Is the dial on top of the camera intimidating you? You are not alone! Many people purchase cameras and hide them away in their closets, because they don’t really understand what the settings mean. Recently, I have had a few friends ask me to explain what certain settings meant. They expressed their frustrations and I totally felt her pain. I have been there before.
Several years ago, my two favorite settings were head and the running man (the little icon on top of the camera that looks like a head and a marathon runner). Why? Because they worked. When I wanted to take a photo of a person the head worked great and when I wanted to take pictures of kids the running man was perfect. Kids run fast. So of course the running man icon made plenty of sense to me. They run and he runs obviously that is the right mode. While this was true. I really didn’t understand what each setting did.
When I was first starting to understand my DSLR it was hard to find the resources I needed to understand what the camera was doing and how to best use it. I would pick up a trick here and there, but never truly understood what the camera was doing or even why I had to change the dial to get the pictures I wanted. I definitely did not know what aperture, ISO, or shutter speed even meant.
I have decided over the next several blogs lets get back to the basics. Let’s go back over the settings on our cameras and some must know photography terms. I am so excited about this because over the years a homeschooling mom. I have learned one solid truth. In order to lock in things that you have learned you have to go through three steps. First, you learn something new. Then, you do it. Then you teach it. By sharing my what I have learned I will continue to learn and grow. Building a solid base to learn more. So let’s get started learning to better understanding of what is happening in our cameras!
First let’s start with some very important photography terms: Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture, and Depth of Field.
On the inside of every camera is a shutter. The shutter opens and closes to let light shine onto the sensor and capture the photo. The slower the shutter closes, the more light is let in. The faster it closes, the less light is let in. How fast that shutter moves is shutter speed. Lets say you are taking a picture in a room that is not well lite. If your shutter speed is too fast; your image will be underexposed to the light and the image will be dark. If your shutter speed is too slow, then your picture will be overexposed or too the light.
What is ISO? It seems elusive, because it is an acronym. In all honesty it is a lot simpler than it sounds. ISO is how sensitive your sensor is to the light. Having your sensor being more sensitive to light can be very helpful when trying to capture pictures in dim lighting or at night. It is also helpful when you need to capture a picture with a very fast shutter speed. Because the shutter is closing quickly there is less light in contact with the sensor. Having a higher ISO and a fast shutter speed allows you to be able to freeze a fast moving subject and capture it in a proper exposure.
There is one important things you must know about ISO; the higher the ISO the more grain that you will have in the photo you capture. Grain is the noise or granulated look that you get in the pixels as a result of high ISO. The smaller your sensor the more grain you might experience at a higher ISO. Do not let it detour you! Lots of pictures look good with grain! You just need to be aware of it and take it into consideration in how your final product will look.
Last but not least is Aperture. Aperture is the opening of the iris in your lens also know as f-stop. The lower the number, the wider the opening. The higher the number, the smaller the opening. When the aperture is low/wide it means that the iris is a a large opening and the depth of field is shallow. Shallow depth of field results in a blurred background. On the other hand, when iris is closed more having a smaller opening you have a longer depth of field. Having longer depth of field means that you are able to keep things further away from you in focus as well as the things that are close to you.
The easiest way to understand depth of field for me is to think of a lined piece of notebook paper. Let’s imagine together we are little people standing at the bottom of that paper and the lines are horizontal across the paper. Let’s imagine this piece of paper is a garden that is planted in rows by a gardener. There are rows and rows of flowers. Each one of these rows of flowers would be its own plane. When we take a picture how many rows of flowers that are in focus is our depth of field. If only the first plane is in focus then you have a shallow depth of field but it they are all in focus you have a large depth of field.
The Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture and focus all work together like a quartet of singers. They harmonize together inside of your camera to give you the best looking images. But when one is out of tune it throws the whole thing off key. It is important to learn how each of these settings works so that you can understand how one relies on the other in the final production of your picture.
In my next burst lets dive into those icons on the top of our cameras. What is each setting doing? What are they best used for? I really hope you found this burst of information helpful! I really enjoy reading your comments and hearing your input; so please like, share, and tell me what you think!