PART 5: UNDERSTANDING EXPOSURE CONTROL OF YOUR CAMERA

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3 MOST IMPORTANT CAMERA SETTINGS ARE:

IF YOU COULD TAKE A GOOD DSLR CAMERA AND PICK THE 3 MOST IMPORTANT CAMERA SETTINGS, WHAT WOULD YOU PICK?  SHUTTER SPEED, APERTURE, ISO, DEPTH OF FIELD PREVIEW, MANUAL FOCUS, IMAGE STABILIZER?  WHAT WOULD BE THE 3 THINGS YOU THINK ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT? 

  1. THE APERTURE OR “F” STOP
  2. THE SHUTTER SPEED   
  3. THE ISO SETTING

That is the 3 things on your camera that is controlled to get you the perfect exposure.  As I mentioned in part 4, you have modes on your camera that just take care of those 3 things automatically.  But, now we are going to explain the benefits of knowing and using these 3 things to make photos become ALIVE,  or to do something CREATIVE for your photography.  I hope this is the part you have been waiting for.

 

important-camera-settings-1
The aperture is the diaphragm that is inside every lens that controls the amount of light that gets to the image sensor. 

First of all, let’s start with the basics of why we have to have all these devices.  Our eye is amazing.  It controls the amount of light that gets to the back of the eye by an iris.  You have seen in school or you are aware that in bright light, the iris is very small, so that it only lets in a small amount of light.  And when you are inside your house and the light is not as bright, the iris is large to let in more light so you can see better in dim light.  The automation of cameras is similar.  The iris opens and closes depending on the amount of light needed to the back of the camera’s sensor.  The problem that the Aperture has is that it is very limited to the size of the lens.  Our eye is much better at letting in the light and dimming the light than an aperture is.  So, the camera’s aperture is very limited.  So, it has two other helpers in controlling the light to the sensor, and that is the shutter speed, and the ISO setting.  The ISO is the actual sensitivity setting that we predetermine for the camera’s sensor.  We can increase the sensitivity of the light to the sensor by increasing the ISO setting to a higher number.  Is there drawbacks to doing this?  Yes, and I will get to that in that section.  The shutter speed also plays an important role, and it controls the amount of light to the sensor by timing.  So, it allows a certain amount of light to the sensor by only allowing it to do so for a fraction of a second.  So, a perfect exposure is a combination of all 3 working together.  Here is an example of a perfect exposure (keeping in mind that your eye does it perfect all the time):

1- FOR A PERFECT BRIGHT SUNNY DAY, OUTSIDE:  ISO SETTING AT 100, SHUTTER SPEED SET AT 1/125 SECOND, AND THE APERTURE IS SET AT F16.   

Now, every one of those items listed in this example changes how the picture will look if you change one of those settings.  If you would, take a look at your camera, let’s look at the F-STOP or APERTURE settings on your lens, and we will discuss what happens.

330px-Lens_aperture_side

Your F-Stop numbers are listed on your lens are as follows:  F22, F16, F11, F8, F5.6, F4, F2.8, F2.

Some lenses may have more or less, but these are the basic numbers.  Keep in mind this one thing:  If you click your control to go from F22 to F11, you will increase the amount of light going through your lens by 2X.  And by going from F11 to F8, you will do it again (2X or double your light).  And all the way down the scale.  How does it look on your lens:

480px-Aperture_diagram.svg
Amount of light is cut in half by increasing your Fstop number. 

Let’s look at our perfect exposure setting again, and hopefully you will understand what we have to do:  Keep in this setting I will put here is the exact same exposure, but we just changed the parameters:

2- FOR A PERFECT BRIGHT SUNNY DAY, OUTSIDE:  ISO SETTING AT 100, SHUTTER SPEED SET AT 1/250 SECOND, AND THE APERTURE IS SET AT F11. 

So, the example #2 produces the same amount of exposure to the sensor as example #1.  And what we did is Open the aperture by 2X, but we had to cut the shutter speed in half.  Thus, it equals the same exposure.  Let’s do it again, and remember the exposure will be the same as number 1 and 2:

3-  FOR A PERFECT BRIGHT SUNNY DAY, OUTSIDE:  ISO SETTING AT 100, SHUTTER SPEED SET AT 1/500 SECOND, AND THE APERTURE IS SET AT F8. 

Now, I want to explain that this is why you have a manual metering system in your camera.  It will tell you where your camera settings should be.

camera meter

If you are controlling your camera meter manually, you will want to get the “needle” in the center.  That tells you, that you have it set perfect for the lighting that you have for the scene that you have. In the example above, they used ISO 200, and the shutter speed was at 1/125, and the aperture was at F16 to get the perfect exposure.

Now comes the fun part:

ONCE YOU GET THE EXPOSURE SETTINGS ALL SET, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO CHANGE IT?

The fun part is:  that by changing either the shutter speed or the aperture, you can create images that are different, but, keep in mind as you change one setting, you have to change the other.

aperture examples 3

Let’s take a look at the flower shots above.  And let’s go back to example number 1: 1- FOR A PERFECT BRIGHT SUNNY DAY, OUTSIDE:  ISO SETTING AT 100, SHUTTER SPEED SET AT 1/125 SECOND, AND THE APERTURE IS SET AT F16. 

