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Discussion Starter #1
First let me start with a disclaimer: I do NOT know everything about photography, I’ve barely chipped away at the tip of the iceberg. I do, however, wish to share some of what I’ve learned along the way to help those who are just trying out DSLR’s and advanced point and shoots in order for you to get the shots you have envisioned in your mind. I will try to be general and concise so I don’t loose anyone. This thread will revolve around DSLR’s and advanced point and shoot cameras since they allow the user to adjust things that simple point and shoot cameras do not. Also, since I am a Canon user, the following will revolve around mostly Canon cameras but everything said below translates to all makes of cameras.

1. What is photography?

True photography is NOT taking pictures. It is NOT deciding that you want to tilt the camera because it “looks cool”. Photography is the study of light and how it affects the objects on the other side of the lens. Everything, and I do mean everything, in photography revolves around light whether it be from the sun or from a manmade source.

2. What is a DSLR?

A DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera is a rather large camera usually that houses a digital sensor usually 8-12x larger in physical size to those of the point and shoot variety. Inside is a mirror reflects what is coming through the lens several times internally and out the eye piece on the back of the camera. Back in the film days many cameras had small viewfinders that were offset of the actual lens and film which caused the pictures to not be identical to what you saw through the viewfinder. SLR film cameras differed by actually showing the scene you were about to take directly to the photographer so that the shot could be composed correctly. The same is true for Digital SLR’s except that instead of film, you have a light sensor. This allows the photographer to be much more accurate in composition and accounting for the many, many variables in photography.

3. How do I start?

Getting started in photography can be quite daunting at first, trust me, I was just there a few years ago. All the numbers seem meaningless and confusing. Let me start this by saying first and foremost: do NOT get caught up in the megapixel race. Just because the camera I am currently using (Canon 5D) is 12.7 mp does not mean that it will take better pictures than a 6 mp Canon Rebel XT. They are completely different cameras aimed at two completely different audiences. The megapixel count of a camera is the number of millions of pixels on the sensor, ie a 12.7 mp camera would have 12.7 million pixels. This does not mean that the newer 5D Mk II that recently came out with 21 mp has a sensor that is almost twice as big, in fact the sensors in them are the same size. They are both 36x24mm. This is roughly equivalent to the same size the “35mm” film was so these cameras are referred to as being “full frame” cameras. Now, just because a point and shoot camera says that it is “12mp” does not mean it will get the same image quality as a 5D. The Canon G9, a fantastic little advanced point and shoot, sports a 12.1 mp sensor but the sensor itself is physically only 7.6x5.7mm in size. The size of the sensors in DSLR cameras is what gives them the edge in the digital market for detail, sharpness, color and extra large printability.

4. So what camera do you need?

A good question and the answer is really up to you. Mostly it revolves around your budget. If you can afford to get a DSLR, even an entry level one you are probably better off getting that instead of an advanced point and shoot. If you are simply looking to take good pictures with no (or in some cases limited) expandability and prefer the smaller, easier to carry size of a pocket camera, advanced point and shoots such as the Canon G9 and G10 are great cameras for the money and produce excellent pictures as well.

What do all the numbers mean you might ask? Since we’ve covered the basics of megapixels, let’s move on to ISO range. ISO is simply how sensitive the medium taking pictures is to light whether it be film or a digital sensor. The higher this number is, the more sensitive it is to light meaning that for proper exposure the shutter speed is shorter. The lower the number, the longer the shutter speed will be. Buying a camera with a wide range of ISO options will allow you to take the best pictures by giving you more flexibility when out shooting. More on that later though.

