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Camera Settings

Uses for a small aperture

Filed in Aperture, Tips by on April 15, 2017 3 Comments
Uses for a small aperture

If you’re a beginning photographer, the concept of aperture can be a little confounding. Smaller numbers equal larger apertures? Smaller apertures equal larger numbers? That’s all pretty confusing.

Fortunately, modern cameras are designed to be easy for beginning photographers to use, which means that you may not have figured there was much point in learning about and understanding aperture, at least not right away. And because many modern cameras also have scene modes—which can help you make good choices about your camera’s settings without necessarily needing to understand what is happening behind the scenes—you have even less incentive to think about aperture.

But auto settings and scene modes can only take you so far, and at a certain point you’re going to want to have more creative freedom and control over your photos than what those automatic settings can give you. And one of the first things that you need to understand is what aperture can do for you creatively.

##Uses for a narrow aperture

In this article we’re going to focus specifically on the uses for a narrow aperture. When you select a narrow aperture, you are choosing to make the hole between your lens and your image sensor smaller. That smaller hole lets in less light, which limits your ability to shoot in low light conditions. But it does also do something positive for you—that narrower aperture gives your image a broader depth of field.

##Depth of field explained

Depth of field is the term used to describe the amount of a scene that remains in focus from foreground background. An image with very broad depth of field is completely sharp, from the foreground elements to the very distant background elements, while an image that has shallow depth of field may not have many sharp elements at all, beyond the subject or focus point itself. The reasons why you might choose a shallow depth of field over a broad one are creative. Shallow depth of field helps separate your subject from its background, while a broad depth of field maintains detail throughout a photograph.

##Landscapes

The most common reason why you might select a narrow aperture is because you’re photographing a landscape. When you shoot a landscape, you typically want the entire scene to be in focus. If the entire scene is not in focus, it’s not really landscape—it’s an isolated object within a landscape. So when a photographer takes a photograph of a landscape, she will typically select a very narrow aperture of around f/22. If there is something in the very near foreground that needs to be kept in focus, it is even more important to keep that aperture narrow because you want that near object to be just as sharp as the distant ones.

Landscape

Selecting a narrow aperture typically means selecting a slower shutter speed, so you may find that you can’t hand-hold your camera when you use a very narrow aperture, because your shutter speed will be too slow. Taking a photograph hand-held with a slow shutter speed can result in camera shake, which can give your photograph a jagged, blurry appearance. Except on a very bright day (and there’s a good argument for not shooting landscape photos on very bright days) it is a good idea to always bring a tripod along with you whenever you’re planning to shoot scenery.

Along with the tripod you will also need a remote release, which will allow you to make an exposure without actually touching your camera. During a long exposure, just pressing that shutter button can be enough to cause camera shake, so make sure you either have a remote release or that you use your camera’s self timer feature to count down around five seconds between the time you touch the button and the time the shutter opens.

##Macro photography

Similarly, you’ll want to select a narrow aperture when shooting macro photos. A macro photo is any image taken at very close range of a very small object. When you get close to a tiny object such as insect or a small flower, you’ll notice that you get much shallower depth of field even at apertures that would normally give you good clarity from foreground to background. That’s because the closer you get your subject, the less depth of field you’re going to have overall—and at those very close ranges your depth of field can actually be measured in millimeters. So you need to use those narrow apertures in order to bring the more distant details into focus.

Pinwheel

Just like with landscapes, you may find that you need a tripod when shooting macros. This isn’t just because of the slower shutter speeds you’ll have to use (although that does factor into it), it is also because the closer you get to your subject the more any camera shake will be magnified. That means that you can shoot at reasonably faster shutter speeds and still get some noticeable blur caused by the movement of your camera. And the movement of your camera may also throw your focus point off, so you’ll get sharpness in parts of the frame that you hadn’t intended, while those you did intend to be sharp will end up blurry.

##Starbursts

Have you ever admired a photograph like this one:

San Francisco - Pier 7

This photographer did not use any fancy post-processing techniques or filters to achieve this effect. This effect can actually be produced simply by selecting a narrow aperture.

The starburst effect is actually a function of those aperture blades, or the overlapping pieces of material that help adjust the size of the aperture opening. When light passes through the smaller aperture opening, it bends around the edges of those blades, which is what creates the starburst rays.

In order to achieve this effect, you need hard points of light such as a string of Christmas lights or a row of bright streetlights. And because you’ll be shooting at narrow apertures in the dark, you will need longer shutter speeds—which, of course, means that you will absolutely have to have a tripod.

Remember that when you shoot after dark you can’t really trust your meter, so it’s a good idea to take a few bracketed exposures. To bracket your shots, shoot one that is at your camera’s recommended meter reading, and then check your screen to see if you like the results. If not, take a few shots that are reading as underexposed, and a few shots that are reading overexposed, depending on how much darker or brighter you want the scene to be. Remember to adjust your shutter speed, not your aperture. To achieve the starburst effect, your aperture needs to remain narrow—for the most dramatic effect, choose f/22.

