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Photography Basics

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Getting to know your camera

Learn to use the other settings on your camera.

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Home                   Animals                   Desert Map                     Photography                What's New?

   Events     Weather     Writer's Cafe     City Profiles     Life in the Desert      Local Happenings

   You've been using the program mode, intelligent auto mode, smart auto or auto mode and now your wondering what advantage you'd have if you used one of the other modes on that round dial on the top of your camera. Sooner or later everyone wants to know. Most try it a few times and because they don't know what different settings like " f stop " means they go back to using the automatic settings. If you no longer want to admit that your camera is smarter then you, or if you want to get the most out of the camera, then you're in right place. Read on.....
   Let's start with what the different modes do for you, and when to use them
Auto mode -- the camera selects all the settings for you, good for quick shots or if you're not sure how to set the camera, like for flash photography. Sometimes the best results when using a flash are in auto mode....
Aperture Priority mode (Av, A) -- You select the aperture and the camera selects the shutter speed. Most professional photographers leave their cameras in this mode. They will often use other modes, but to a professional this the basic mode. We'll explain why.....
Camera Dial
Shutter Priority mode (Tv, S) -- You select the shutter speed and the camera selects the correct aperture. Raising the shutter speed is useful for fast moving objects, dune buggies, planes, and birds. 1/600 of a sec or faster will stop most action.
Manual mode (M) -- You select the shutter speed and the aperture, you have complete control, great for panoramas, or night shots with long exposures.
Scene modes -- You select the type of scene your shooting, macro, night scenes, landscape, fast motion, etc. Night scenes and macros  are the most useful. Landscapes are better shot in Aperture Priority mode, and fast action in Shutter Priority mode, you'll have more control. Why do we need more control?

Aperture Priority

   If you're looking to get the best out of your camera, then you should start here. To put it simply your camera lens only works the best (especially for maximum detail) if you use the f - stop in the middle range of your lens. It will be sharper and have more clarity here. So where is the middle? On a point and shoot with f - stops from "f- 2.8" to "f - 8" the best optical performance will be achieved around f - 5.6   On other lenses that go from "f - 3.5" to  "f- 22" the best performance will be between f - 8 and f - 11
   If you're not sure what setting to use then try "f - 8". Most lenses are sharp at that aperture. So what does an aperture look like? How does it work in my camera? f stops are numbered and the lower the number, more light gets into your camera, the higher the number, the less light that gets into your camera. See the diagram below. This is important for two reasons. When you use a really high number (say f - 22 ) you're letting very little light in and there's going be some degrading of the image. Think of it this way. You just can't squeeze such a large image through such a small hole without degrading it a little. This is called diffraction.
Aperture Diagrans
   Then why bother giving us an "f - 22" aperture? There may be times when you'll want everything from the foreground to the extreme background in focus and little degradation is acceptable. Also you may want to get a slower shutter speed and without a filter, this is the only way. The photo below was shot at "f - 16" to get a shutter speed of 1/2 sec. to make the water a blur. Nice effect.
Blurry Image
   This photo lost some detail in the leaves and rocks, but is doesn't detract from the image. The sole idea here was to capture the water and show motion. This was done with the loss of some detail because of the small aperture. Keep referring to the chart above. More light equals a smaller number, less light equals a larger number, seems backwards to me.
Aperture changes
   The image below shows the effect of different apertures. On a camera with a larger sensor the effect would be more pronounced. Big zoom lenses even more so -- see below. Look at the building in the background to see the effect of blurring caused by  different apertures.

Mouse over then click on this image below.

Young bird
   The image below shows the effect of a 300mm telephoto lens used at short distance of only 6 ft. On many cameras getting a blurry background is hard if not impossible regardless of the aperture. Most point and shoot cameras have a hard time blurring the background. Another choice you have with a point and shoot when photographing something close is to use the macro mode - this will blur the background.
  Aperture Priority -- what have we learned? Use it to get the highest resolution out of your lens. If you're not sure start off with "f - 8" then experiment with other settings. In the process you'll learn the options you have with your camera. This is not rocket science, just look at the aperture diagram above and you'll be able to figure it out for yourself.

Page 2   Shutter Prority and more

   One other thing of importance, when you change the aperture setting be sure to keep an eye on the shutter setting your camera selects. If the shutter speed is too slow you may end up with a blurry image from camera shake.