Photography Tips For Beginners – Exposure: Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed

[:en]Did you pick up your SLR camera after my first post on beginner photography tips? It’s time to explore it a bit more, as I’ll be talking about Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. All needed to create that perfect exposure. The basics to photography can be a bit boring, but once you get to know all the settings and different options your camera has, the real fun can begin. Last time, I talked about the different camera modes on an SLR. Let’s continue.

Three Steps To The Right Exposure

Ok, so you want a great picture. That means you want it exposed just right. In order to make this happen, you will need a (close to) perfect combination of aperture, ISO and shutter speed. But what are these things exactly?

1. Aperture

This is the size of the lens opening when taking the picture. Just like the pupil in your eye, the lens can open wide to let more light in, or small to let less light in. Aperture is measured in ‘F-stops‘. F22 is a very small opening, F1.4 is a very wide opening. The effect of it will show in the background of your image: in the ‘Depth of Field’.

TIP: Think of snapping a shot of a plant: with F22 you will have 22 leaves in focus (so the background is crisp, small depth of field, used mostly in landscapes), with F1.4 you only have 1.4 leaves in focus (so the background is blurred, large depth of field, used mostly in portraits and macro photo’s).

Beginner Photography Tips - Exposure: Aperture

 Left: large depth of field. Right: small depth of field.

2. ISO

ISO is the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Back in the days of film, you could buy rolls with a lower or higher light sensitivity (ISO or ASA). Which ISO you use depends on: 1) the amount of light available (sunny beach around 80-200, dark forest/indoors around 400-800 and in the night time 800+ ISO), 2) the subject (is it moving or not and do you want to ‘freeze’ the action), 3) if you’re using a tripod and 4) the amount of noise you want (ugly little dots, the higher the ISO, the more noise you get)   Beginner Photography Tips - Exposure: ISO

A picture take with a high ISO: quite a bit of noise

 

3. Shutter Speed

This is the length of time the shutter is open, measured in (fractions of) seconds (the bigger the denominator, the faster the speed: 1/1000 is faster than 1/30). Think of it as your eyelid blinking. Shutter Speed affects how motion is captured. With a slow speed (like 2 seconds, written as: 2″), more light gets in and the action you’re shooting will be blurry (good for things like waterfalls, to get that beautiful soft water), with a high speed (like ½ second, written as ‘2’), less light gets in and this will freeze the action (good for trying to capture a car speeding by). If you’re shooting by hand (so without a tripod), use a minimum of 1/60th of a second (higher if zoomed in) to prevent the shot from being blurry because of ‘camera shake’ when you move your hand to press the shutter or just holding the camera.

TIP: Another thing to consider is that the length of your lens (called ‘focal length’) will affect your choice in shutter speed. So the longer your lens, the more chance you have of camera shake. A good rule is to choose a shutter speed with a denominator larger that the focal length of the lens. So if you have a 50mm lens, a 1/60 shutter speed will be good, but with a 200mm lens, you might want to shoot at around 1/250.

Beginner Photography Tips - Exposure: Shutter Speed

Left: slow shutter speed. Right: fast shutter speed.

 

Let Your Camera Guide You

As you can tell, every change you make to either one of the three settings above will change the outcome of the photo. When you adjust your aperture, you will have to find a matching shutter speed. Really, one of the best ways to learn how to combine all these elements, is to take lots of photos. Check the effects on the screen or on your computer (instead of your camera screen). Have a look at the photo in 100% to check if it’s really sharp in the place you want it to be as well. (more about getting sharp pictures another time as well!) If you don’t have a computer at hand, there is a quick way to see if your exposure is right. Use your camera’s histogram. This is a graph on your camera screen that will show you a summary of the total range present (you’ll see ‘peaks’ of black tones on the left to peaks of white tones on the right) in the image you just shot. In most cases you will probably want a balanced shot with a nice spread of tones (peak somewhere in the middle and tapered off towards the edges).

Beginner Photography - Histogram

 

Some Tricks to See if You’re on the Right Path

If you get the basic idea of how to create a sharp image that’s exposed right, experiment with long shutter speeds to create cool effects and see what the effect of shooting with or without a tripod is. But I’ll be talking more about that another time. Hope to see you back. Now you know the most important basic camera settings and quick tips to improve your photos right away.

