Digital photography has made it easier to have a fabulous camera! No matter if you are Camp Canon, Nikon, Sony, or fill in the blank, all the same principles apply. Moms and dads (and grandparents) with cameras, I want to help you feel more confident in photographing your family in your everyday moments, so I am starting a series of posts to help you with the basics of photography. This is the first in the series – Photography Basics – Exposure.

Learning a new skill can be overwhelming – the vocabulary, the equipment, etc. The goal of this series is to break down the basics into small, easy to understand posts to help you learn how to advance your skills. Start playing with your camera, and don’t be afraid to try new settings – maybe even MANUAL MODE. {GASP!!!} I feel that understanding the components of exposure is one of the most important topics to learn first!

Let’s Talk About Exposure.

Exposure is the amount of light that is captured when you take a picture.  If too little light is captured, then the photograph will be “underexposed” (too dark),and if too much light is captured, then the photograph will be “overexposed” (too bright).  The goal is to take a picture that is correctly exposed. To do this, you must choose the proper ISO, SHUTTER SPEED, AND APERTURE.

When you shoot in your camera’s “auto” mode, you have minimal control over your settings and the camera does all the thinking. That’s great for starting out, but trust me, learning to shoot in manual gives you infinitely more control over your exposure. Try it sometime! You won’t hurt anything!

Photography class, learning your camera, camera class, Photography Basics, understanding exposure

Great graphic from www.virualphotographystudio.com

ISO

ISO determines how much light your camera’s sensor will capture.  A higher ISO will capture more light and create a brighter image, and a lower ISO will capture less light and create a darker image. I always suggest using the minimum ISO necessary. Using a higher ISO results in more “noise” (artifacts or “grain”) in your image.

The ISO setting on most digital cameras ranges from 100 ISO to 3200 ISO and higher.  On a bright sunny day, you can set your camera’s ISO to around 100 since so much light is available.  Inside, or when it is dark outside, you will need to set your camera’s ISO to around 1600 ISO to capture the little light you have available. You might need to use a flash or adjust your shutter speed and aperture.

SHUTTER SPEED

Shutter speed is the amount of time it takes the shutter inside your lens to open and close.  You know the “clicking” sound you hear when you take a picture? That click you hear is the sound of the shutter opening and closing to capture the light.  When the click is shorter, your shutter speed is faster, and the longer the click, the slower your shutter speed. 

Your shutter speed is important because it determines how much light will fall on your sensor.  If the shutter opens for a long time (slower shutter speed), more light will fall on your sensor.  More light on the sensor means a brighter exposure.  If you choose a faster shutter speed, less light will fall on the sensor and your photos will be darker. Additionally, a slower shutter speed – less than 1/80 – can also cause motin blur with any movement! I usually try to keep my shutter speed at 1/80 or better if I’m not using a tripod.

APERTURE

Aperture is the camera setting that determines how wide the shutter inside your lens will open. Aperture can be a little tricky at first because its value is expressed as a fraction called an “f-stop”. The wider the shutter opens, the lower the “f/stop” number and vice versa. I know – it seems backwards! For example, f/2.8 is a large aperture, because the shutter opens very wide and f/22 is a small aperture because the shutter opening is narrow. See below.  (I’m now noticing that I should have at least dusted off my little table….)

Photography class, learning your camera, camera class, Photography Basics, understanding exposure

ISO 250, Aperture f 2.8

Photography class, learning your camera, camera class, Photography Basics, understanding exposure

ISO 250, Aperture f 6.3

The aperture controls how much light will fall on the sensor and how much “depth-of-field” the photo will have.  Depth-of-field is how much of the scene will be in focus around your subject. A photo taken at f/2.8 is going to have a very narrow depth-of-field (less in focus) and a photo taken at f/22 is going to have a very wide depth-of-field (more in focus).

What now?

Got it??? Easy peezy or totally confused?? Comment below with your questions or comments about exposure, or contact me here. I’d love to hear from you. I will be hosting a new camera basics class this summer – stay tuned for details!!

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