You can also get starbursts during the day if you use a narrow aperture and include the sun in the frame. Again, metering a scene like this one will be a challenge—because the sun is such a bright light source, your meter may want to underexpose the scene to compensate for all of that light. Bracketing your shots is going to give you the best chance at good results.

##Car light trails

Light trails are a fun and creative way to capture some interesting photos, and they also require narrow apertures. The reason why you need narrow apertures to shoot light trails is because these scenes are often shot with very long exposures—and long exposures require narrow apertures. Those very long exposures, in turn, are necessary to get a complete trail from the left of the frame to the right (although the speed of the traffic does have some influence).

Downtown

A tripod, of course, is an essential part of the gear you’ll need to shoot light trails, but you’ll also need a camera that can do “bulb” mode and a willingness to experiment. Select a narrow aperture and use a remote release to open the shutter just before a car enters the frame, and then close it again just after it leaves. Check your screen and make adjustments to your ISO and aperture as needed—again, for night scenes like this you can’t completely trust your meter.

##Misty waterfalls

There are other creative reasons for using a narrow aperture, and one of them is because you may find yourself wanting to use a slow shutter speed even though the sun is out. A good example of this might be when you’re shooting a waterfall. You know those beautiful, soft, misty-looking images of waterfalls, which seem more like fog than actual water? Those are all shot with a slow shutter speed, and you can’t achieve a slow shutter speed during the day unless you’re using a small aperture, or you happen to be in a very dark place.

I will say that sometimes the smallest available aperture on your camera isn’t necessarily going to be enough to allow for a slow enough shutter speed for that soft water effect. Sometimes you need a neutral density filter to help cut back on the amount of light in the scene. This is mostly going to be a problem when you’re shooting in a bright place, or at a bright time of day such as the late morning or early afternoon. If, however, you are shooting during the golden hour—that hour just after sunrise or just before sunset—there’s going to be less light overall and you will probably get some pretty good images just by selecting a small aperture and long shutter speed combination. Remember (again) that you do need to use a tripod any time you are shooting with a slow shutter speed.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_source=38919&irgwc=1&tpl=38919-111120&utm_campaign=Eezy%20Inc&id=371743663

##Conclusion

If the concept of aperture is still new to you, and you’re still a little shaky on it overall, I recommend you put your camera in aperture priority mode and spend a day—and possibly part of your night as well—shooting photographs with a narrow aperture setting (remember: narrow aperture corresponds to larger f-numbers). I think you’ll find it that you are so pleased with some of the creative effects you’re able to achieve that you will wonder why you didn’t step outside of auto mode sooner.

##Summary:

1. What is aperture?
2. Depth of field explained
3. Landscapes
4. Macro
5. Starbursts
6. Car light trails
7. Moving water

How ‘Creeping’ Can Improve Your Images

Filed in EXIF, Tips by on April 15, 2017 0 Comments
How ‘Creeping’ Can Improve Your Images

So you know how you follow some people on Facebook with great interest but don’t actually ever talk to them? The urban dictionary calls that “creeping,” which is similar to stalking but without malicious intent. This week, I’m going to advocate doing something similar with other photographers, only instead of keeping track of their Facebook posts, you’re going to be keeping track of their Flickr posts, and the EXIF data attached to them. Continue Reading »

When to Use a Wide Aperture

When to Use a Wide Aperture

Aperture is one of the three settings that make up “the exposure triangle.” Along with shutter speed, your aperture essentially controls how much light reaches your image sensor. Your image sensor, in turn, is responsible for forming the image, which is then saved to your memory card.

Because aperture is one of the three settings that you can use to control exposure, it may not be immediately clear why it might make a difference whether you choose a large aperture or a small one, just so long as you’re getting the correct exposure. But while getting good exposure should be one of your primary goals as a photographer, it doesn’t address things that you can do creatively to change your results. So with that in mind, here are a few situations where you might need a large aperture—both from a practical standpoint and from a creative one. Continue Reading »

Start Using High ISOs!

Filed in ISO, Tips by 13 Comments
Start Using High ISOs!

There are some things about photography that remain as true today as they were 100 years ago. Narrow apertures produce photos with broad depth of field, for example, while wide apertures produce images with shallow depth of field. Fast shutter speeds freeze action, slow shutter speeds create motion blur. And high ISOs create images with noise or grain, while low ISOs do not. Except that the last one isn’t really true anymore—but people still think it is. Read on to learn more. Continue Reading »

What is an Exposure?

What is an Exposure?

You’ve almost certainly heard someone refer to the act of taking a photograph as “making an exposure.” But what does the word “exposure” actually mean? Read on to find out. Continue Reading »

Making the Switch to RAW

Filed in RAW, Tips by 10 Comments
Making the Switch to RAW

If you’re like a lot of beginners, you probably don’t think a whole lot about file formats. After all, we live in a world of JPEG. Most of the images that we see online are JPEGs. Most of the images that family and friends forward to us in emails are JPEGs. And for the most part, our cameras shoot JPEG by default. In fact it’s possible you don’t even really understand what a JPEG is, and that’s okay, because most people don’t really have cause to even think about it. You take some photos, you upload them to your favorite photo processing service, you order prints and they arrive in your mailbox. Why mess with a system that isn’t broken? Would it surprise you to hear that the system kind of is broken, if you think about it? Read on to find out why.
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Ask David: Why does aperture decrease when zoom increases?