In upcoming blogs I’ll be going more deeper into the matter and also talk about lighting, editing, cool effects, getting your photos published and lots more…

[:nl]Did you pick up your SLR camera after my first post on beginner photography tips? It’s time to explore it a bit more, as I’ll be talking about Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. All needed to create that perfect exposure.

The basics to photography can be a bit boring, but once you get to know all the settings and different options your camera has, the real fun can begin. Last time, I talked about the different camera modes on an SLR. Let’s continue.

Three Steps To The Right Exposure

Ok, so you want a great picture. That means you want it exposed just right. In order to make this happen, you will need a (close to) perfect combination of aperture, ISO and shutter speed. But what are these things exactly?

1. Aperture

This is the size of the lens opening when taking the picture. Just like the pupil in your eye, the lens can open wide to let more light in, or small to let less light in. Aperture is measured in ‘F-stops‘. F22 is a very small opening, F1.4 is a very wide opening. The effect of it will show in the background of your image: in the ‘Depth of Field’.

TIP: Think of snapping a shot of a plant: with F22 you will have 22 leaves in focus (so the background is crisp, small depth of field, used mostly in landscapes), with F1.4 you only have 1.4 leaves in focus (so the background is blurred, large depth of field, used mostly in portraits and macro photo’s).

Beginner Photography Tips - Exposure: Aperture

 Left: large depth of field. Right: small depth of field.

2. ISO

ISO is the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. Back in the days of film, you could buy rolls with a lower or higher light sensitivity (ISO or ASA).

Which ISO you use depends on: 1) the amount of light available (sunny beach around 80-200, dark forest/indoors around 400-800 and in the night time 800+ ISO), 2) the subject (is it moving or not and do you want to ‘freeze’ the action), 3) if you’re using a tripod and 4) the amount of noise you want (ugly little dots, the higher the ISO, the more noise you get)

Beginner Photography Tips - Exposure: ISO

A picture take with a high ISO: quite a bit of noise

3. Shutter Speed

This is the length of time the shutter is open, measured in (fractions of) seconds (the bigger the denominator, the faster the speed: 1/1000 is faster than 1/30). Think of it as your eyelid blinking.

Shutter Speed affects how motion is captured. With a slow speed (like 2 seconds, written as: 2″), more light gets in and the action you’re shooting will be blurry (good for things like waterfalls, to get that beautiful soft water), with a high speed (like ½ second, written as ‘2’), less light gets in and this will freeze the action (good for trying to capture a car speeding by).

If you’re shooting by hand (so without a tripod), use a minimum of 1/60th of a second (higher if zoomed in) to prevent the shot from being blurry because of ‘camera shake’ when you move your hand to press the shutter or just holding the camera.

TIP: Another thing to consider is that the length of your lens (called ‘focal length’) will affect your choice in shutter speed. So the longer your lens, the more chance you have of camera shake. A good rule is to choose a shutter speed with a denominator larger that the focal length of the lens. So if you have a 50mm lens, a 1/60 shutter speed will be good, but with a 200mm lens, you might want to shoot at around 1/250.

Beginner Photography Tips - Exposure: Shutter Speed

Left: slow shutter speed. Right: fast shutter speed.

 

Let Your Camera Guide You

As you can tell, every change you make to either one of the three settings above will change the outcome of the photo. When you adjust your aperture, you will have to find a matching shutter speed.

Really, one of the best ways to learn how to combine all these elements, is to take lots of photos. Check the effects on the screen or on your computer (instead of your camera screen). Have a look at the photo in 100% to check if it’s really sharp in the place you want it to be as well. (more about getting sharp pictures another time as well!)

If you don’t have a computer at hand, there is a quick way to see if your exposure is right. Use your camera’s histogram. This is a graph on your camera screen that will show you a summary of the total range present (you’ll see ‘peaks’ of black tones on the left to peaks of white tones on the right) in the image you just shot. In most cases you will probably want a balanced shot with a nice spread of tones (peak somewhere in the middle and tapered off towards the edges).

Beginner Photography - Histogram

 

Some Tricks to See if You’re on the Right Path

If you get the basic idea of how to create a sharp image that’s exposed right, experiment with long shutter speeds to create cool effects and see what the effect of shooting with or without a tripod is. But I’ll be talking more about that another time. Hope to see you back.

Now you know the most important basic camera settings and quick tips to improve your photos right away.

In upcoming blogs I’ll be going more deeper into the matter and also talk about lighting, editing, cool effects, getting your photos published and lots more…

[:]

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