Next up is lenses. This can be difficult to grasp so I will try to put it in easy terms. I will explain lenses by using two examples that I own: the Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 and the Canon 70-200 f/4 L. That whole jumble of characters actually does have meaning. The “mm” numbers are the amount of zoom that the lens has, easy enough. The f/number revolves around the minimum aperture that the lens is capable of. The Tamron is a variable aperture lens meaning that as you zoom the lens out, the minimum aperture changes, in this case from f/3.5 to f/6.3. Why does it do that? Imagine driving down a long, straight tunnel. When you first enter the tunnel the exit is far away and very small, as you get closer to the end though, it gets larger and wider. The same happens in a variable aperture lens. As the lens is zoomed out from the camera the aperture gets smaller and smaller compared to the aperture with it all the way in (28mm in this case) therefore it does not let as much light in zoomed out as it does zoomed in. Some lenses, however, account for that by putting a fixed aperture in, such as my Canon 70-200 f/4. That means that I can shoot it at f/4 at 70mm and at 200mm. These are fixed aperture lenses. Having this fixed aperture is a major plus when out shooting and trying to control as many of the variables as possible because your aperture is not changing as you zoom in and out. Also of note: no advanced point and shoot that I am aware of has a fixed aperture lens, they are only available (again, that I am aware of) in DSLR cameras. Some lenses also have some form of image stabilization, Canon for instance uses the designation “IS” on the end of it’s lenses names for this, Nikon uses “VR” for vibration reduction. This function does NOT make a moving target more sharp if you are trying to track it for a moving image. It does allow you to hand hold a camera when trying to take a picture at a lower shutter speed than normal, the better systems can correct for up to 2 f/stops of light. Having a stabilized lens does have disadvantages too. They are heavier than their non-stabalized siblings, they are more expensive, and they eat up your battery life faster but the pros usually outweigh the cons with them. Also, every lens manufacturer usually has an entry level line of lenses, a medium line of lenses and a “top shelf” line of lenses that produce the best results. For Canon, that is the “L” seires. Nine times out of ten, an L-glass lens will outperform and lesser Canon lens at the same settings in image quality and color detail. Although they are more expensive they are worth the money.

Word to the wise though: back when I first got into photography, my mentor told me not to buy an L-glass lens until I was ready to ONLY buy L-glass lenses from then on and he was right. As soon as I had my first L-glass lens I did not want to shoot with anything else. The detail, sharpness, color saturation, autofocus speed, smoothness of the zoom… everything was just ten times better than any other lens I owned. I was hooked and will be hard pressed to go backwards on lens quality again. One very important thing to remember about photography is that the lens is THE most important element involved; having the right lens in the right situation will result in a better picture than the opposite. If you have to choose between a better camera and better lenses, lenses should come first every time.

One thing to be aware of is that not all lenses worth with all cameras of the same brand. In the Canon line, there are EF and EF-S lenses. EF lenses work with every Canon cameras. EF-S lenses, on the other hand, do not work with any of the full frame cameras, only the Rebel series and the later middle line cameras (30D, 40D and now the 50D). Also, some lenses are not compatible with full frame cameras because the back of the lens sticks too far into the body and interferes with the shutter movement, the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 for instance. This is not so much to do with the millimeters of zoom as it does the construction of the lens. My 16-35mm f/2.8 wide angle lens works just fine for example.

17,538 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
5. Get the picture?

Hopefully now that you’ve grasped all of those concepts, lets move on to actually taking a camera out to capture an image. There are three main variables when it comes to actually taking a picture: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. As you change one of those three things (and zoom range on a non-fixed aperture zoom lens) you have to adjust the other settings to keep the image properly exposed. Photography, remember, is the study of light and how it interacts with topics in the real world so therefore, you have to decide what you want to show in your picture. Firing away blindly at a topic can sometimes end up in a brief success but photography is more about putting some actual thought into what you are doing and what you want to show.

