Well here we are it’s Friday again so it’s Foto Friday. Throughout the week my mind has been pondering exactly what to write for this post. Last week we looked at selecting your camera. From now on I’m going to assume you’ve got a DSLR and you’re happy with things like loading the batteries and putting in the memory card. Time to start thinking about taking some actual photos!
Now we’ve all done it. Seen something breathtaking and wanted to capture it forever. The thing is when you see the shot it’s such a disappointment, you wonder why you bothered. The image is all grey and grainy, or it’s all washed out you can’t see anything. All those beautiful vivid colours are missing and your heart sinks down to your shoes. You’re left with a flat and dull image. Instead of inspiring you to show everyone you meet what a wonderful moment in time you experienced, it’s quietly consigned to a folder on your hard drive and soon forgotten. What’s going on and how do we avoid those disappointments? Well it’s all down to exposure.
The first thing to realise is that your camera doesn’t work exactly like your eye. The human eye is an amazing piece of engineering and far outstrips the capabilities of our technology. It can adjust superfast to changing conditions and our brains are designed to interpret it’s signals far better than any software. Your eye can also cope with a much wider range of light and dark than your camera, detecting many nuances you can’t record. (There are things you can do to improve this situation but we’ll look at those down the line.) So if the image isn’t exactly how you remember it, don’t kick yourself. Well not too hard anyway
So how do you get the light from your surroundings into a image? Your camera (regardless of which one it is) will have several things.
A lens. I know it sounds obvious but this is where the light comes into the camera. This is also the bit where the focusing is altered.
An image sensor. This replaces the film and is where the image is formed.
A Shutter. This is between the lens and the sensor. When you click to take a photo it will open allowing light through. Otherwise it’ll be closed.
A button to press to set everything in motion and make the magic happen.
Now in an ideal situation you want enough light to make it to the sensor to light up the darker areas of your image, but not so much as to make the bright bits a white blur. You have 3 things you can control which will hopefully help you achieve this. How fast the shutter opens and closes (the longer it’s open the more light will come through). How wide the ‘hole’ will be, this is referred to as the ‘aperture’ (wider means more light for any given length of time). You can also alter the sensitivity of the image sensor – this is the digital equivalent of the film speed.
So it’s time to get that camera off those preset shooting modes such as portrait or sport, and start taking some control. Most DSLR’s will have a knob you can turn (often on the top left) where you can select the mode. Av or A commonly means ‘Aperture Priority’. We’re going to start with this one (simply because it’s my favourite). Take a deep breath and turn that knob round to it’s new home
In this mode you can control how wide the opening is. Think of the aperture like the iris in your eye. It can open wide to let in a lot of light or be small only let in a tiny amount. Your camera will have an inbuilt light metering system which will sense how much light is coming in and work out how long to keep the shutter open to give you a great image. So you can think of this as either semi-manual or semi-automatic, whichever you prefer. The important thing is that you are starting to control what’s going on and you’re moving from taking a photo to creating a photo.
Next week I’ll talk about how you can use the aperture size to control how much of the image is in focus (think of all those beautiful photos you’ve seen where the background is blurred making that pretty girl, cat, dog, squirrel or cake stand out). I’ll also be using the ‘f’ word…. no not that one silly – ‘f-stop’.
Take care and have some fun this coming week playing with your camera…