Starting With Basics – Shooting With Knowledge

In traditional (meaning non Digital) photography there are only three basic things to worry about in regards to your camera. These are: the aperture (also called F-stop), the shutter speed, and the film speed. These “Big Three” apply to all 35mm cameras (which is still the most popular format in the non Digital world of photography).F-Stops are located on the lens itself. If you have the ability to take the lens off and play with your f-stops, you will see a mechanical type of iris similar to that in the eye that controls how much light gets through the eye. The f-stop controls how much of the picture is in focus. This is referred to as your “Depth of Field”. In other words; if you are shooting pictures of a beautiful girl in front of a garbage truck you would use a small f-stop, because you want a small amount of the whole picture in focus. Girl yes, garbage truck no. On the other hand, if you were shooting this same girl in front of a huge waterfall you would use a large f-stop, because you actually want every thing in the whole picture in focus. Girl yes and waterfall yes.Shutter speeds are on the camera and control the shutter, (that small black curtain directly in front of the film itself). How slow or fast that shutter opens controls how much light actually hits the film. Shutter speeds are usually related to the speed of the subject. Using that waterfall example again; if you use a fast shutter speed, you will stop all the action. Water drops will freeze in mid air. On the other hand, if you use a slow shutter speed, the things that don’t move will still be clear, but the things that do will be blurry.These two items, F-stops and Shutter speeds affect everything else. They work together similar to the gas and clutch petals in a car. Don’t worry if you drive an automatic, I will get to that in a minute. What I mean by gas and clutch, is that it’s the combination of these two that determine what your exposure will be. Too little light (f-stops) and your pictures will be dark, too slow a shutter speed, and your pictures will be blurry. The light meter will tell you when these two are working together, but it’s up to you to control both. Be aware too, that the light meter only gives you an Average reading. If you want something to actually look white, you need to give it more light than the meter suggest. If you want something to actually look black, then you need to give it less light than the meter suggest.I mentioned the “Big Three”, the third of these is the film speed. This refers to the type of film you use and how sensitive it is to light. A slow film speed refers to a lower number like ISO 100 speed film. A fast film speed refers to a larger number like ISO 400 speed film. Slow film speed needs much more light, but looks extremely sharp because the grain is very close together. Fast film speed does not need as much light, but tends to look grainy if you make an enlargement. Personally, I always use 100 speed film whenever I can. It does take more light, but that’s why Heavenly Father invented the “Flash”.In Digital photography there are still only three basic things to worry about in regards to your camera. These are: the aperture (also called F-stop), the shutter speed, and the pixels. The difference here is that newer cameras, both digital and non digital alike have simplified things. You don’t usually see the actual F-stops or Shutter speeds, but the pictures they left behind still control the same things.The Green box seen on most cameras means “Go”. Go take your picture, don’t worry about anything . . .I (the camera) will take care of everything for you. For quick and easy snap shots it’s great. For being creative and in control of the results, it’s not so great.The Girls head on most cameras means “Portrait Mode”. In this case the camera will automatically use the smallest F-stop for the available light, then choose the correct shutter speed to give proper exposure. This is good for portraits where the subject will be in focus from about the tip of her nose to just behind her ears, then everything else will gradually go out of focus.The Mountain with a cloud means “Landscape Mode”. In this case the camera will automatically use the largest F-stop for the available light, then choose the correct shutter speed to give proper exposure. This is good for nature shots or anywhere that you want everything in focus. This way the girl is in focus and the waterfall behind her is in focus.The Flower means “Close-Up Mode”. When shooting very close this is the mode you want. It usually will also give a greater depth of field, but not always. If you have enough light, you can still shoot things from edge to edge. It is similar to the green box, but on a much smaller scale. It also will adjust flash exposure so you don’t wash out your subject.The Running Man means “Sports Mode”. The term Sports refers to all action, whether it’s a basketball game, or shooting a waterfall. If you want to freeze something, (stop the action) then this is the mode to use.Other modes often include letters like P for program mode, TV for Shutter Mode, Av for Aperture Mode, and M for Manual mode. These vary a lot between different manufactures, so you may have to look through your camera manual. Usually these actually show you more of what is going on. The information is usually displayed either inside the viewfinder or on top of the camera on a small LCD screen, sometimes both. If you don’t feel comfortable with all that technical stuff, use the picture mode; that’s what they’re for. You can still choose to be creative, without having to know every single detail of what the camera is doing.With a digital camera, when you press the shutter release, you capture an image on the image sensor. The image is then written to a pre selected format and transferred to some type of media card. There are several different types of media cards, the manufacture of the camera determines which media card works with your camera.The media card itself is like a blank canvas. Most artists would agree that one canvas is no better than another, what matters to them is what type of paint goes on the canvas. That’s where the basics of good composition come into play. Framing, Leading Lines, the Rule of Thirds, and Depth of Field are the type of things that make your images come alive. Learning the mechanics of photography is only the first step and can be learned quite quickly. Learning the art of photography is a life long process that even the best of us is trying to perfect each and every day.

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