The Photographic Angle Education Tagged under Tutorials

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Education Tagged under Tutorials

THE BASICS - Film Speed (ISO)

Posted on 17th Feb 2012 by Bryony

The ISO setting on your camera refers to the film or sensor's sensitivity to light. You can change the settings on your camera to make the film or sensor very sensitive to light through to not very sensitive to light. The lower the ISO number you select, the less sensitive to light it will be.

PART 01 Setting the Film Speed

When using film photography, the film you place in the camera will come with its own film speed. When you load the film into the camera, you should select the corresponding ISO setting. So when the film you are using is 100 ISO, you should also change the ISO setting on your camera to 100. When using a digital camera, you can select a different film speed for each individual shot. Being able to change the film speed on your camera lets you match the sensitivity of your film or sensor to the amount of readily available light. When there is low light and you can increase the film speed (larger number), to capture more light if you don't want to change your aperture or shutter speed settings. When there is lots of available light, you can set your ISO setting much lower (smaller number). However, changing the film speed also changes the 'noise' or 'grain' of your photographs. The faster the film speed (the larger the number) the grainier your photos will appear, and the slower the film speed (the lower the number) the smoother your photographs will be.

PART 02 Grain/Noise

It's difficult to see this change in grain or noise when you look at the photo on your camera's LCD screen, however once you get them onto your computer or print them, it will become noticeable. If you don't need to print your images on a large scale, then you can get away with a larger film speed. Here's an example of a series of photographs, taken one after the next, each with a different film speed, from ISO 100 through to ISO 1600.

ISO Settings

In general, its better to use the lowest ISO setting possible, for a smooth photograph, unless you are looking for a grainy, noisy texture. This is what your camera chooses for you when you have it on automatic.

PART 03 Working with Aperture, Shutter Speed and Film Speed

The film speed works in conjunction with the aperture and the shutter speed. You can adjust your camera's aperture and shutter speed to allow for a lower ISO setting to be used. If you don't need a large depth of filed (with everything in focus) then you can increase your aperture (smaller number) to help let more light in. If you are using a tripod, then you can increase your shutter speed to let light in for longer. Both these options will allow you to lower your ISO setting and this will give have a smoother finish to your photograph.


Don't forget to check your ISO setting from when you last used your camera; it can be disappointing to have a grainy shot when there was plenty of light available!

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THE BASICS - Aperture And Shutter Speed

Posted on 9th Feb 2012 by Bryony

When you use your camera on automatic, it makes a lot of decisions for you about the amount of available light, and how to best capture the scene in front of your lens. But what are these calculations that the camera is making? And what happens if we start making those decisions…what is the creative potential of us taking control?

This article is about two essential factors that decide what your film or digital sensor is exposed to, these are the lens aperture and the shutter release speed. There is another factor that affects the amount of light recorded on your film or sensor, this is called the ISO which stands for 'International Standards Organisation' and refers to the film or sensor's sensitivity to light. This will be discussed in a separate tutorial. Being able to control all of these three elements, both individually and together is controlling the very essence of photography - the capturing of light.

PART 01 Shutter Speed

The camera's shutter speed refers to the speed at which a small screen in front of the film or sensor opens and then closes again. When you click the button on your camera to take a picture (the shutter release button) you are opening the shutter. How long this stays open for depends on how long you set your shutter release speed to. It is measured in tiny fractions of seconds ranging from 1/8000 (which is a very quick) to 30 seconds (which is very slow). Changing how long the shutter stays open for, controls the amount of time that light can be collected by your film, or sensor.

