Rodney Campbell's Blog

Photography Hints & Tips Part 1 – Photographic Basics…

by on Mar.07, 2010, under Life, Photography

Since I upgraded to a D-SLR I have been enthusiastically getting back into what I might call “real” photography rather than just ‘snapshot’ taking with my previous compacts. This has meant taking more care about the craft of photography, visualising the image I want to create and having an idea of my intended end result before taking the shot.

If I was to characterise the types of shots I’ve taken most since rekindling my passion for photography again I’d have to say it has been candid portraits (of children). A couple of fellow parents had asked for some tips on taking better photos (I presume because they liked the shots I’d been taking of our children) and so I offered to run a few impromptu lessons at school.

Since I’ve been putting together a few notes and a rough outline of the sorts of things I was going to discuss I figured I’d share it here as well 🙂 – also by no stretch of the imagination would someone call me a pro photographer – I’m just someone who enjoys photography so I guess you might call me a happy amateur 🙂

This isn’t going to be an in depth tutorial on photography (it’s really just my cliff notes) and nor do I want it to be a detailed technical discussion on every camera setting or how to use the camera and it’s features. What I wanted to do is cover a few fundamental basics and essentially outline a few good “recipes” for taking certain types of shots and cover some basic creative techniques and common pitfalls.

Photographic Basics

Unfortunately even though I said above that I didn’t want to cover too many technical details there are a few fundamental basics with photography which do make it easier to understand some of what will follow…

A photograph is created by focusing light through a lens onto a light sensitive medium (film or digital sensor). Exposure essentially represents the amount of light which is allowed onto the photographic medium – and determines the pictures overall brightness and contrast.

Between the lens and the sensor are two barriers – the aperture and the shutter which together control how much light gets onto the sensor.

The Exposure (exposure value – or EV) is driven by three factors:

  • Aperture – an adjustable diaphragm which controls the size of the diameter of the lens opening – specified as a f-stop or f-number (perhaps counter-intuitively the lower the f-number the larger the opening and the more light (fast/wide/larger vs slow/closed/smaller))
      f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32, …
  • Shutter Speed – length of time the shutter is open allowing light to fall on the sensor (the faster the shutter speed the less light)
      1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s, 1/15s, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/125s, 1/250s, 1/500s, 1/1000s, 1/2000s, 1/4000s, …
  • ISO – light sensitivity – with film this was the physical properties of the film – on digital cameras this is a digital function – like a ‘volume’ control on the sensor (the higher the ISO number the more sensitive the sensor and the higher the light reading)
      50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, …

A movement of one whole ‘stop’ for any of these parameters along these ranges essentially halves or doubles the amount of light hitting the sensor. If you adjust one of these values by one move (stop) in one direction you also need to adjust one (or both) of the others for a total of one stop in the opposite way to compensate and result in the same exposure (same effective amount of light on the sensor).

Aperture affects Depth of Field (lower f-stop leads to a smaller depth of field)

Shutter Speed affects Motion Blur (slower shutter speed leads to moving objects appearing blurry, very fast shutter speeds freeze motion)

ISO affects Image Noise (higher ISO leads to more more noise especially in darker areas)

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