Exploring The Basics Of Photography Part I

When starting out in photography it can be all to easy to stay within the confines of the automatic setting and whilst there is nothing wrong with using it, as it can be a good reliable way to still attain your desired results plus it takes the faff out of setting up. However in order to help push your photography and to understand your camera's capabilities it's always a fine idea to play with the manual side of things and the general rules that govern them. Here is part I of a small series that will cover some of the most fundamental concepts of the subject, which could be used as a simple refresher or if you're just starting out. What advice would you give to any budding photographer?

First off, photography in it's most basic state is a way to capture the interplay of light and to do this it equates to the triangle of the most important starter bits - these include ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. Each can be affected by a change in the other, they can directly correlate or you can purposely push them so that it suits you and your needs. 


This happens to be one of my favourite camera functions to use and as I tend to take the majority of my images in the same place this is one of the easiest ways to control the light you want to capture. Depending on your make and model of camera it can control what ISO facilities are available to you, for most have the range:

100 / 125 / 160 / 200 / 250 / 320 / 400 / 500 / 640 / 800 / 1000 / 1250 / 1600 / 2000 / 2500 / 3200 / 4000 / 5000 / 6400

Simply put the lower the number choice the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain within the image, a higher number means that there is more sensitivity to light with more brightness but more possibility of producing bigger grain (or noise). Many assume that grain is purely the companion of film photography (depending on ISO choice, whether you 'push' your film, film type and light available) however that isn't true. Although thanks to the advances in the quality of digital products it is harder to spot grain, until about ISO 3200, it can be something to consider if you want a pristine finish however noise can also add a real atmosphere which means it isn't anything to be afraid of. A bigger number is generally used in low light situations so that you can use a faster shutter speeds. 

As I like white backgrounds in my images I purposely up my pick in ISO till I've achieved my goal:

1/50 s // f. 6.3 // ISO 1000

1/50 s // f. 6.3 // ISO 1000

1/60 s // f. 5.6 // ISO 250

1/60 s // f. 5.6 // ISO 250

1/60 s // f. 5.6 // ISO 800

1/60 s // f. 5.6 // ISO 800


In terms of focal point and depth of field this is the key element to experiment with, aperture controls how much light is admitted through the shutter when it's open, it also defines how much of the image is in focus. These are measured in f - stops and admittedly they can be a little hard to understand at first but once you get your head around it - there's a whole lot of possibilities waiting. Although there are some differences the most standard range includes:

F-Stop: 1 / 1.4 / 2 / 2.8 / 4 / 5.6 / 8 / 11 / 16 / 22 / 32 / 45 / 64

Some lenses are locked at certain measurements meaning you may not be able to to access all apertures, some for example like the generic lenses that come with a standard camera model can't get to f-stops 1.4 / 2 / 2.8. A small number allows the shutter to open up wide helping more light to access the sensor, you can use lower ISOs and faster shutter speeds but it can also create a smaller depth of field meaning only a little part of your image will be in focus - which could be awesome to showcase the details of a latest product. Using a bigger number will make sure more of your image is in focus but it will mean the shutter is not as wide in comparison which could influence a choice for a slower shutter speed and higher ISOs, perfect for a landscape shot. 

Shutter Speed

1/160 s // f. 6.3 // ISO 100

1/160 s // f. 6.3 // ISO 100

The last in this section of important features is the concept of shutter speeds, these are the lengths of time (usually measured in seconds but can be minutes or even hours) that the shutter stays open for which is proportional to how much light effects the image sensor. Generally the settings are centered around the below values and each stage is roughly double the previous:

1 s - 1/2s - 1/4s - 1/8s - 1/15s - 1/30s - 1/60s - 1/125s - 1/250s - 1/500s - 1/1000s

A faster shutter speed such as 1/1000 can capture something moving but it can cut off a lot of light from the sensor which can be combated with a higher ISO or a lower f-stop. For beginners some teachers agree that camera blur is broadly considered a no-no, it can happen with a slower choice of speed or a faster moving subject matter but sometimes intentional (even accidental) blur can be a real positive - all it needs is practice and a consideration. 

The holy trinity of photography is a highly influential beast and understanding it can help you bend the rules (whether your using digital or film and negatives instead of sensors) to better your aesthetic in general. How you use all 3 of these sections can be dependent on a variety of factors such as what you're shooting, the current light situation, what you're comfortable with camera wise and what you want to say with your imagery. 

What advice would you give any photographers wanting to try something new?

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