Photography, like painted art, is about inflicting emotions into your viewers. You want to hit a heart string with the viewer to make them say to themselves “wow, I love this picture.” In order to do that you have to make sure they get the point of the picture or that it tells a story that they can relate to. Since most of my photography revolves around vehicles I will use examples involving them. Many people for instance like to take pictures of things with their car in the frame as well, whether it be a model, a water fountain, a house, a beach, etc. What they usually fail to grasp is that a picture should only have one topic and that whatever you want that topic to be should draw the eye. Lets say, for instance, you want to take a picture of your vehicle in front of a waterfall. Often a picture with the waterfall leading straight to the car will work better than just going down into a pool on the side of the car. When the waterfall flows down towards the car, it draws the eye towards the topic of the scene, the car. Conversely, if you would rather the waterfall be the topic it would be better to focus on the waterfall and have the car pointing at it but depth of fielded out of the focal range. If both are in focus and one does not lead toward the other, it is a conflict of interest and in the world of art, competition for your view’s attention is not a good thing. Composition is a hard thing to grasp at first but as you take more pictures you will see more and more what works and what doesn’t. This is another thing that is in your taste and only you can decide what is right and what is wrong.

Back on topic, now that you’ve got your composition figured out, it’s time to take the picture. The settings are now the important part. Getting the right aperture for what you are trying to show is very key and revolving the shutter speed and ISO around that is usually what I do.

Exposure is one of the easier concepts to latch on to in photography. Basically it is how much light you are giving the sensor when pushing the trigger. Every DSLR has a gauge somewhere on it (usually can be viewed just below the image coming through the viewfinder along with aperture size and shutter speed). It has hash marks left to right and has a range from negative something to zero to positive something, what the “something’s” are depends on the camera. Usually you want to adjust your camera (when in Manual mode) so that the gauge is dead center. If you have your shot composed and your aperture set you can adjust shutter speed until this is where you want it to be. As you shorten your shutter speed your exposure will go down and oppositely, as you increase the length of your exposure it will go up.

Something that took me a while to grasp fully was depth of field. Every lens has a focus. Think of it as moving a large plate of glass on a two dimensional plane towards and away in relation to the lens. Different lenses have different focal lengths. Most long zooms will not focus close to the lens, my 70-200 for instance has a minimum focal distance of about 4 feet from the front of the lens. From there, though, it will focus to infinity. My 16-35 can be used to take pictures of objects much closer though, minimum focal distance of less than 1 foot to infinity due to the wide angle nature of the lens. Now as you adjust the focus you will be moving this imaginary plane of glass back and forth to find what you want to be in focus. As you adjust your aperture, this “glass” will become “thicker” showing more detail on either side of the middle of the focal plane. Knowing what your topic is and isolating it from the background by using the aperture will allow the viewer’s eye to stay on topic and not get distracted by anything else.

Aperture is the size of the “iris” inside the lens that allows light to enter the camera body. The number is a numeric representation of a ratio. For example, my Canon 70-200 has a fixed aperture of f/4, also written f 1:4, which means it lets in one forth the amount of light on the outside of the lens. An f/1 would be a one to one ratio and so on. The lower that number is, the less you will have in focus in your picture. As you can see below I have set up my tripod using my 5D and a rented 70-200 f/2.8 IS (image stabilization is off since it’s on a tripod) and taken the same picture 3 times, once at f/2.8, once at f/8 and once at f/32.




As you can see, as the aperture got smaller (that’s numerically higher) the depth of field became larger, encompassing more detail beyond my topic (my STORMFRONT badge). But in order to get more depth of field, the image has to be exposed for longer. The original image was taken at f/2.8 or 1/2.8th the available light so it was rather short comparatively, having a very shallow depth of field and a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second exposure. In order to get more depth of field (if wanted) I would want to increase my f-stop number, to say f/8 for example. In the second photo, notice how much more detail there is in the background and on the front driver’s side tire. In order to do this f/8 picture though, I had to make an adjustment to get my exposure correct. So my shutter speed dropped from 1/60th of a second down to 1/10th of a second. In the third picture, I used f/32 which took a much longer 1.6 seconds to expose correctly. Notice, though, that there doesn’t appear to be much difference between f/8 and f/32 in those two images other than the movement of the leaves in the longer exposed f/32 shot. Using a mega high f-stop number is only really useful when shooting a long depth of field subject, usually landscapes. It is usually best to do this on a tripod or with the camera stabilized by something since they will be longer exposures.

