Category Archives: Basic Photography Lessons

Basic Photography Lessons

Photography Basics #3 – Aperture in Photography

In the third of my blog articles on photography basics, we will look a bit more closely at aperture and aperture settings on a camera. If you remember in article one, when we discussed the modes, one of them were A or AV, which is Aperture Priority mode.

Aperture Comparisons

Aperture Comparisons

In short, aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken. The larger the hole, the more light will enter the hole and come into your lens and the smaller the hole, the less light will enter the hole and come into your lens.

With a wide aperture or large hole, less of your photograph will be in focus and with a narrow aperture or small hole; more of your photograph will be in focus.

Aperture is measure in fractions, and is indicated by an F, or fractional stops (f stops), thus an f/2.8 or f/5.6, which are larger fractions than f/8, f/11 or f/16, means that the hole is also larger. This also means that on f/2.8 or f/5.6 more of the photograph will be out of focus than on f/8, f/11 or f/16.

In practical terms, to remember the following is important:

A small f/# = a big hole in the lens = less in focus, because more light comes into the lens.

A big f/# = a small hole in the lens = more in focus, because less light comes into the lens.

How does this work for you in photography? If you want to blur the background in order to de-clutter the photograph and put more emphasis on your subject, you will need a small f/#, i.e. f/2.8 or f/5.6. This is desirable in most portraiture photography.

On the other hand, if you are photographing landscapes, you would want more of the photograph in focus and would thus use a larger f/ # such as f/8, f/11 or f/16.

Now on to your exercise:

If you do not have a camera where you can set the aperture, use the portrait and landscape settings on the dial and experiment to see how this change the photograph, looking especially at the background.

If you have a camera where you can set it to AV or A (Aperture priority mode), set it to AV or A.

Take two moveable objects and place them a short distance apart, i.e. 50 cm or 1 metre. Now start by setting your aperture on the smallest f/# available, i.e. f/2.8, f/4 or f.5.6. Focus on the closest subject and take a photo. Continue to do this by changing the f/# every time going from f/2.8 to f/4, f/5.6, f/6.3, f/8, f/11 up to f/16. Remember to focus on the exact same spot every time. Have a look at each photograph and see what you notice.

You are welcome to post your observations and photographs here once you have completed your exercise.

Related posts:
Photography Basics #1 – What are all the modes on the camera dial?

Photography Basics #2 – Shutter Speed in Photography

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, please leave a comment below.

Feel free to regularly visit PiKs Photography website for information and specials on Portrait, Event, Corporate and Commercial Photography and Photographic Products such as canvas prints and photo books.

Once in a blue moon for August 2012 – Last chance in three years to capture this

The phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ is used when the full moon phase occurs twice in the same month. Tonight, (Friday) 31 August will be such an occurrence when the second full moon for August occurs. The first one was on 1 August. The next time this will happen is only in 2015.

The moon

The moon, crisp and clear

So, tonight everyone wiil be out shooting the moon. Below are a few tips on how to achieve nice crisp and clear photographs of the moon.

  1. Zoom lens.Use your longest zoom lens, preferably 200mm or even up to a 500 mm lens if you have one. For a point-and-shoot camera, zoom in as much as possible using optical zoom only. Digital zoom does not work for this. 
  2. Use a tri-pod. If you have a tri-pod available use it, else place your camera on a very stable surface to avoid any camera shake.  
  3. Shutter release cable, camera remote or self-timer. This is another way to avoid camera shake and get crisp photographs. Use whichever one you have available. 
  4. Camera settings. As the moon is a direct light source you won’t need a very slow shutter speed or high ISO setting. For point-and-shoot cameras without A / AV or T/TV settings, experiment with the camera on night portrait or landscape settings. For cameras that can set ISO, aperture, etc, use ISO 100 *you can always go up if it does not work). Set camera to A/AV (aperture priority mode) start with aperture on f/8 and then go up to f/11 or f/16 if you need to.For those who would like to use manual mode, ISO 100, f/8 to f/16 and shutterspeed of around 1/125. Remember that the moon is a bright light source, so you won’t need a slow shutter speed.
  5. Make sure that you focus directly on the moon
  6. Shoot! And then post your photographs here so that everyone can see what they look like.

 If you have any other suggestions of photographing the moon, please post them here for everyone to read.

Photography Basics #2 – Shutter Speed In Photography

Shutter speed - Freezing action or creation motion blur

Shutter speed – Freezing action or creation motion blur

In the second of my blog articles on photography basics, I will elaborate a bit more on shutter speed and how you can put this to better use in order to create better photographs.

Shutter speed in film photography was the length of time, measured in seconds or fractions of a second, the film was exposed to the subject being photographed. In digital photography it is the length of time the camera’s sensor is exposed to the subject being photographed.

Shutter speed controls the light and influences the motion being captured in a photograph. The faster the shutter speed the less light, and thus it will freeze the motion, i.e. 1/500th or 1/1000th of a second.

A slow shutter speed will allow for more light and will blur motion, i.e. ¼ of a second, 2 seconds, etc.

