Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Photography Fundamentals

The most important advice I can give as a teacher of beginning photography, is that you must be aware of your camera settings at all times. You are in total control when you shoot in manual (as I require). Many new digital cameras are loaded with settings for all sorts of effects, but the main three you need to be conscious of at all times while capturing photos are aperture, shutter speed and ISO. This is often referred to as the photographic triangle.

When you set your camera in automatic or P mode it is setting everything for you and making it's own decisions based on the neutral tone it reads in the entire scene it takes in through it's lens. There are many situations where the results aren't desirable. While auto mode works well enough for snap shooters, it is NOT good enough for the photographic artist interested in creative control. Your work should rise above what everyone else with a camera can do. You must be the brain that sets your camera according to your own intentions.

Grab hold of your general idea before you set out to take photos. Get excited about it. Consider what a good ISO would be before you get there.

So what is ISO anyway?

This refers to your sensor or film's sensitivity to the light taken into the camera. The higher the ISO the faster your camera can record the image you point it at. This can be incredibly useful in situations with low light (a dance, evening or morning light, indoors) where a flash would destroy the lighting effect. The warning with high speed film is that it will produce a great deal of grain (the higher the film the more grain is visible in the flat areas of the image).

Notice how the image of the sky and moon seem OK at a distance but a closer look shows you how the intense blue sky was sacrificed somewhat due to a fast shutter speed.

This is one situation where a tripod will come in handy so I can use a slower ISO.

** Note ** when the camera has to take time to take in the image it is typically going to provide you with a shot that has more resilience (esp with low light).

If you are outdoors or in and have bright light available or studio lights at your control then you can flood your scene and not worry about a slow shutter speed!
Also understand that grain is not the enemy. If you use it to your advantage then it can actually add atmosphere to your imagery. It allows the viewer to sense the air or negative space hovering around the subject. For this to look right, it should look obvious. It is often used for artistic effect or to make images feel vintage.


(Usually a result of camera shake)

This occurs when you are using a slow shutter speed without any stabilization for the camera. You cannot help the movement within your body (breath, balance, and blood). It is obviously unintentional because inanimate objects appear out of focus or as if they shook somehow. This will happen on standard cameras when the shutter speed is set anywhere under 1/60. Even if your nice digital SLR has one of those stabilized lens' you can only resist the shake to a certain extent (1/15 is your limit)

Using a tripod is one way to avoid the shake. I recommend one to landscape and architectural photographers. It can be bulky in crowded situations, however, and many of us may really want to resort to using a flash in this scenario (that's what they are for, right?). Not for the artist. Unless you have a flash you can angle, I do NOT recommend a flash for any situation where your subject matter is close up (within 5 ft). Many flashes are way too strong and white out the scene with too much light, while others illuminate only subject so that they surroundings look bleak. We want to see it all unless you are going for an intended effect artistically (again, this should look like you preplanned it). We will discuss ways to use the flash as a fill light later on this term.

You do have options! I just happened upon this video recently. You should really check out my helpful links listed to the side of my blog page.

Here is one method that is much less bulky than a tripod and fits in your pocket. Plus, it only costs around $1 !!

DIY Image stabilization...

Look for my upcoming blogs on the effects of shutter speed and aperture...

Next topic will be on seeing the correct exposure...