your photos (aperture affects depth of focus, shutter speed affects blur, and ISO affects noise). Also, you can use the Tv, Av, P, and any other settings appropriately. Just know that Tv lets you choose your shutter speed & ISO, and it will pick the aperture for you. Likewise, Av does the same with letting you control aperture. P is fully automatic except for the focus & flash.
Ok, your turn! Try taking some pictures and let us know your experience in the comments. Did you get the image you were going for? Do you know why/why not?
Photo enthusiasts! Time for another lesson! Are you excited yet?!?!
This week, let’s focus on shutter speed. The term is much simpler than all the other ones I’ve thrown at you, I think. 😉 Shutter speed is simply how long the shutter allows light into the camera – the speed at which it opens and closes. It actually requires a lot of technology to get the shutter to work at such high speeds, but I won’t get into that here. What you need to know is that shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. Anything longer than 1/60 of a second is considered “slow” in photography terms, and “fast” is anything above 1/500 of a second. So, the picture I took above is just bordering on fast.
What’s the point? When there is any kind of action or movement in your photos, your shutter speed setting will determine how much “blur” is in your pictures. Fast shutter speeds will freeze the action (if you look closely, you can see some stray water droplets around the pot in the photo), while slow shutter speeds will blur movement (here’s one I did with a moving subject). Pick your shutter speed depending on what you want to do with the photo – do you want to stop the action or show it? There’s just one rule here: when hand-holding your camera, realize that some shutter speeds may be too low to get sharp images. Anything slower than 1/60 should use a tripod. Also, it should be equal to or faster than the focal length of your lens. So, if I’m using my 70 mm lens, my shutter speed should not be lower than 1/70 sec unless I have a tripod.
Ok, now it’s your turn! Check your camera presets (some explanations here and here) and go to Tv (shutter priority) mode if your camera allows. If you live near a waterfall or fountain, you’re lucky. For the rest of us, use your shower or sink faucet. Try adjusting your shutter speed while taking pictures of the water. What kind of effects can you get?
Try it! Then comment and let us know what your favorite results were.
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 • Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/60 sec
Night photography is one of the more difficult techniques to learn. This picture of Vienna’s town hall (the Rathaus) came after several blurry or underexposed attempts I threw out. Mostly that is because you need light to take photographs, and at night, it can be hard to come by! Here are some simple tricks to help get you started, so you don’t have to be afraid of the dark.
Know the weather forecast, sun and moon rise & set times, and any other factors (such as light pollution from cities) that can affect your photos and plan accordingly.
Know this: flash is evil and it won’t help you in this setting. Turn it off.
The key to night photos is long exposures, so learn how to adjust your shutter speed down or use a bulb (some pictures take 1/2 sec up to an hour or two). You will also need a higher aperture (11+) to keep your depth of field sharp as well as a higher ISO setting to let more light in (here’s an explanation of some of these settings). When in doubt, bracket your photos (most DSLRs will take 3 photos with different exposures in a range, so you can pick your favorite or combine them later). And yes, I know I broke these rules in this week’s photo. But hey, sometimes you just get lucky!
Next, DON’T MOVE! Or at least, don’t allow your camera to move. Use a tripod, and don’t press the shutter button to take pictures. Instead, use the camera’s self-timer, a remote control, or a cable release. Also, if using a DSLR camera, set the mirror lock-up function to further prevent internal camera shake.
Don’t forget battery backup, warm clothes, and a flashlight! It will make your life a lot easier.
Manual focus is helpful here, since autofocus typically won’t work at night. Set it to infinity for buildings and landscapes. The same goes for your automatic white balance settings. Manually set it to “Daylight” to get the correct colors.
Finally, if you want to get REALLY technical, try light painting.
What, besides fireworks, looks so cool at night that you really would like a picture of it?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350 D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 800 • f 5.0 • 1/60 sec
In another installment of “what you may not know from a photo,” I wanted to feature something very close to home. This is my aunt Sally and her husband Gary. What you may not know about this photo is that it was taken less than 24 hours before she died.
Sally fought a five-year battle with breast cancer, but finally was told there were no more treatments available. She quickly made plans to spend some time with her family and get some important things done. One of her last wishes was to have some current family photos. She left behind her mother, husband, three boys, extended family and about 5-600 people who attended her funeral (more than the funeral home was prepared for!).
We went back and forth about taking the photos the day we did. We talked about doing them the next day if she was feeling better. She was exhausted and on oxygen, and it took nearly six hours to get her ready and over to the studio. Between each photo we had to let her take more oxygen while we set up the other people in the picture. It was a long day, but we’re so glad we went ahead and took the photos when we did. It just goes to show that you never know how important one action can be until the moment is gone.
Is there a kindness you can do for someone you care about? What is it? Now, go do it!
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 1600 • f 7.1 • 1/160 sec
Hey all you photo enthusiasts! It’s a bonus photo lesson this month! Aren’t you excited?!?!? Previously, I shared about the Rule of Thirds and Framing. This week I would like to extend the lesson to Leading Lines, Active Space, and Simplicity.
Leading Lines are simply the way you use elements in the picture to draw people’s eyes to your subject. In my featured photo this week, notice how the tiger’s paw draws your eyes up to his face, then across to mine and my friend’s. Many people use roads, rivers, streams, bridges, branches, or fences as their lines. Anything can work! Straight, curved, or parallel lines are all good at promoting interest, and you can work them in horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
Active Space is used when your subject is moving or looking off to one side of the frame. Most people’s minds automatically wonder what they are running toward or looking at. Therefore, the most effective photography often will leave extra space off that side of the photo, even if it’s just open field.
Simplicity is probably the easiest concept to understand, but can be difficult to photograph. The premise is: don’t put a bunch of stuff in your background that can distract you from the main subject. Sometimes this is done by the angle you take your shot, sometimes it is accomplished through creative use of aperture. A camera will flatten a 3D image down into a 2D photo, so things far behind your subject can instead look like they’re growing out of their heads, if you don’t pay attention. Remember: nothing should be in your photo that isn’t there on purpose.
Is there any photo topic or question you want me to cover in the future? Comment and let me know!