Some of us have already gotten our DSLRs this early from Santa and are probably wondering how all the switches, buttons, levers and settings work to get that perfect photo. And we now want to be in control of our camera so I have come up with a simple guide for us to know the stuff that matters in capturing a photo. Whether you do it yourself or have the camera’s computer do it for you, it is essential that you know some fundamentals in photography. Simply put, all we need to know for now are the very basic elements that matter most in coming up with a photo.
Let’s get started!
Exposure, is a process where we control the amount of light that goes through our lens to our DSLR’s sensor. With too much light, we get an over-exposed photo. An over-exposed photo is typically a photo that is just too bright. In other cases, the photo comes out all too whitey. On the other hand, with less light, we get an under-exposed photo. With an under-exposed photo, you usually end up with a dark to almost black photo. With the right amount of light, we get to see photos just as we see on the scene or in our viewfinder or LCD screen.
Controlling the Light
We might be wondering now how are we going to control the amount of light that goes through our lens to our camera’s sensor? There are two ways to do this, and these are controlling two important elements:
- Aperture. Aperture is basically a hole or opening in our lenses that light can pass through. When we talk about these holes, we often associate it with how big or small these holes are and by design, the size of the hole in our lenses can be varied as we desire. In lens jargon, these holes are measured as shown in the following:
Aperture Size of hole f3.5 large f4 medium f5.6 small f10 smaller
We might be wondering that the larger the number associated with “f”, the smaller the size of the hole. That must be a confusing measurement convention but that is how things are in photography and we just have to accept it that way. Humans always have a knack at confusing others.
- Shutter / Shutter Speed. A shutter is a simple mechanism that opens to allow light going through our lens to reach the sensor, and closes to prevent it. When our camera is about to take a photo, the shutter’s position is closed, then opens up to allow light to come in then closes again to prevent it. The time it takes for our camera’s shutter to open and then close can be long or short and is measured in terms of speed. Thus we have a factor known as shutter speed.
Shutter Speed (in seconds) Speed 1/200s or 200th of a second faster 1/60s or 60th of a second fast 1/30s or 30th of a second slow 1/5s or a 5th of a second slower
By knowing how to control these two elements, (1) the aperture; and (2) the shutter speed, we now have the means to control the amount of light that goes through our lenses to the camera’s sensor. We just have to remember the following:
- The larger the hole, the more light will come in.
- And by opening the shutter too long before we close it, the more light will come in.
- If the scene we are photographing is dark, we either set our aperture to its largest setting so more light will come in or slow down our shutter speed so we open the shutter much longer to allow more light to come in. We can do both.
- If the scene we are photographing is too bright, we can do the opposite.
By correctly mixing the two, we will achieve correct exposure.
To do this ourselves in our DSLR, we set exposure control to Manual and try adjusting the aperture and shutter speed settings while shooting until we are familiar with the correct settings given the intensity of light on a certain scene. Of course, if you feel these are too much work for you, you can set your camera’s computer to figure out the right aperture and shutter speed settings. You can do this using Program or Auto mode. There are of course other means to help us get that correct exposure but for now, this is probably what we need to know how our camera works at the core.
Hope this helps. More to come!