Ask David: Why does aperture decrease when zoom increases?

You’re the proud owner of a new lens. It’s a pretty awesome lens, if you do say so yourself. It zooms all the way out to 300mm, and down to 70mm, which means you can use it in a lot of situations – from photographing those birds in your backyard trees to capturing great candid shots of your kids playing on the lawn below them. But you just noticed something about that brand new lens – the aperture doesn’t always stay where you want it to. Why?
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Metering 101: How To Use Your Camera’s Metering Modes

Metering 101: How To Use Your Camera’s Metering Modes

All modern consumer-level cameras come equipped with a light meter. And a good thing too, because without a meter photography would be at best, a game of educated guesses, and at worse, a festival of complete and utter frustration. But if I had to guess, I’d say that this most-important piece of photography equipment is probably the most taken-for-granted of anything that comes equipped on a camera. You change your shutter speed, aperture and ISO pretty regularly. You probably also change your white balance setting and your focusing mode. But you may not pay a whole lot of attention to your meter.
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White Balance 101 – How to Get It Right

White Balance 101 – How to Get It Right

Until you started taking photos, you may not have even been aware of such a thing as white balance. That’s because in the real world, white balance is a function of your brain. Our brains are pretty good at white balance, actually, so good that many photographers have to train themselves to consciously understand what our brains just do for us behind the scenes, every single day.

However, your camera isn’t as smart. Fortunately, there is an easy way to make sure you don’t get a color ‘cast’ in your photos.
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What is lossless JPEG?

Filed in RAW, Tips by 5 Comments
What is lossless JPEG?

You’ve probably heard a lot about JPG vs. Raw. These are two file formats that most modern DSLRs offer, but you may have also heard about another one – “lossless JPEG”.
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Why You Shouldn’t Increase ISO Too Far

Filed in ISO, Tips by 0 Comments
Why You Shouldn’t Increase ISO Too Far

Modern digital camera technology has blessed us with something we never used to have: noise-free, high ISO photos.

Cameras have come so far in their ability to capture images at high ISOs that camera manufacturers have started to really use this as a selling point. You’ll often see modern DSLR cameras advertised as being capable of ISOs of 25,600, or even as high as 128,000. In fact it’s kind of like the new megapixel (and contrary to popular belief, high megapixels aren’t necessarily better). But should you really use this as a reason to purchase or not purchase a digital camera?
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How to Bracket without Auto-Bracketing

How to Bracket without Auto-Bracketing

Our cameras are wonderful tools. They can measure the available light and use that information to make a good guess about what settings are required to get the highlights, shadows and everything in between pretty close to the way it was in real life. As photographers, we rely on our cameras and metering system to do this job – without those metering systems, we’d have to use our eyes and brains to figure out the right shutter speed and aperture combination.

But here’s the thing: all that wonderful technology still isn’t good enough to guarantee perfect results every single time. Your camera does a pretty good job of most of the time But it can’t account for all those different variations in light that might happen in unusual situations.

That’s where bracketing can work well. Today, we’ll look at bracketing, why it works, and how you can bracket your own images without needing to let the camera do it.
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Ask David: When do I use different shutter speeds?

Ask David: When do I use different shutter speeds?

Your camera is an amazing creative tool. That’s not really intuitive to a lot of beginners, because cameras are so good at recording reality. But the fact is that you can use your camera to manipulate reality just as you can use it to recreate reality and the simplest creative tool your camera has is shutter speed. Shutter speed works in two directions–you can either slow it down or speed it up. Use a slow shutter speed to emphasize movement. Use a faster shutter speed to freeze movement. So how do you decide when to choose a slow shutter speed, and when to choose a faster one?
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Shooting Modes Explained: What M, AV, TV, P, and B Really Mean

Shooting Modes Explained: What M, AV, TV, P, and B Really Mean

Good news, you’ve got a fancy new camera. Bad news, you have no idea how to use it or what any of the settings do or mean. Making the jump from a point and shoot to a DSLR requires you to embrace a massive learning curve. Below is some information to demystify the shooting modes and help you differentiate each mode from the others.
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The raw vs JPEG showdown : Which file format is better?

Filed in RAW, Tips by 10 Comments
The raw vs JPEG showdown : Which file format is better?

Since the dawn of digital photography, photographers have been fighting it out, trying to ascertain which photo file format is best. Some will swear by RAW files with their seemingly limitless options, while others claim JPEGs are smaller, quicker, and better. I’m here to help break down the differences, similarities, pitfalls, and perks of both RAW and JPEG to maybe even settle this age-old (or decade old) battle.
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