Now, if using a tripod is not an option but you still want more depth of field, one could always turn up the ISO to compensate. As the ISO climbs, the shutter speed will become shorter and shorter. But, the disadvantage of this is that the higher it goes, the more grainy the image will become. This is just a characteristic of digital sensors. This will especially be more noticeable if the image is lightened even more in post processing.

6. Zoom Length

Obviously zoom is the ability to change the distance between you and your topic when taking a picture, but what can it do for your picture regarding the topic? Sometimes when taking a picture of a car, I like to show the width or expanse of it so I use my wide angle lens (typically anything less than 50mm of zoom is considered “wide angle”). The lens I am currently using is the Canon 16-35 f/2.8 L. As you can see below, the topic looks very wide and distorted. Many people like this view as it is abnormal to the human eye:

Here is a shot of it at 200mm, notice how compressed and “normal” it looks. Some people prefer this view compared to the other:

Many things in the real world have reflections of some kind so be mindful of them, for me in automotive, I have to fight being seen in the bumpers, fenders and doors of a vehicle constantly, even if only as a shadow. Here’s a couple examples:

So now you are ready to go out and start shooting pictures. What are the best settings to get started on? At first, I would start by setting a fairly high but usually safe ISO of 400 or so. Then select either Program Mode (little more advanced auto mode) or Aperture Priority (“Av” on Canons, “A” on Nikons) where you can control the aperture of your lens using the scroll button on top usually right in front of or behind the trigger (on DSLR’s). Try shooting the same picture several times using different apertures to see how it effects your depth of field and also try shooting different topics both near and far. The more you practice, the more you will find what works and things will only get easier.

I’m sure there are still plenty of questions to ask so fire away here or via PM. If I have made any errors in the above, please let me know as well! Also, this is a work in progress so I may add to it or edit it as I see a need to.

17,538 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
here's a similar write up by a fellow photog(angsta) Richard who does AMAZING wedding shots:

Hey guys... I put this together for my mom and some friends and I figured that I'd post it here to help out... This tutorial assumes you have a DSLR and starts you in Manual mode. I shoot Canon and wrote it for Canon users, but the buttons should be pretty universal. This is by no means they only way to shot or think about photography, but I think it represents a clear explanation of the three major factors that determine exposure. Please excuse the diagrams... I had few resources when I put it together and didn't even have those files on my computer. I'll upload the original diagrams on Monday from my work machine.

If you are reading this, chances are you just got a new camera, but I bet you didn’t realize that you already owned the most advanced and sophisticated camera and lens combination available, the human brain and eyes. As you look around the room or even at this written text, your eyes (the human version of the lens) are constantly adjusting the zoom, focus and aperture to read and see. The brain then takes that information, processes it and applies adjustments so that everything is understood and colors are correct (our own version photoshop). Have you ever looked at a sunset and marveled at how perfect the colors where and then tried to take a picture and the result didn’t look as good as what your eye saw? The reason for that is that your eyes and brain are constantly making adjustments so that every color looks perfect. When you look at the orange sky, your pupil dilates to let the perfect amount of light in to recognize the best orange. As your gaze moves to the ocean, it readjusts so that you get the best blue color. When taking a picture, you can only dial in one set of adjustments to capture the entire scene. You might dial in the perfect settings to capture the blue, but then everything else might be lighter than you like, or if you dial in settings to capture the orange perfectly, then the blue might end up being too dark, or almost even black. You have to find a best fit, compromise to get all of the colors to match as closely as possible. The wider the range from dark colors to light colors, the more compromise you have to make.
In its simplest terms, Photography is the capture of light on a light sensitive paper or sensor. In order to properly expose the scene that you are trying to photograph, there are three variables that can be adjusted: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. While making changes to each of these affects the amount of light captured, each one has its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages that come along with those adjustments. In order to properly expose the scene, you must balance how much light each one is allowing to reach the film or sensor. I’ll outline each one along with its positives and negatives.