If you are taking pictures outside on a very bright day, there will be lots of readily available light. If your camera's shutter stays open for too long the film or sensor will take in too much light, filling the whole frame with bright white light. If your camera's shutter is open for a tiny fraction of second, 1/500 then the camera captures all of the detail you see in front of you. In cloudy, or poorly lit conditions, your film or sensor needs longer to capture the small amount of light around you. But be aware, the longer the shutter release is open for, the more likely it is that you will move while the film or sensor is being exposed, causing the image to appear blurry.

outdoor bright lighting
Fast shutter speed, lots of available light
1/320 seconds - f/9

PART 02 The Aperture

In between the film or sensor and the shutter is a small hole, and the size of this hole can be changed. This hole is called the aperture. The hole can be made very small, "stopped down" or made very large "opened up". The larger you make the hole, the more light will be allowed to reach the film or sensor when you release the shutter. The size of the hole is referred to as the f-stop and is written like this: f/2.8 or f/16. When the f-number is small, like f/2.8 or f/5.6 the aperture is large, meaning the hole is opened up wide letting in more light. When the f-number is larger such as f/16 the aperture is only open a little bit, meaning less light is let in.

Together the aperture and the shutter release settings determine the exposure of the photograph. Being able to change both these variables, means there are different combinations of settings available to you to get the desired exposure. For example, if you are shooting on a bright day outside, you can take in lots of light very quickly with a wide aperture and a quick shutter speed. You could also take in a smaller amount of light over a longer period of time, with a tiny aperture and longer shutter speed.

Everything in focus
Everything is in sharp focus
1/320 seconds - f/16

But these two variations, give you very different looking photographs. This is because the shutter speed and the aperture control two key elements of photography. Shutter speed controls the appearance of time in your photograph, and the aperture controls the depth of field.

PART 03 Time

A very fast shutter speed captures light reflected off objects for the briefest amount of time. On a fast shutter speed the 'action' is frozen, so water droplets will appear suspended in the air, people running will appear poised mid-stride and moving cars will appear almost stationary. Whereas when you use a slow shutter speed, water flowing down a mountain will blur into a hazy glow, and stars moving across the sky will appear to have trails, this blurring can give a very powerful sense of motion.

Using a slow shutter speed and a small aperture
1/40 seconds - f/20

PART 04 Depth of Field

The element affected by changing the aperture is the photograph's depth of field. The 'field' refers to everything within the frame of the photograph, from things that are close to the camera to things that are furthest away. The depth of this field refers to how much of the field is in sharp focus. A very small aperture (large f-number) will keep everything in the field in focus. A very large aperture (a small f-number) will only keep a tiny slice of the photo in focus, such as the eyes of an animal while the rest of the picture will be beautifully blurred.

Leona Purvis
photograph by Leona Purvis (2011)
Narrow depth of field
1/60 seconds - f/2.8

PART 05 Using the Aperture and Shutter Speed Together

The shutter speed and Aperture affect each other, as they both regulate how much light is getting onto the film or sensor. So whilst you are concentrating on getting a narrow depth of field, with only one part of the picture in clear focus, by using a large aperture (small f-number) you will also need to reduce the shutter speed to let less light in. And if you make the aperture smaller (a large f-number), to get a clear focus throughout your depth of field, you need to lengthen your shutter release time to compensate for the small aperture.

TV and AV priority
Example of Aperture priority and Shutter priority settings

Nearly all cameras allow you to experiment with either the aperture or shutting speed, taking control of the other while you experiment. These are called shutter and aperture priority. The shutter priority mode (often named Tv) will let you choose the shutter speed you want for the effect you'd like, and the camera will work out the aperture for you. The aperture priority mode (known as Av) lets you decide on the aperture setting, and the camera will work out the best shutter speed for that shot. When experimenting with blurring and freezing motion, begin with shutter priority and let the camera help you work out the aperture. When you want to control the focus of a photograph, with wide or narrow depths of field, turn the aperture priority mode on and let the camera work out your shutter speed. We will revisit this topic later with details and examples for calculating the exact exposure and affect you want to achieve, along with examples from professional photographers for how they put them into practice.

Mountain photography from:

Image: vichie81 /

Motorcycle photography from:

Image: Toa55 /

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