Hi, I’m Mark’s wife, Misty. This is my first post about how to set exposure manually and I’m excited to be a part of this blog. Mark is definitely the better photographer but I know a little bit about the subject as well so I’ll try and add my two cents when I get a minute. Mark and I actually met in a photography class in high school. I guess it was meant to be! We were friends throughout high school and afterwords went our separate ways and then a few years later we happen to meet up again and I guess as they say the rest is history!
I wanted to discuss the importance of getting the camera off of that automatic setting. I know, I know… It is so convenient to use and the camera doesn’t do that bad. But as budding photographers we aren’t looking for “it’s not bad” pictures, we want “I can’t stop staring at that photo it is so amazing!” or “I want to show everyone I know this picture it looks so great!” photographs.
What are some of the reasons we leave our camera on auto? I have heard so many times. “I bought this nice camera but I have no idea what it is capable of”, “I wanted a nice camera but I don’t know what to do with it now that I have it” or “I don’t understand how to run it, so I keep it on auto.” So we keep our camera on auto because:
- A lack of knowledge. We don’t understand our camera or what all of the buttons mean.
- Fear. We don’t want to spend time messing with the camera. Picture opportunities happen so quickly we don’t have time to fumble around with our camera to try and do what we want it to do.
These are just a few reasons why I was hesitant to take my camera off auto. Especially the second one; when I was first learning the camera I wasn’t fast enough to make adjustments before the picture opportunity was gone, and now when I’m learning a new camera that fear comes back.
So lets talk for a minute about the basics of photography. This information is true for all cameras, it doesn’t matter what you are shooting on, this information applies. The area it may vary is how to access or change these settings on individual camera types.
Photography is at it’s most basic level, light, and how that light affects the film that light is exposing. Now, most of us don’t shoot on film anymore but the concept is the same, in a digital camera it’s called a sensor.
The more light a camera has the more the film or the light sensor will be exposed or the brighter the picture is going to be. If you have too much light, the picture will be over exposed and you start to loose details in the picture and you will start to see more white in the picture where things begin to wash out. If you don’t have enough light the picture will be the opposite, it will be too dark and you loose the details to dark areas in the picture.
So your auto setting tries its hardest to keep things right in a happy middle range so there aren’t any too bright of spots or too dark of spots in the picture. It ends up leaving a picture flat without a lot of contrast.
How do we fix it!?! Well, the first thing we have to do is understand how our camera reads light so we can manually adjust it to get the photo we want. Every camera has a light meter. It will read the light in the area and indicate the exposure level. Then as the photographer, we can adjust different settings on our camera to take the perfectly exposed photo.
What are the basic things we can adjust?
- ISO- This is how sensitive to light our sensor is. A low number like 100 is a low sensitivity, this setting would be used when there is a lot of light. A high number such as 1600 or 3200 is very sensitive to light and so would be used in a situation where there is little light. The higher the ISO the “noisier” a photograph will become making it look grainy, where as a lower ISO the photograph isn’t grainy or not at a noticeable level.
- Shutter Speed- The camera has a cover that is closed to protect the film or light sensor from being exposed to light all the time. So when a picture is taken the sound we hear is the shutter opening and closing “chu-chink.” This opening and closing of the shutter happens extremely fast, and is measured in fractions of a second. 1/60 is a pretty common shutter speed and means that the shutter is open for one sixtieth of a second. So if you think of it that way, the bigger the number the faster the shutter speed. 1/1000th of a second is much faster than 1/60th of a second and therefore does not let in as much light. A slow shutter speed allows more movement or motion blur to happen in a picture because an object can have time to move a little while the shutter is open. A faster shutter speech such as 1/1000th of a second doesn’t allow for much movement in a picture. The shutter is opening and closing so quickly that it effectively freezes the image.
- F-stop or Aperture- This is the circle you see when you look inside your lens, it can be adjusted to be bigger and smaller depending on how much light the camera needs. An aperture of f/3.5 is a large aperture allowing for more light to come in, also making a shallow depth of field. Meaning the object being focused on will be in focus but the background will be blurry. An aperture of f/18 is a small aperture which doesn’t allow for as much light. This also creates a deep depth of field which means that most of the picture, foreground to background will be in focus.
These three settings work together to expose a picture. Based on what we take our light meter reading on, our camera tells us if it is under or over exposed. We then can adjust these settings to get a picture that we can be proud of! Learning to control these setting lets us creatively choose how we want the image to be exposed.
With practice, quickly adjusting each of these settings becomes second nature and we are able to capture the picture before that perfect moment has passed by.
Please join us over on the Camera Stupid Facebook Page and let us know what you’d like us to write about next. We’d love to hear from you.