Shutter Speed
Shutter Speed is the measurement of the amount of time used to expose the picture. It is probably the easiest aspect to grasp, so we’ll cover it first. When you press the shutter button on your camera, the mirror that is directing the light through the lens and up to your eye in the viewfinder, flips up and a metal curtain lifts up (or sideways or rotates, the direction doesn’t really matter) and out of the way allowing what you’ve seen in the viewfinder to reach the film or sensor and create a picture. The curtain then comes down and the capture is finished. The amount of time that the curtain is up, allowing light to hit the film, is the shutter speed. It can range from 30 seconds to 1/8000th of a second (in some professional model cameras). The longer the shutter is open, the more light gets in, so in a dark situation, you’ll need a longer exposure. Let’s imagine that we want to take a picture of something moving fast, like a bird in flight, and it is a sunny day. We could use a very fast shutter speed, 1/1000th of a second for example, to freeze the bird in mid-air and perhaps even in the midst of it flapping its wings. Now, let’s imagine that we want to take a picture of a potted plant on the window sill, but its dark in the room. We can either turn a light on or we can use a slow shutter speed (think longer amount of time) to capture the picture. This might seem like a viable option, but you’ll quickly realize that as hard as you try to be steady, if you use a slow shutter speed, your hands will shake and it will produce a blurry image. This is a situation where you might need a tri-pod… or you can adjust your Aperture or ISO, allowing you to use a faster shutter speed? Using a tripod mounted camera with a slow shutter speed works for stationary objects, but if you are going to shoot people, even people sitting still, you’ll need to use a faster shutter speed.
**Note- As a general rule of thumb, the slowest shutter speed that I can hand hold is, “1/focal length of the lens”, so if I’m using a 50mm lens, I can hold the camera steady 1/50th of a second. If I’m using a 70-200mm zoom lens and I have the lens zoomed to 135mm, I can hand hold to 1/135th of a second. This is different for everyone. If you have really good technique and you can be steady like a sniper, you might be able to go much slower, so test it out for yourself**

Let’s go back to the example of our potted plant. We have all of the lights turned on and we just can’t make it any brighter. Additionally, we don’t have a tripod, so we can’t steady the camera and the picture is blurry because we have to use a slow shutter speed in order to get a good exposure. For the sake of our example, let’s say we are using a 85mm lens and our shutter speed is 1/50th. If we try to make it any faster to reduce the blurriness, it is too dark. This is a perfect case for ISO adjustment. ISO is a measurement of the film or sensor’s sensitivity to light. When referring to film, some people call it film speed or ASA. Most of the digital cameras reference it as ISO. The most common numbers associated with ISO are 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600. These were the common sensitivities that film could be purchased in, and as digital cameras have come into existence, they’ve kept the same number and scale referring to the sensitivity adjustments of the sensor. You’ll notice that the numbers double with each step up. This is to show that ISO 400 is twice as sensitive to light as ISO 200 and ISO 100 is half the sensitivity of ISO 200. The higher the number, the more sensitive to light the film or sensor is going to be, so in a dark or dimly lit situation you want a higher number. There is less available light, so you want the sensor to be more sensitive to capture as much available light as you can. Recently, camera companies have begun adding intermediate 1/3 stop increments of the standard ISO settings, as well as allowing the capability to expand ISO settings with custom functions for extremely low-light situations. In these cases, the ISO values are as follows, 50, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200, 6400. This allows for greater flexibility with your settings and allows you to only go up just as much as you need to limit any negative effects. Now that you understand ISO, let’s apply it to our example of the plant. We were using an 85mm lens and we see now that with our ISO setting of 400, we needed a shutter speed of 1/50th to get the exposure, but that was too slow to hand hold the camera without any shake or blurriness. If we adjust our ISO up to 800 (doubling the sensitivity), we can now use a shutter that is twice as fast, 1/100th, to get the same exposure and now we’ve eliminated the shake. You might think to yourself, wow this ISO thing is great, I’m just going to set it high and leave it there, however, there are drawbacks to using higher ISO settings. On film, the higher ISO produces a grainier picture. On digital cameras, higher ISO settings produce noise. This shows up as green, red and blue speckles and is caused by the individual pixels on the sensor beginning to heat up and incorrectly capturing the colors. The general rule of thumb is that you want to try and keep your ISO setting as low as possible in order to achieve the shot you want.

