Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Hi everyone! It’s Karen, and I’m excited to be doing this weeks focus on photography post.
It’s been almost exactly a year since I took a deep breath and switched my camera over to the big “M”. I’d had my camera for almost a year by that time. It’s not that I didn’t understand the principles behind using a camera in manual mode. My very first camera was 35mm film camera that didn’t have an automatic anything. :) But for some reason, I was very intimidated by my Digital SLR. So my hope today is to encourage anyone else wanting to make the switch that you can do it!! And to give a brief explanation of aperture settings and how it can make a difference in your photography.
In photography, the most important component is light. If there was no light, there would be no photograph, at all. lol. When a camera is on Auto, it takes the best guess at the settings for a proper exposure. Most of the time the results will be a really good picture. But, what if you want a great picture? To get the best clarity, focus and exposure you have to take your camera off of Auto and learn to think through each situation for the best effect. Once you get a few principles down, you’ll be shooting up a storm in no time!
Your camera settings are based on three things for a proper exposure: 1) ISO, 2) shutter speed and 3) aperture (also called f stop.) I really liked Beckie’s bucket analogy, or another way to think about exposure is as a triangle: all three sides working together to give you a properly exposed image. In this post I want to mainly focus on one side of the triangle, aperture, and why understanding it is so helpful.
All light comes into our camera through the shutter. The aperture, also called the f stop, is a measurement of how large the opening of the camera’s shutter is. As the opening gets larger, more light is able to come in. Because aperture is a ratio, the numbers get smaller as the opening gets larger! (See a full technical explanation). So let’s think about a lens that is set at an f stop of 1.8. That lens is opened up to largest amount possible letting in the most light, while the opposite setting of f 22 is the smallest opening possible and is letting in the least amount of light. Remember our triangle analogy and the need to keep everything balanced for a proper exposure? As we adjust one side of the triangle (the aperture), we need to adjust another side of the triangle, the shutter speed (and possibly the ISO) to maintain the proper exposure. Well, you may be wondering why all of this even matters! It matters because understanding it gives you the power!! You are in control and you are the one making the decisions for the exposure. No more guessing. You can now get the effect that you’re wanting for your image.
A Practice Assignment
To illustrate the relationship between aperture and shutter speed and how it affects your focus I have a fun assignment for you to try! Have you ever looked at a beautiful outdoor portrait and wondered just how the photographer got that wonderful blurry background? That beautiful blur is called Bokeh and is achieved by using a large aperture (small number).
- Find a place with plenty of light and set up something stationary to shoot. Place your object a few feet in front of you, then place something in the background 10 -15 feet behind that. Adjust the objects so you can see both of them.
- Start at your lowest f stop, adjust the shutter speed until the exposure meter is in the center on zero and take a photo.
- Now take a shot at each f stop adjusting your shutter speed as you go. You can also raise the ISO setting, if you need to. Just remember to use the lowest ISO that you can for the clearest images (you’ll want to raise the ISO if the shutter speed drops below 1/60 or so, otherwise you’ll get “motion blur” in your image).
A Few Notes:
- If you are using the lens that came with your camera, also called a kit lens, f. 3.5 may be the largest aperture that you’ll have available. I was never too successful getting much bokeh with my kit lens. Since taking portraits drives my love for photography, my first upgrade was a faster lens (one with larger f stops.) Many people go for a 50mm 1.8 as their first purchase. Since my camera at that time was Nikon D40, I chose a 35mm 1.8 because the less expensive 50mm 1.8 doesn’t automatically focus on that camera. That would also be true for a D60 or D3000. There is a 50mm 1.4 available that will auto focus on those cameras, but is quite a bit more expensive.
- I almost forgot to add that another wonderful benefit of having a fast lens and being able to shoot wide open, is the ability to capture images in low light situations. You’ll be amazed at what you can now photograph without needing a flash. No more harsh shadows or washed out faces.
Maybe your feeling a little sad right now because you have a point and shoot and would like to make better portrait images, too. Well, there is hope for you too, lol. All you have to do is get out your camera manual and learn how to set your camera on the portrait setting! Usually it’s as easy as rotating a dial. The portrait setting will use the widest aperture available for a given lighting situation. If you’re using a DSLR you can also try out the portrait setting and see what kind of result you can get.
So here’s just a little re-cap of today’s post:
- You can shoot in manual and will love the results!
- Think of exposure like a triangle: aperture , ISO and shutter speed all working together to make a proper exposure.
- The beautiful blurred background in photography is called bokeh
- To get bokeh, you need to start with a large aperture setting.
- The smaller the f stop number, the larger the opening.
- Being able to use a large f stop will allow you to take images in lower light situations.
- A 50mm 1.8 or a 35mm 1.8 is a great investment for your photography.
I shot the images above to illustrate the assignment. I hope you can see how changing the f stop will change the background focus in your photos. If look at the settings that I included for each image, you’ll see that as I made the aperture smaller, I also had to adjust the shutter speed and ISO to keep a good exposure. Just look at the mug that I set on the back ledge in my photos to see how it comes in focus as the aperture gets smaller. Also notice that the slowest shutter speed that I used was 1/60 of a second. I’d need a tripod for my camera to go any slower than that. That’s the point where I had to started raising my ISO. I think you can also see how having a high ISO made the image much more grainy.
So… now it’s your turn! The very best way to learn is to try it for yourself. Get out your camera and see what you can come up with making adjustments…starting with your aperture setting!
Have a great day – SP will be back tomorrow to announce the TEMPLATE CHALLENGE TWO winner (hurry, all entries are due by midnight <eastern time> TONIGHT :o)