Ok, let’s look at the photo at F16.  So, the shutter speed will be at 1/125 second assuming that the ISO is at 100.  See how the picture changes a little bit when we go to F5.6.  Notice that the background is going more blurry.  What is the shutter speed?  Looking at the chart above, the shutter speed should be:  1/1000 second, right?  That exposure is the same.  But notice how the picture changed.  Let’s go all the way down to F1.8 on the above photo example.  Now the lens we have above does not go to F1.8 but F2 is very close to that, so we will use that number.  What will be your shutter speed to get the proper exposure at F2?  1/8000 second.  Now, do you see why you need a camera that has fast shutter speeds?  It had nothing to do with stopping action, did it (which we will get into in a moment)?   The question is for you:  WHICH PICTURE DO YOU LIKE BETTER?  I am going to give you a few photos that were taken by professional photographers of close-ups, and you can see why they use a large aperture (like F2 or F2.8) to get the type of photography to turn out like that:

2-23-2a
Shot at F2.8
4-6-10
Shot at F4
4-13-6
Shot at F4
1-11-14
Shot at F22

The larger aperture creates a narrower “depth of field”.  That is the area in front of the subject and in back of the subject that still remains in focus.  That is why when you do a scenery shot or landscape photo, that you want to use a small aperture (large number like F22) to create a scene where it looks like everything in the photo is in focus, like the photo above.

It takes practice to get good at using the Aperture settings on your camera, but look at the many creative things you can do with this.   This is one of the most creative things you can do in improving your photography.

DO SHUTTER SPEEDS HELP IN CREATIVITY?

Just as aperture settings control the “depth of Field” the SHUTTER SPEEDS, have their own purpose in creativity.  And of course, once you know what you can accomplish with this, keep in mind that as you change the shutter speed as you want, you have to change the aperture to keep the exposure correct.

Here are the typical settings of shutter speeds, and keep in mind, they will vary depending on the camera:

1/8000 second, 1/4000 second, 1/2000 second, 1/1000 second, 1/500 second, 1/250 second, 1/125 second, 1/60 second, 1/30 second, 1/15 second, 1/8 second, 1/4 second, 1/2 second, 1 second, 2 seconds, 4 seconds, B setting.

As you can see, the same thing applies to shutter speeds, as the aperture settings.  As you go from one setting to the next, you increase the amount of light that gets to your sensor by double (2X).   The B setting is a special setting and is used for Tripod use only.  The B is from old technology that stands for the word:  BULB.  In the old camera days, you actually squeezed a bulb, which in turn ran a remote trigger into the button, and it would hold the button down as long as you were squeezing the bulb.  Today, it is an electronic push button.  Also, a good rule of thumb, that you can generally hand hold the camera and still get a sharp photo at 1/60 second or faster.  Anything below that you take the risk of getting blurry photos because the shutter is now open long enough that the camera will record camera movement, and you will get a blurry photo.  So, a tripod will be a necessity down in those slower numbers.

Let’s take a look now at some of the creative things you can do with shutter speed changes:

 

SHUTTER SPEED

Water is the number one thing most people like to be creative with their shutter speed controls.  Notice the differences between using the shutter speed at 1/1000 of a second vs. 1/15 of a second.  The fountain seems soft and pretty.  What happens when you do it to a waterfall at a slow shutter speed:

5-25-4

For those of you living close to the ocean, if you had the camera set up on a tripod, and could get the waves of the sea, set at a slow shutter speed:

6-15-9

Now, there are other reasons for using the shutter speed at fast shutter speeds.  As of this writing, we will soon be seeing the World Winter Olympics in South Korea.  All that fast sports action will require the use of fast shutter speeds.  Almost all sports photography will be caught at speeds of 1/1000 of a second or faster.  Imagine the amount of light that has to be there to get the exposure correct on your camera.  Remember how I said that you need to have a lens that will let in a lot of light if you are using fast shutter speeds.  If you notice the professional photographers, they all have these massive huge lenses on their cameras.  That is because they are specially made to let in more light than the usual lenses that you and I might use, and you can bet those lenses cost a huge amount of money to get that amazing photo of the Olympics, or any other sports photo:

 

Fast shutter speeds can stop action, with no blur at all.  Look at the water in the above photo, as well as the stop action in the athletes.  All because the shutter speed was fast.