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Discussion Starter #4
With shutter speed and ISO taken care of, the only thing left is aperture and it can be the trickiest to understand. In every lens there is a diaphragm that controls how much light comes through the lens and gets to the sensor. This diaphragm is called the Aperture and it functions much like the pupil of the eye. In a dark room, your pupil gets bigger to allow more light in, so you need to make the aperture bigger in your lens to let more light in. The lens aperture is usually specified as an f-number. Typical examples of Aperture values might be f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, and f/8. Just like with ISO, each of these numbers I’ve listed represents a doubling or halving of the amount of area of opening and twice as much or half as much light. The tricky part here is that a lower number represents a larger opening and consequently more light getting into the camera. **Note… f/4 is not twice as much as f/8, it is actually 4 times as much, because you’ve gone up two stops.** Again, there are 1/3 stop increments in between each of the numbers I’ve listed (for example f/4, f/4.5, f/5, f/5.6, f/6.3, f/7.1, f/8) A lens that features an aperture of f/2.8 or larger (remember that means lower numbers) is often referred to as a fast lens because it will allow you to shoot in lower light conditions with faster shutter speeds,. Let’s go back to our potted plant. Now we’ve got an 85mm lens, our ISO is 800 and we’ve got a shutter speed of 1/100th to get that perfect exposure, but we see that there is a bee flying around the plant and we want to freeze him. We could adjust our ISO again, up to 1600 to get a shutter speed of 1/200th, but at ISO 1600 we are concerned that the extra noise might ruin the quality of our picture. We check our aperture and we see that its f/8. If we go down to f/5.6 (remember, smaller number means bigger opening and more light, I told you it’s tricky), we can leave our ISO at 800 and still get the shutter speed of 1/200th that we need to properly expose the plant and freeze the bee in flight. At this point, you may be thinking that Aperture is great and you’re just going to set it at the highest available aperture, but unfortunately, Aperture doesn’t just effect the amount of light coming into the camera. When you increase the aperture (smaller number) you also decrease the Depth of Focus or DOF. You may decrease the depth so much that your entire subject is no longer in focus. This can be a hard concept to explain so I’ve attached two small diagrams (ok, so I’m not great at drawing in Photoshop)

Depth of focus at f/8

Depth of focus at f/2.8

From the two diagrams, you can see that that as you’ve increased the Aperture, the depth of focus has gotten narrower. This isn’t necessarily a negative though. I am sure you’ve all seen photographs where the subject is in sharper focus, but the background has that beautiful blurry effect, that helps to really isolate and highlight the subject. That is called bokeh, and it comes from the perfect use of aperture. Selecting the perfect aperture, not only effects the exposure of your shot but also adds to the creative aspect of your shot. Using a larger aperture can also effect the sharpness of your shots. When a lens is designed, the light coming through the center is always going to be the sharpest, as the aperture gets larger, there is some fall off in the sharpness as light is coming through the outermost regions of glass. In order the keep the sharp at very large engineers, the designers have to follow strict quality control and used only the best materials, making the lenses significantly more expensive. Additionally, the extra light that is let in by the larger aperture also aids the autofocus of the camera, allowing it to autofocus faster. The aperture is a function of the lens because that is where the diaphragm is contained, but it is adjusted using the camera (you are basically telling the camera what setting to adjust the lens to). It is shown on a lens as 70-200mm f/4. This means that the maximum aperture that this lens is capable of is f/4 and you can select f/4 anywhere through its zoom range of 70mm to 200mm. They don’t bother to list the minimum because usually we are shooting in conditions where light is limited, not infinite. If we were shooting on the sun, then maybe the minimum would be the most important thing. You may come across inexpensive zoom lenses that feature a variable aperture designation, such as 75-300 f/4-5.6. This designation means that at 75mm we can dial in a maximum aperture of f/4, but at 300mm we can only dial in a maximum aperture of f/5.6. ** Note..If you are using one of these lenses in AV and you are at 75mm and f/4 and then zoom to 300mm, the camera will automatically adjust your aperture to f/5.6 and then select the corresponding shutter speed… this will make more sense as I explain AV mode in just a second.**

