Memorize this short “mantra” in order to master photography – ISO, shutter speed, aperture. If you repeat this to yourself a few times you will be able to easily remember the three things that will always save, or ruin, an exposure. They don’t have to come specifically in that order, but nevertheless, these three things are what will determine your exposure.
Why are they so important?
When we talk about a photograph we usually speak of it in terms of subject matter, lighting, balance, etc. In reality, the three things that make that picture possible or effective were the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. If you can master these three activities then you will be able to always create the kind of results you want, regardless of conditions.
Remarkably, even the most modern of digital cameras cannot always guarantee success. That includes top of the range digital cameras. If the camera allows the photographer to shoot entirely in manual mode, however, almost any sort of lighting conditions or photographic requirements can be tackled. Even better, if the camera has “semi-automatic” features such as aperture or shutter priority settings the photographer’s life just got even easier.
Don’t know about these settings?
Well, there are all kinds of descriptions, metaphors, and illustrations as to how these three factors interact to make a final image, but these tend to make very little sense unless you really understand the fundamentals of the three settings. It begins with ISO, which is the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to the light entering through the lens. The ISO can be automatically adjusted to ever increasing levels of sensitivity, but this comes at a cost, and that is digital “noise” or graininess in the photograph. Instead of making the sensor do the work, the photographer should consider letting more light into the camera.
This can be done via the aperture of the lens or the speed of the shutter. Both choices also come with some valuable and steady compromise, and it is up to the photographer to select the right setting for their photographic intention. When they decide to allow more light in through the lens, by opening or closing the aperture they will instantly change the depth of field. This will make the background and foreground sharper or blurrier. When the photographer sets the aperture at a very low number, such as 2.8, they are actually flooding the camera with light. This shortens the depth of field and makes everything but the subject extremely blurry. Obviously a smaller or higher aperture setting will do the opposite, and this is usually what a landscape or cityscape photographer chooses.
If they decide to control light through shutter speed they will have to understand that slower shutters allow a lot more light into the camera, but this runs the risk of adding blur to the image too. Shutter speed also has a lot to do with controlling motion. When something is moving fast, you will be able to capture that motion as sharp and “frozen in mid air” or, alternatively, you may simply choose a “streaky blur” look to add more artistic value to your image.
A common problem photographers have is shooting fast motion in low light. There really is no “magic” answer to this. You need as much light as possible. Since there are only really three ways to enhance the lighting in your images, you really only have three options available to you; a slower shutter, a wide aperture or a higher ISO. Each have their advantages and disadvantages and it is up to you what you are prepared to gain and prepared to lose. You may want a frozen in mid air look of a fast motion subject and are prepared to have a little more noise in your image. Or you may choose a slightly blurrier look but a lot less noise.
If the photographer knows that they must have a specific aperture or shutter speed for the image, and the camera has priority modes, they can simply set the element that they want, and the camera will tackle the rest. The trick is learning exactly what is required!
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This article provided by Amy Renfrey (visit her website)