I have decided to write this tutorial following the inspirational attempts from my fellow twitterers to improve their photography. Many of them have a natural ability to compose and frame images that could churn many a professional photographer with envy and I am so motivated to help them achieve their best that I thought of writing and breaking down into layman terms few principles about photography. I hope this goes some way to help them perfect their technique and go and enjoy the beautiful art with much more confidence and joy.
I will try to make this first tutorial as simple as possible without diverting too much into many sub branches which it is quite possible to go into and multiply into ten folds.
Photography is all about light mainly. The amount of light your camera allows through your lens when you click the shutter release directly affects what and how you capture. There are three tools that allow you to control this, SS (shutter speed), aperture also known as f/stop and ISO.
Amount of light can be allowed into the sensor by a) keeping the shutter open for longer time so more light filters through, or b) increasing the diameter of the opening of the lens (diaphragm).
Each of these two also affect other areas but the one I am interested in explaining here is a simple one. If your shutter time is left open too long then hand tremour creeps in. So rule of thumb is, you want a SS as high as you can achieve under the circumstances so that you freeze the moment (SS=1/500). Generally 1/200 is a fairly secure guide to nail a flower that is even oscillating a little in the breeze and the hand tremour doesn't affect the result. I shoot flying dragonflies at 1/500 but you can quite easily get fairly good shots of various subjects even at 1/30, (distance from subject has an effect on blur, the closer you are to subject the more the motion and tremour is amplified), its all relative and depends on what you want to achieve. Experimenting is what will help you determine what works best and on what situation. As long as you now understand the function of SS you can go on tweaking it to achieve good results. As long as you remember that the faster the SS you are pushing the less light you are allowing through your lens and you need to compensate with one of the other two variables.
Using a tripod will get rid of your hand tremour. Always use one when convenient and necessary (0.3 sec). But remember also you seldom get a totally static subject outdoors, not even flowers, unless in a controlled environment.
Aperture (f/stop) controls the size of the opening of the lens, and this is where it gets a bit tricky. The lower the numbers on the aperture the wider the opening. So in order to not complicate just think of it as f/2.8 being a very good wide opening compared to for example f/8 or f/11 and so on. I will not get into the other effects of aperture settings for now. So for example if you have your shutter speed at f/125 for example and your aperture at f/4 and you are getting darker image then go to ISO and increase it, if it allows you. What ISO will do is try to immerse in the darker areas and make algorithmic calculations to detect what colours are there in the darker part of the image you are trying to shoot. The higher the ISO you push the more it will do guess work and the grain what we call digital noise will start to creep in. ISO performance depends a lot from camera to camera but a good rule of thumb is 400 to 800 is very good and will keep your images clean.
Now to finalise, I have been encouraging the "P" (Program) mode rather than putting your camera on AUTO and this is an extremely good step into getting to use the principles above while still letting the camera correct you if you are pushing into a mistake that will get you wrongly exposed images.
What P (Program) mode does is it retains the ultimate controls of the camera whenever you nudge one or the other setting. It will check for example that you have pushed your SS too high and you are risking an under exposed shot so it will automatically open the Aperture and compensate with the ISO setting. Notice the numbers in your viewfinder or screen when on P mode and you change one setting, it will immediately change the other ones automatically. Hence you have the ability to choose to alter either SS or Aperture and the camera will retain the last word to give you the right setting with a bias towards what you have selected. This is the general view of the P mode.
Hope this has given you a brief insight into understanding some of the basic principles of photography and if you have any queries please do not hesitate to tweet with the hash tag #amintips
Enjoy your photography and keep shooting.
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