It is recommended that with slower shutter speed, the camera is placed on a tri-pod or a sturdy surface to try to avoid camera shake associated with a slow shutter speed.

If hand-holding the camera is the only option available, to avoid camera shake, the shutter speed must preferable be at least 1.5x the focal length. For example, if you have a fixed 50mm lens on the camera and you are photographing using a slow shutter speed, the shutter speed should not be slower than 1/75th of a second and if you have zoomed in of your zoom lens to let’s say 150mm, the shutter speed should not be slower than 1/225th of a second.

There are other changes that can be made in order to allow for a faster shutter speed if needed, i.e. change the aperture or ISO, but these will be discussed in a future article.

Shutter priority is best used when capturing motion blur or freezing motion in sports photography or action photography. It is also used when you want to blur the motion in landscapes with water, such as a waterfall or waves washing up onto a beach. Shutter speed will also come into play in low light conditions, when a slower shutter speed is required, however be aware of camera shake in such cases.

Your exercise for the next few weeks are to find photography opportunities where you want to either capture motion blur or freeze action. Feel free to publish your photographs on the blog article for everyone to see.

Related posts:
Photography Basics #1 – What are all the modes on the camera dial?

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, please leave a comment below.

Feel free to regularly visit PiKs Photography website for information on Portrait, Event, Corporate and Commercial Photography and Photographic Products such as canvas prints and photo books.

Photography Basics #1 – What are all the modes on the camera dial?

Due to a number of friends and family members asking me various questions about the basics of photography, I have decided to create a series of 12 blog articles in which I will provide a bit more insight into the basics of photography. I will publish these every second week, giving you enough time to practice any of the information provided in the blog article.

These articles will cover a number of the basics in photography, starting with what the different settings on the camera dial means, to light and composition and ending off with post production and a short write-up on my own photography workflow.

Camera Dial showing the different photography modes

Camera Dial showing the different photography modes

All cameras nowadays, even the most basic compact entry-level cameras have most of the modes shown on the left.

For the beginner photographer this may seem daunting, but if you understand what each one means and when to use it, you could soon be more adventurous and move away from the little green setting.

  1. P – Program mode.
    This mode allows the photographer to manage a few of the settings, but the camera would then adjust the rest of the settings to compensate for correct exposure. Usually one can change the ISO and white balance in this mode.
  2. Auto – This is also known as the “green” mode and is where most beginner photographers set their cameras. Hopefully by the end of the article series you would have moved away from this one permanently. This setting does everything for you, all you have to do is point and click.
  3. Portrait – This setting is mainly for doing “head and shoulders” type portrait shots of people. The aperture is set at its largest setting for the available light. The flash, if set on, will also be set for red-eye reduction, if this is available on the camera.
  4. Landscape – In this mode, the camera is set for taking outdoor landscape photos and the aperture is set to a far smaller setting than for portrait mode, in order to capture a greater depth of field (more of the photograph will be in focus). This setting can be used in any situation where you would like a large portion of your photograph to be in focus, from the foreground to the background.
  5. Close Up or Macro – This setting is for focussing on very close-up subjects, and the background to be out of focus. This is great when you want to only photograph a small part of a bigger subject, i.e. only a ring, rather than the hand of a person and the ring.
  6. Sport or Action – In this mode the camera will select the fastest shutter speed for the available light, in order to freeze action. The focus will also be set to ‘continuous’ while you have pressed the shutter button in half-way. This will allow for a re-focus every time your subject moves to a different position. This is a great setting for high-speed, sport and action photographs.
  7. Night Landscape – The camera is set with a small aperture, same as for the normal landscape setting, but in this case also a slow shutter speed. In order to ensure sharp photographs, it is recommended that the camera is placed on a tri-pod or very stable surface such as a wall or table.
  8. Night Portrait – For this mode, the aperture will again be set to a large setting allowing as much light into the camera as possible, but the camera will also use the built-in flash to light the subject, while the ambient / natural light will be used to light the background. This is a great setting when photographing people at night, either indoors or outdoors.
  9. The next three settings may not be available on all cameras, so if yours doesn’t have it, you may skip the next three points.
    Manual – You are in full control of all the settings on the camera, i.e. aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance, as well as flash. Thus, it is a good idea to understand how these different settings affect each other and in what situations they work best. In upcoming articles I will discuss them in more detail.
  10. A or AV – Aperture Value (Aperture Priority Mode) – Here you can set the aperture, as well as ISO and white balance and the shutter speed will change accordingly for the best exposure.
  11. S or TV – Time Value (Shutter Priority Mode) – Works the same way as the AV setting, but here you set the shutter speed and the camera adjust the aperture for the best exposure. Great setting for capturing or freezing motion.

I hope this article gives you and understanding of the different mode settings and you are now confident to try out the different settings. Play around and see which of these you like the most.

If you have any questions or comments, leave a comment on this post.

Feel free to regularly visit PiKs Photography webiste for information on Portrait, Event, Corporate and Commercial Photography and Photographic Products such as canvas prints and photo books.

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