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2 A Beginner's Guide to Digital Photography Version 1.2 By Richie Hug November 24, Most people owning a digital camera have never used other settings than just the AUTO mode. In automatic modes, the camera determines the best fitting settings for exposure, aperture, focus, white balance, ISO and more. For instance, the camera recognizes a human face and automatically changes the settings for a portrait picture and makes the background blurry. If it recognizes that you are photographing a landscape, it might make the whole picture sharp and use a smaller aperture. While it might be already fine if you just want to take pictures of your family events or selfies, this is not the way you will achieve success in photography. So what's the solution for a beginner to become a professional in photography? Go f*cking manual! This guide will explain the fundaments of digital photography. It shows what basic changes you can undertake to achieve different results and will help you get started with the manual mode of your camera. By going manual you already took a huge step towards exploring the world of photography. You will learn how to react according to sudden light changes or you will be able to change your camera settings for your different needs during a shooting. You will also create your own style within time and this is where the fun starts. Once you know how to work with your camera, better results will be achieved. Okay. Let's say you will simply get the results you really wanted. Bring it on! The Correct Exposure Ever wondered how to find out if the picture will be perfectly exposed with your current settings before even taking the photo? Well, I have good news for you. Your camera indicates the exposure level of your current subject, mostly at the bottom of your camera viewfinder. This is what we call the exposure level indicator. It will show you if the picture is underexposed, normally exposed or overexposed. 2 / 9

3 From now on, you should always work with the exposure level indicator, to receive your desired results quicker. If your indicator reaches the minus symbol, it means nothing more than more light is needed to receive a normal exposure. Whereas reaching the plus symbol means, less light is needed to receive a normal exposure. Easy maths. Now, you may have heard that Aperture, ISO and shutter speed are the fundaments of manual photography. But what do those terms mean? THE PILLARS OF DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY: APERTURE, ISO & SHUTTER SPEED Aperture One may argue that the aperture is the most important setting in photography as it clearly changes the final picture. It adds blur to the picture and changes the visibility of the background. The depth of field (DOF, also called effective focus range) is the part of the image that appears sharp. In contrast, the bookeh is the part of the image that appears blurry and is outside the DOF. The focus or the subject on your image will always refer to the DOF. The background mostly to the bookeh. The change in aperture is basically nothing more than a change of the diameter of a front circle cover (also called iris or diaphragm), controlling the amount of light entering your lens. In photography the aperture is represented in f-stops. 3 / 9

4 To point out the difference of changing the aperture, I have made an example below. I would like to let you take a look at the following shots of my tiny big bobby car at f/1.4 and f/11. A smaller f-stop will let more light through the lens and is more open so it will include a stronger bookeh effect. A higher f-stop will let less light through the lens as it is less open, the result is a sharper picture. 4 / 9

5 Another way to remember the aperture behaviour is, the smaller the number, for example f/1.2, the more open it will be and therefore more light will be recorded, as if it was set to f/22. Alright, now you know what happens by setting different aperture settings to your camera. So what the heck is the shutter speed for? Shutter speed The shutter speed (also called exposure time) stands for the amount of time units a camera shutter (that's what lets the camera sensor record light) stays open and is therefore letting you take a picture. Let's take an example of picturing the tiny big bobby car again. If the shutter speed is fast enough, it will freeze my hand when moving the object perfectly. If the shutter speed setting is slow, it will also capture the motion of my hand when moving the car. In many photographs you can spot traces of light. This is recorded with a slow shutter speed setting. Since the camera shutter is open for a few seconds, you are able to see the track of moving objects or light. Another important fact about the shutter speed is that the amount of light entering the lens doubles as the time recorded doubles. Therefore, the amount of light entering the lens is in a 1:1 relation with the time exposed. A faster shutter speed will capture the picture faster. The moving object will appear frozen. 5 / 9

