When buying a good level camera (see my article on the differences between a Reflex and a Mirrorless camera) , one of the first things we ask ourselves immediately after taking some photos is what they are used for and how we use all those shooting modes beyond Automatic mode and here the 5 basic concepts of photography come into play.
Yes, there is a wheel above the cameras that attracts many novice photography enthusiasts: it is the ring of the shooting modes .
What is it about?
It is a ring that allows us to choose between various sets of basic default settings for each type of photography or to put the camera in totally manual mode.
It therefore allows you to set different ways in which parameters such as aperture, exposure times and ISO sensitivity will be determined by you or the camera automatically .
Whether you are using an SLR or a mirrorless (if you still have to buy one and you don’t know how to orient yourself I suggest you to write the article on which camera to choose according to your needs) , you cannot take a photo without knowing some key concepts that concern also these parameters.
Here are the 5 basic concepts for learning to photograph
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Shutter speed (also called exposure time)
The shutter speed or exposure time indicates the time in which the camera sensor is exposed to light, for how long, that is, the sensor is hit by light rays: the length of time the shutter of the camera, which is the element of the machine body made up of two mechanical curtains that open and close to allow or not the passage of light, it will remain open.
The shorter the shutter speed (or exposure) and the less light will be collected by the sensor or, conversely, the longer the shutter speed and the more light will be collected by the sensor.
The values are indicated in the camera in fractions of a second: 1 / 125s, 1 / 50s, 1 / 25s and so on.
The choice to keep the sensor exposed for more or less time to light also serves to obtain some particular creative effects In addition to the input light, the exposure time adjustment will allow us to obtain particular creative effects, such as those you see in the two photos here under.
Opening the diaphragm
The diaphragm is a mechanical element that is found in the lenses of the camera and has the particularity of creating a hole of variable dimensions (which can be changed with the settings ) in order to adjust the amount of light that passes inside the lens.
Typical values indicating aperture are fractions such as f / 32, f / 22, f / 16 and so on.
Read also The exposure meter: what is an exposure meter, what is it used for and how to use it
Changing the aperture settings involves varying the depth of field, which is a very important concept for obtaining good photographs based on the type of subject you want to photograph.
Typical values of the aperture are called f-stop and are : f / 1, f / 1.4, f / 2, f / 2.8, f / 4, f / 5.6, f / 8, f / 11, f / 16 , f / 22, f / 32 etc.
Each f-stop halves the intensity of light incident on the optical system compared to the previous one.
To learn more, we invite you to read our article on aperture and depth of field (the ability to see all the elements in a scene in focus or only a part of them). Don’t worry, we will investigate the depth of field in a later article, for now let’s continue our exploration of the 5 basic concepts of photography.
Low f values (for example f / 1.8) indicate a wide aperture and narrow, as seen in this photo, the area in focus by reducing the depth of field: the result is that the leaves with the drops in foreground are perfectly in focus while the whole background is not. Particularly suitable for portraits or photographs of full-scene subjects.
High f values (f / 22, for example) entail a narrow aperture and, as you can see in this photo, the depth of field is wide allowing to have a larger portion of the space in focus: in this photo that I took, in fact, the wall in the left half of the photo is almost 4 meters further away from the lens than the wall which is located in the right part of the photograph, which is much closer, yet the two walls are perfectly in focus and they seem put together as in a photomontage. This choice is particularly suitable for landscape photography, for example.
ISO: what are ISOs and what are they for?
The ISO in digital photography indicates the sensitivity of the sensor to light and is a parameter that is electronically adjusted (in analogue photography it corresponds to the ASA, the sensitivity values of photographic films).
High ISO values indicate a higher sensitivity and therefore a greater amount of light perceived by the camera, and this allows you to shoot scenes in which the available light is less without adding artificial or auxiliary lights such as flash or lamps.
The other side of the ISO increase coin is the deterioration of the quality of the photograph, the increase of unwanted elements, and the loss of definition: the more the ISO sensitivity increases the more the image degrades with the increase of what it is called digital noise.
About the ISO and the 5 basic concepts of photography, you may also be interested in reading “What is the histogram for” .
In this photo you can see how the left side, which has a very high ISO value, shows many white points in the night sky: here is the digital noise.
White balance (WB) is a very important setting in digital cameras and is often overlooked by photographers.
White balance is the process by which you can correct any color cast of a photograph to make the reproduction of the color tones impressed on the sensor of the digital camera as faithful and correct as possible when taking a photograph. Each type of light has its own temperature which leads to a chromatic effect, and the camera must be set up to interpret it correctly.
Typical values are: Tungsten 2850K, Daylight 5150-5500K, Shadow 7000K. [K stands for Kelvin]
An incorrect setting of the white balance creates chromatic deviations and an incorrect interpretation of the colors of the scene: it is therefore important to understand how to manage the white balance to make a correct representation of the scene or use this function to insert creative elements in the photograph.
In this example we can see how the white balance can totally change the chromatic scene within the same landscape.
Of course, the 5 basic concepts of photography cannot fail to mention focus.
Read also What is the opening of the diaphragm and how is it used in photography
This is one of the most important operations and is to be done before shooting: with the focus we decide which or which subjects to make clear of our photo.
Mechanically this is achieved by changing the distance between the objective lenses and the sensor to obtain a defined projection of the image on the latter element.
Cameras equipped with autofocus allow you to do this simply by pressing the shutter button halfway: this causes the lens to focus on the subject we are framing and then end the run by pressing the shutter button all the way down and take the photograph.
The focus is also available manually in all cameras and allows you to manually adjust the focus distance: doing it manually can be useful in conditions where autofocus cannot find the subject independently (for example in scenes in low light or with little contrast).