 

One last thing:  THE ISO SETTING:

The ISO setting on your camera has been around since the dawn of film, and has to do with the sensitivity of setting to light.  It is the setting of the back of your eye.  Everything you do with shutter speeds and Apertures revolve around the ISO.  ISO is a standard set by the International Organization of Standards.  (hmm, seems like it should be IOS, right, but, I will have a further side note at the bottom of the page to this).  Anyway, this too can be changed.  And let me just tell you that it works the same today as it did with film.  The lower the number, the sharper and more detailed the photo.  Most people will keep it around 100, but, what if you get in a situation where you sure could use something that could be more sensitive because it just is kind of dark where you are at.  Then you can boost up your ISO setting to 1600 or 2000 even, right in the middle of shooting.  Is there a drawback to doing so?  Of course.  And just like film, the higher the number, the grainier it seems to be when you use that higher number.  But, that may be the only way to capture that moment, so you do it.  Here is a great example of what happens when you change your ISO setting:

ISO examples

Notice as you use a higher ISO setting that the grain and the aura around light seems to be less detailed.  This is a small picture of each setting.  Imagine what would happen if you saw your photo in a regular size or even enlarged.  You would notice it even more.  So, be aware that this happens.

 

After posting this article, I was reminded in a comment to this article that was written that the term ISO does not stand for International Standards organization.  Check this out:
April 9, 2013 | By Nick CarverWhat is ISO and What Does ISO Mean?The Misconception:What does “ISO” mean? Ask anyone seemingly “in-the-know” and they’ll tell you “ISO” is an initialism for “International Standards Organization” and thus it is pronounced “eye-ess-oh.” Sounds pretty convincing, but this is false.
Why This is Wrong:
There is no such thing as the “International Standards Organization.” Go ahead, Google it. It doesn’t exist. So then what does “ISO” stand for? Nothing. It’s not an initialism or an acronym.
Allow me to explain…
Here’s where the confusion comes from: although there isn’t an “International Standards Organization,” there is an “International Organization for Standardization.” The International Organization for Standardization is a corporation based in Geneva, Switzerland that sets all sorts of international standards for manufacturing and engineering, one of which is film sensitivity in photography. Their whole deal is getting the world on the same page with standard regulations, measurements, and certifications.
Then what is “ISO?” It’s this company’s name, that’s all. No different than “Pepsi” or “Honda.” But “ISO” obviously is not an initialism or acronym because the correct acronym (in English anyway) would be IOS. So then what does ISO mean? Well, it’s derived from the Greek root “isos,” which means “equal” – like in “isotope” and “isosceles.” And if you look at the website for the International Organization for Standardization, you’ll find an explanation on why they chose this Greek root instead of an acronym to represent their company (source: http://www.iso.org/iso/home/about.htm):

Because ‘International Organization for Standardization’ would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), our founders decided to give it the short form ISO. ISO is derived from the Greek isos, meaning equal. Whatever the country, whatever the language, the short form of our name is always ISO.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The Truth:
So “ISO” is not an acronym. No doubt about that. It’s just a company’s logo written in all capital letters derived from the Greek root isos. And just like you wouldn’t spell out “PEPSI” every time you ordered one, you shouldn’t spell out “ISO” every time you talk about it. That’s why “ISO” is correctly pronounced “EYE-so.” No matter how many times you hear it pronounced “eye-ess-oh,” and even though everybody and their mother says it “eye-ess-oh,” it just simply isn’t correct. Doesn’t matter if a guy has been taking pictures for decades or working with ISO standards for 50 years, if he says it “eye-ess-oh,” he’s wrong.

And if you want further information about the ISO confusion, click here, here is a short video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ah_UFTItYc

My Thoughts and Rants:
Alright, I’ll be honest. For awhile I was guilty of thinking ISO stood for International Standards Organization and for years I pronounced it “eye-ess-oh.” That was based partly on misinformation from an online resource (What?! You mean Yahoo Answers isn’t always correct?) and mostly from my own assumptions. After all, it made perfect sense. But that’s what happens when I assume. I make an ass out of u and me.
So I can’t really fault people for saying it “eye-ess-oh.” It’s in all capital letters so it certainly looks like an acronym. And the majority of shooters say it that way even though it’s incorrect. But hey, just goes to show you how quickly false information can become “fact.”
My only rant on this is that a couple years back I saw on Yahoo Answers that someone posted a question asking what is ISO and what does ISO stand for. Some know-nothing do-gooder happily answered with “It stands for ‘International Standards Organization.'” Seeing this error, I politely corrected the answer with the information I stated in this blog post. All was finally right in the world. But sure enough, a few days later I get a notification that someone has “improved” my answer. I go to check it out and some idiot changed it back to the wrong answer! 
Don’t get your information from some dumb yahoo on Yahoo Answers. And don’t let anyone try to correct you into saying it the wrong way. It’s “EYE-so.”
Everyone say it with me now: EYE-so!

 

A LOT TO TAKE IN ON THIS ARTICLE TODAY.  I HOPE YOU HAVE LEARNED A LOT AND YOU ARE EXCITED TO TRY SOME THINGS OUT.  I MAY TAKE SOME MORE TIME ON ARTICLES RELATED TO SHUTTER SPEEDS, APERTURES SO THAT YOU CAN LEARN ALL THE DETAILS AND EXCITING THINGS YOU CAN DO TO GET BETTER ACQUAINTED WITH THESE FEATURES OF YOUR CAMERA.  

 

 

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  • All photos were compliments of either Bing Photos, available on the Bing Image website, or from Facebook community websites where no photographer names are mentioned.  No invasion of copyright is intended.

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