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Artem Frolov

Dr. Flower
Life Unlimited?
06 October 2014
Photography Complex
In a world of iPhones and tablets, point-and-shoots and cameras on just about anything
electronic available at the store, many walk around proudly with a self-proclaimed photographer
title. They beam at their extraordinary post-processing abilities and fluid control of all twenty
Instagram filters. "My work is out there", they say, holding up a phone with a slick case and a
screen full of "hip" abstract photos hashtagged #VSCOcam. Photographer, yeah right.
A photo consists of many aspects that all work together long before an image is recorded.
Depending on the type of camera, the way in which an image is captured may differ, but from
iPhone, to DSLRs, to medium/large format, exposure is always made up of shutter speed, aperture,
and ISO (sensor/film sensitivity). Each alters the amount of light allowed on the sensor, but each
has a distinct way of doing so and can potentially create profound differences.
Aperture is perhaps the most essential to know how to control, as it's creative effect adds a
great look to any photo. Though controlled by the camera (unless the setup is all manual), aperture
is physically manipulated in the lens. Small blades of (depending on the lens) various quantity
expand and contract the hole through which light travels. This is identical to the eyes iris. The
lower the f-stop the wider the aperture, the more light is allowed on the sensor. Additionally, lower
f-stops also make for shallower depth-of-field giving separation between subject and the
foreground/background.
Shutter speed describes the physical amount of time the shutter allows the sensor to be
exposed to light. The slower the shutter is, the longer the exposure time. For general hand-held
photography, the shutter speed is usually anywhere between 1/6s0-1/8000 of a second. Older CCD

sensor cameras, like the Canon 1D, were capable of shutter speeds up to 1/16000 sec. Shutter speed,
of course, varies tremendously on the available light, other exposure settings, focal length,
steadiness of hands, and the desired effect. Like aperture, shutter speed adds unique blur to the
image but now in the form of motion blur. Longer exposure times allow for more blur and vice
versa. Shutter speeds can be hours long allowing enough time to trace the trails of stars and short
enough to capture a bullet crashing through an apple with perfect clarity.
The ISO setting is the last component to exposure. It dictates the sensors sensitivity to light.
Intuitively, the higher the setting is, the more sensitive the sensor which allows for more flexibility
with other exposure settings. However, there is a cap. A dark environment doesnt mean up the ISO
and continue shooting. Sensitivity setting affects an image in the terms of noise. Noise is a general
term that describes the artifacting, and in extreme cases the break-up, of data. These variations of
brightness and color in the pixels create millions of dots that are sometimes called grain. The higher
the ISO, the more visible noise there is. Also, physical sensor size plays a major role in the noise
amount. Full frame 35mm cameras have significantly less noise than a smaller 4/3 or micro4/3
sensor in the same conditions, same pixel count and assuming the same focal-plane luminance. A
given amount of pixels in a more concentrated area produce more noise. This megapixel to sensor
size ratio partly explains why phones like the HTC One generally have a cleaner low-light photo
than higher pixel rivals like the LG G2 which has 13MP vs HTCs 4MP.
Beyond the basics of photography, there are millions of other factors that play into the
production of an image. Even exposure becomes exponentially more complex with the introduction
of a flash, and even more so with multiple flashes. Each light source has its own settings for
brightness and angle not to mention the physical proximity to the subject. Lenses are a world by
itself as well. They have factors like focal length, speed, element quantity, diameter, aperture blade

count, aperture blade shape, distortion, chromatic aberration and general quality of light refraction,
not to mention various types like anamorphics, tilt-shifts, macro, fish-eye, exotic ball-socket lenses,
and the world of cinema lenses. Camera bodies have no less variation. DSLRs, mirror-less and
medium formats all have their own specialties. Sensor size, megapixel count, image processor,
noise control, burst speed, focus features, video capability, and general camera layout and abilities
all play into effect. All of this gear comes with a tremendous price when purchasing. Cameras can
range from a few hundred to $7,000 for DSLRs and up to $50,000-60,000 for quality medium
format bodies. Lenses range well into the $1,000-$10,000 spectrum for the general DSLR lenses
and far above that for specialties. Beyond gear and photo taking, there is a limitless world of postprocessing. Lightroom and Photoshop and other various editing software removes the cap for
creativity when it comes to photography. These monstrously powerful tools are endless in their
capability and take years to master fully. But beyond, or perhaps before, all of that is the
photographers eye. People dont wake up being photographers; it isnt as simple as clicking a
button on a phone, and while some have very strong natural tendencies, quality and creativity has to
be observed, replicated, and often dully studied in theory. The reward, however, of time invested in
research and more importantly hands-on experience is phenomenal. Past the arithmetic of gear and
theory, photography becomes an endless adventure in storytelling opportunities.