6 A slower shutter speed will capture the picture slower. The moving object will also leave traces of motion. Hence, when taking night photographs - where you will HOPEFULLY use a tripod you may have to set your shutter speed slower than usual. If you tried this before, you should be aware that night photography requires a longer shutter speed setting, because you have less light available. Your camera will be busy for a few seconds, but you will be able to see a brighter recorded picture at night. This means if you set your shutter speed too fast, you may have an underexposed result. On the other hand, when taking photographs during the day, you may have to set a faster shutter speed otherwise your photographs will result in overexposed results. Cool, last part of the triangle mystery to solve the ISO setting. ISO The ISO determines the level of sensitivity of your camera sensor to light. Now to make it short: If you set a higher ISO you will get more noise (or grain) in your pictures. This means your picture may be less clear and full of small unnecessary dots. So you may wonder now, what are the benefits of changing the ISO to higher levels since the picture simply just gets damaged? With a higher ISO setting, you will require less time to capture a picture. So one needs to be aware that as the ISO level increases, the shutter speed needs to decrease to receive the same result. 6 / 9

7 A lower ISO will capture the picture clearer but slower. There will be less noise or grain. A higher ISO will capture the picture noisier but faster. There will be more noise or grain. The more professional your body is, the less noise you will get on a picture with higher ISO levels. With my Canon 5D Mark III, I can go up to ISO 1600 with getting almost no noise at night. But I usually work within a range of 100 to 800. So keep in mind - with a higher ISO setting, you will need to set a smaller shutter speed. 7 / 9

8 The relation of light with ISO is exactly the same as with the shutter speed. 1.1 As ISO increases, more light will be captured by your sensor. There's a quick bridge for calculating the change of ISO in relation to the shutter speed. Simply divide the Shutter speed by the amount you multiplied the ISO and vice-versa. Meaning that if you increase the ISO by the double, you will have to halve the shutter speed to get the same exposure. Alright folks. To make it clearer for amateur photographers, I would like to show an example starting from the settings ISO 100 and the shutter speed set to 1 second. Let us look at it mathematically: ISO100 x 2 ISO200 Shutter Speed 1s : 2 ½ second Now if you take a look at the following example, to reach the same exposure when dividing the ISO by :4, you will need to multiply the shutter speed by 4: ISO800 : 4 ISO200 Shutter Speed 1s x 4 4 seconds Easy so far, right? To be honest, if you are totally new to photography I would not focus on the aperture setting yet, but rather focus on the shutter speed and ISO setup. Set your aperture setting somewhere between f/8 and f/16 and get started. Once you have gained some experience with controlling the shutter speed and the ISO, you can go on with the aperture settings. What I would recommend to you is to use a wider aperture for portraits (preferably under f/2.8 with normal background or under f/9 when shooting in a studio) and a smaller aperture for landscapes (preferably above f/11). The AV and TV mode as an alternative If you are totally failing with the manual mode of your camera, you can try to work with the Aperture Value (AV) mode and the Time Value (TV) mode. The Aperture Value mode simply requires you to change the aperture setting and the camera will calculate the best shutter speed to use. The Time Value mode lets you set up your shutter speed and will let you choose whether you want to capture motion or a sharp picture. Your camera will set the best aperture for you. RAW Editing One last tip for you: Save your pictures in RAW format and do not apply filters (yet). Since RAW files are lossless compressed, you will be able to edit your pictures in Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop as if you were right at the shooting location back again. You will be able to edit the picture's saturation, white balance, contrast, shadows or highlights without losing the quality of the original picture. It's quite the contrary if you save your files directly in JPEG. This is extremely useful if you are working on night 8 / 9

9 photography content. Once you have done the editing of your picture and you added an optional filter, you will need to export and convert the RAW file to JPEG. Keep in mind, using the RAW saving option can easily fill up your memory card, as the files tend to be HUGE. But it is totally worth it! To finish this article, I would like to share a cheat sheet with you, which you can use to start working in manual mode. Remember: The only way to get astonishing results is by knowing how to work with your camera. 9 / 9