Camera Basics 02 / by Fran Weaver

So, we now know all about shutter speed, aperture and depth of field but how does that help us take better photographs? Over the next few sessions, I’m going to look at various examples and the changes we can make to achieve a better result.

In this session we’ll ‘take’ a photograph of a landscape with a standard (non zoom) lens on auto-focus but with the rest of the settings in manual. (Why we might want to do this I'll come to at the end.) We have effectively taken depth of field out of the equation. We take the picture and look at the result on the viewing screen and immediately see that the picture is too dark.


All is not lost ... we just need to alter the settings and take the photo again. We look at the camera and see that the picture was taken at F16 (Small aperture or opening) and at 1/125th of a second shutter speed(fairly average). We need to let more light onto the sensor so we have two options. We can either open the shutter for longer or increase the size of the opening (aperture). In fact we could alter a combination of the two, but we'll keep this example simple. The speed looks to be about right ... if we slow the shutter down too much, people moving on the beach may become blurred. So lets open the aperture by winding the F number down to F4. So just to clarify, we now have 1/125th at F4 and take another shot.


It's too bright this time, so we have let too much light onto the sensor by opening the aperture too much. Again we have the two options available to us but we have decided that 1/125th is the shutter speed we want so lets bring the F stop to F8 to reduce the aperture to somewhere in the middle.


Nailed it! So while we're on the beach and for as long as the ambient light is the same, we can confidently use 1/125 at F8 and expect similar results. Okay, it's not a brilliant photograph, but it was taken on a iPhone in 'Pano' and was used here just to make the point.

So I come to the question; why would we ever want to take the camera out of Auto when it can produce perfectly good results doing its own thing? Well .......

1.   Over the next few sessions I'll be looking at some examples where the Depth of Field is important and we need to take the camera out of Auto to achieve the desired results, so I'll ask you to bear with me on that one.

2.   The very fact that the camera can be used manually will always drive some of us to try it out. By doing so in a simple environment, where the results aren't too important, we can start to explore the capabilities of the camera so that when we need to use all of its functions we know where to start.

Ian Weaver

Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions in the box below. Remember I am trying to approach these subjects in layman's terms, but I do have an expert photographer on hand to firstly check these blogs for accuracy, and to answer any questions that I personally cannot field.