Photography basics – know the most important camera settings

The importance of knowing photography basics do not differ whether you are into digital photography or you are using film or slides. In most cases the perfect photo should be pin sharp and have perfect lightning (not too light and not too dark). Actually the photo should be as close as possible to what the eye recognized. Indeed that is how every photographer wants the shots to be.

You like me most probably have experienced the disappointment when shooting a perfect sunset with beautiful colors,

macro flower
Macro image of flower

just to realize when the photo was developed, it was not even close to what you experienced at the scene. The example of the sunset is a typical motive where the cameras automatic functions are fooled and the photo gets to dark.



You should take control from the beginning. Digital photography has a big advantage as you can see the photo instantly. By knowing the basics of photography you can make the needed adjustments, and shoot again.



Photography terms you should know

Exposure
Correct exposure is photography basics and what all good pictures are about. Exposure is the term for how much light the sensor receives. This is dependent on how wide opening (aperture) the lens is set on when shooting and for how long time (shutter speed) the sensor is exposed for the light. You will find more info here.

Shutter speed
Express how long the sensor is exposed to light. When you push the shutter-button the shutter between the camera and lens opens up, and the light have free way to the sensor. In addition to getting the right exposure to your photo, the shutter speed can be used to get creative photographic effects. If you want to know more and see some examples on how the shutter speed can affect your photos, read more here.

Aperture
Is the size of the opening in the camera lens when the light “exposes” the camera sensor. The aperture controls how much light is let through the lens. This opening is expressed as f-values. The smaller f-value the bigger opening and more light enters into the camera. Another important feature of the aperture is the possibilities of controlling the depth of field (DOF) for creative effects. Read more and see examples here

Sensitivity (ISO)
Like conventional film have different sensitivity for light expressed as ASA, the digital camera sensors also have a sensitivity rating expressed as ISO. The higher ISO the less light the sensor needs for a correct exposure.

macro bud
Coltsfoot bud

As with film, the higher ASA the more noise, the digital sensors also introduce more noise with higher ISO. A normal ISO for most digital cameras is from 50 to 200, with possibilities of increasing to 3200 or even higher in advanced cameras.


The big advantage in digital is you can change the sensitivity (ISO) without changing the film. In digital you can adjust the sensors sensitivity from shot to shot if needed. Be aware digital compact cameras will introduce more noise than a DSLR at the same ISO due to the much smaller sensor in the compacts.


I often adjust the ISO when the light conditions are difficult (too little available light). On my old camera Nikon D70 I sometimes forgot to adjust the ISO back to the lowest level (ISO 200). I did this because the viewfinder did not have any sign telling the ISO was adjusted. The result of this has been some time I have taken photos in good light conditions with ISO at 1600. I have not recognized this before I have downloaded the photos to the computer and seen a lot of noise in these pictures. At ISO 1600 the D70 had quite a lot of noise. So if you increase the ISO, don’t forget to set it back to normal.

Summary - Photography basic

If you are not familiar with the use of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, you should spend some time experimenting with this in the beginning. Photography tips like the ones you find on this pages guides you from the photography basics to more advanced and creative use of your digital camera. As soon you know how to control these three important settings, you can start having some fun with the camera.