At this point, you’ve just learned to take a picture in Manual mode on your camera (M on the Canon dial). It probably felt creative, but wasn’t very fast. Now that we have an understanding of what each of the functions does, we can begin to use the Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority settings (TV and AV on the Canon dial) so that we can decide which factors is most important to us and allow the camera to make the other decisions to help speed up the process. I’ll take you through my thought process of shooting.

Let’s say for example that we are hiking on a trail and we see a beautiful flower. We want to take a picture where the flower is in sharp focus, but the surrounding plants become a blurry, green backdrop. For this shot, we want to use Aperture Priority (AV) because we want to select a large aperture (small number) to give us that narrow depth of field. Remember that you want it to be narrow enough that the whole flower is in focus and the background is blurry, but not so narrow that the whole flower isn’t in focus. First we are going to set the ISO. If it is a normal sunny day, I’d recommend starting at ISO 400. Then we are going to dial in an aperture. It might take you a few shots to dial in the perfect aperture for this effect (good thing we aren’t shooting film). Once you dial in the aperture, compose the shot and press the shutter button halfway. This will autofocus the lens and tell the camera to meter, or judge the scene for exposure (I almost always use autofocus. On modern cameras and lenses it is accurate almost 100% of the time and super fast. I only use manual when I’m going for some sort of special effect or the camera is having trouble recognizing what to focus on…I’ll go into more on this later). In AV mode, you select the aperture and ISO and the camera will make a decision on what the shutter speed should be to correctly expose the shot. Remember to keep an eye on the shutter speed, if it is too slow and you are hand-holding… you might get that dreaded camera shake. If the shutter speed is too slow, bump up the ISO one more stop (or if your camera has 1/3 stops of ISO) so that you now get a shutter speed that is sufficient. If the shutter speed is excessively fast, maybe 1/1000th, chances are you can probably bump the ISO down a notch to help reduce the chance of that digital noise. Do you see the compromise decisions we are making?

With AV done, let’s look at Shutter Priority (TV). Imagine we’ve just taken the flower shot and we are now further along on our nature hike. We see a bald eagle flying over a pond and want to get a shot of it. In this instance, it might be best to use shutter priority so that we can set a fast shutter speed to make sure that we capture the bird. We’ll adjust our dial to TV, set our ISO back to 400 for a starting point and then dial in a shutter speed of 1/500th. We’ll compose the shot, following the bird and making sure that we use our center Autofocus point (The center AF point is usually the fastest and most accurate…. I find that the automatic AF point select mode on most cameras doesn’t work very well). Press the shutter button halfway to lock on autofocus and the camera will again meter the scene, this time selecting the correct aperture to expose the shot. Remember to pay attention to the aperture that the camera selects. If it selects an aperture that is too narrow the whole eagle might not be in focus. If this happens, adjust your ISO higher in order to make the sensor more sensitive to light, so the camera can use a smaller aperture (larger number) that has a greater depth of focus. Inversely, if it is giving you an aperture that is small (larger number) you may want to bump the ISO down a notch to help reduce noise.
That’s it… that’s the crash course in photography exposure basics. Now, go out and shoot… try all of the different settings. You have the LCD on the back of the camera and you can use it to learn as you go along.
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