Photography : ISO, aperture + shutter speed
ISO 100, f1.8, 1/6400 (late on a very sunny afternoon)
Now that you have let go of the fear surrounding the M mode on your camera, it’s time to explain the three main settings that ultimately work together to create a photo. Whilst this is a technical post I honestly believe that the best way to learn is to pick up your camera, play with the settings and take hundreds of photos. Don’t rely solely on instructions; the best photos are taken by a photographer who has, in his or her own way, developed an intuitive approach to taking photos; essentially, the camera is an extension of the photo taker.
When you first take the leap onto manual mode, set aside a good hour to take photos. Ideally, you want to shoot in the early morning or late afternoon (for those of us with daylight savings, early evening is good, too) as the light is more forgiving at this time. Remember that one good photo out of 100 shots is commendable; don’t set your expectations to high.
When I’m setting up a shot on my camera, I adjust the settings in the following order:
ISO basically measures your camera’s sensitivity to light. Essentially, the lower the ISO (ISO100) the less sensitive your camera is, the higher the ISO (ISO8000) the more sensitive. So, during the day when you’re shooting outside, you would generally set your ISO to 100 (the lowest setting). Indoor photography on a sunny day usually requires ISO400 and if you’re shooting in low-light conditions, you would need to go even higher. However, the higher the ISO, the more grain you’ll get in your photo (unless you’re shooting on a top-of-the-range camera). Indeed, low light capabilities are one of the most alluring aspects of expensive cameras (and it’s one of the main reasons I upgraded from the GF1).
Aperture also controls the depth of field which is essentially the degree of blur behind your subject. As you can see below, I shot two photos of Che at the beach using two different aperture settings. A larger aperture setting – f1.4 on the left- will isolate the subject in the foreground and blur the background whereas a smaller aperture setting – f7.1 on the right – will bring the foreground and background into focus.
Shutter speed is essentially the exposure time; the length of time the camera’s shutter is open to light. I wouldn’t recommend shooting under 1/125 (of a second) unless you’re using a tripod (or have very steady hands). This is particularly applicable if you’re photographing people, especially wriggly children. Generally, a slow shutter speed will capture movement as a blurred motion but a fast shutter speed will freeze action with the upmost clarity.
As you can see below, a slow shutter speed of 1/640 has captured Poet on her scooter as “motion blur” where as a fast shutter speed of 1/2000 has frozen the water droplets from the garden hose.
There’s a little bar in your viewfinder or on your screen that measures shutter speed – it’s called your light metre. Ideal exposure is measured at “0” – an under exposed shot will be measured at “-1” or “-2” whereas an overexposed shot will be measured at “+1” or “+2”
But light exposure is a highly subjective matter. Ultimately, you control the look of your images by under exposing or over exposing, depending on whether you prefer a light-filled capture or a darker, moodier vibe.
ISO + Aperture + Shutter Speed
Notice that I’ve mention light a lot? Essentially, ISO, aperture and shutter speed work together to create your ideal lighting conditions.
When I’m setting up a shot, I’ll do the following:
ISO 100, f1.4, 1/640 (outside in early afternoon sun)
ISO 100, f2.0, 1/4000 (outside in midday sun)
ISO 500, f1.8, 1/250 (inside in the early morning)
I am in no way an expert at technical photography. Instead, I’ve explained these settings as I understand them – I hope it’s been helpful! If you have any questions please ask them in the comments section.