Mastering the fundamentals of photography is essential for capturing the shots you envision, as relying solely on automatic camera settings doesn’t allow you to control your images. This can lead to an overexposed or blurry photo. By understanding the basics of photography, you gain the necessary knowledge and control to achieve the desired outcome.
Understanding exposure is crucial for achieving properly lit images. It involves balancing three elements: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, collectively known as the exposure triangle.
Ideally, you want your photo to be correctly exposed in order to see all the details. Of course, all photography rules can be broken once they are mastered, but we are going to focus on the photography basics for now.
Aperture refers to the opening of the lens diaphragm, which acts like our pupils do. It controls the amount of light entering the camera and influences depth of field, which determines the range of sharpness in an image. Essentially, the wider the aperture the brighter the image will be, and the narrower the aperture the darker it will be.
The maximum and minimum aperture of the lens is defined by a value known as “F-stop”. The larger the F-stop number is, the smaller or narrower the aperture and vice versa. The infographic below explains what your f-stop and exposure should look like in order to achieve the desired depth of field, which refers to the range of sharpness in an image, from the foreground to the background. It is influenced by the aperture setting, focal length, and distance between the subject and the camera:
ISO represents the sensitivity of the camera’s image sensor to light. Adjusting the ISO allows you to capture images in different lighting conditions, but higher ISO settings can introduce digital noise/grain. So, the higher the ISO, the brighter the image will be, and the lower the ISO, the darker the photograph will be. But because raising the ISO increases digital noise on the image, alway to try to introduce lights and open up the f-stop as first measures.
Shutter speed dictates the length of time the camera’s shutter remains open. It controls the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor and influences the appearance of motion in the image, from freezing action to creating motion blur. Therefore, a shorter shutter speed will translate into a darker, more static image whereas a longer shutter speed will capture a brighter image with more motion blur.
Focal length determines the magnification and field of view of a lens. It affects the perspective, compression, and the apparent distance between objects in the frame. For example, shorter focal lengths like wide-angle lenses will have a wide-angle of view, whereas longer focal lengths like telephotos will have a narrower angle of view. The focal length will also create different effects, like distortion in wide angles of view, and magnification in narrower angles of view. The following infographic helps to explain this concept in greater detail.
Achieving accurate focus is vital for producing sharp images. Almost all cameras feature an auto-focus and manual focus toggle to give you options for how you want to achieve perfect focus. In most cases, auto-focus is a great tool to use and can help you achieve focus quickly in fast moving situations.
However, you may choose to use manual focus when the auto-focus function is having trouble focusing on the portion of the frame you want it to and during low light conditions.