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Basic Photography Theory

Aperture is a device that controls the quantity of light that passes through the lens. It is an iris type mechanism, which shrinks or grows in order to let in less or more light. The numbers you usually see on a lens are:

F: 3.5 4.5 5.6 8 11 16 22 32 Each number lets in two times less light than the previous one. Small numbers represent a large aperture, big numbers - small aperture. Most digital cameras do not have this numbers written on their lenses, but they use aperture as part of their construction. It is also the way for you to select aperture priority shooting mode from your camera to control the depth of field.

Shutter Speed
The shutter is a mechanism that controls the exposure time of an image. This time can be manually set by using the shutter priority shooting mode from your digital camera. The numbers you'll use will look probably like this: 15, 13, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3.2, 2.5, 2, 1.6, 1.3, 1, 0.8, 0.6, 0.5, 0.4, 0.3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/6, 1/8, 1/10, 1/13, 1/15, 1/20, 1/25, 1/30, 1/40, 1/50, 1/60, 1/80, 1/100, 1/125, 1/160, 1/200, 1/250, 1/320, 1/400, 1/500, 1/640, 1/800, 1/1000, 1/1250, 1/1600, 1/2000 sec.

These numbers represent how long the light will be allowed to hit the digital sensor in order to capture the image.

ISO Speed
ISO speed shows how sensitive the image sensor is to the amount of light present. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive is the image sensor. The ISO is represented by numbers: ISO 50 | 100 | 200 | 400 | 800 | 1600 | 3200 Each number represents two times the sensitivity than the previous one. Higher ISO settings are very useful in low light situations, but the disadvantage of noise appears. The higher the ISO, the higher the noise levels you get.

Shutter Speed 15 | Aperture 2 | ISO Speed 50

Shutter Speed 15 | Aperture Value 2 | ISO Speed 100

Shutter Speed 15 | Aperture Value 2 | ISO Speed 200

ISO 50 Noise:

ISO 100 Noise:

ISO 200 Noise:

Image Stabilization
Image Stabilization is also known as vibration reduction and antishake; it is a technology found on digital cameras with long telephoto zooms (10X and 12X). It helps prevent images from becoming blurred. This technology helps people in taking photos that require slow shutter speeds. The system works in two different modes. There are systems that stabilize the shot by moving the image sensor or by moving optical elements inside the lens. This anti-shake system can make the use of a tripod redundant, but there are situations when at very slow shutter speeds (>1 sec.) the image stabilization cannot cope with the movement of a hand held camera.

Image Format
Digital cameras store the images they produce in two different formats: JPEG and RAW. JPEG is the most common used image format, while RAW is usually used by professionals. The differences between the two go beyond the image size. A JPEG image is a compressed image, for example, an 8 MB RAW image can be compressed to a 3 MB full quality JPEG. The RAW format produces much more that a BIG image. It also has been described as a "digital negative". Professional photographers use RAW because they can make later modification to the image that wouldn't be possible using JPEG. The disadvantage is the fact that you need specialized expensive software to read and modify RAW format images. You also need time and patience. Let's say that you make 100 photos in RAW format and 100 photos in JPEG.

The JPEG images are ready to use, you may discard 20 of them because of bad exposure, but you have the rest of the images ready to be printed or to be published on the Internet. With RAW images, you'll need at least 1-2 hours of opening the 100 images with photo editing software and tweak their properties to the point when you'll get the image you want.

Focal Length
The focal length of a digital camera lens is the distance between the center of the lens and the image sensor when an in-focus image is formed. The focal length of a digital camera lens is displayed on the barrel of the lens along with the measurement of the largest aperture and the maker. The focal length of a lens establishes the field of view of the camera. The shorter the focal length is, the larger the field of view. Camera lenses are categorized into normal, telephoto, and wide angle, according to focal length. Thus a 200 mm equivalent telephoto lens gives a 4 x magnification over the 50 mm equivalent lens.

Depth of Field
Depth of field is the amount of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in focus in a photograph. In simpler term, we define depth of field as the zone of sharpest focus in front of, behind, and around the subject on which, when lens is focused on a specific subject. There are three key factors that have a direct relationship with depth of field: Aperture Focal length of the lens Image size The general rule for selecting the right aperture for a desired depth of field is: given the same object distance and the image size, the bigger lens opening (aperture) used (like f/2.8, f/2, f/1.4 etc.) will have a narrower band of depth of field. Depth of field increases with distance. The farther you place the camera from your subject, the more depth of field you can obtain. Landscapes have great depth of field, while macro photographs tend to have very little depth of field because the subject is so close to the lens.

White Balance
The white balance setting for a digital camera is very useful in dealing with various light conditions. The best way to understand this setting is to place a white sheet of paper in front of your camera and take a photograph.

If the image has a white sheet of paper in it, you're ok; but if the paper has a yellowish hue, you're in trouble. To better understand this process, take a look at your lamp. It usually uses an incandescent bulb. If you look closely, you'll notice that the color of this particular source of light has a yellow hue. The digital camera amplifies this hue and you get a yellowish photograph. So, before taking any photo, look around at your sources of light. Even if you are outdoors, there are white balance settings that will make your photo look a lot better. Daylight white balance Cloudy white balance Tungsten white balance Fluorescent white balance Flash white balance

Exposure Compensation
Exposure Compensation is a feature on a digital camera that allows you to adjust the shutter speed measured by its light meter. Usually, the range of adjustment goes from +2 to -2 EV in 1/3 steps. Lets say that you point the camera at you subject and the meter says you need 1/250 sec. shutter speed at aperture 5. If for whatever reason you select +1 exposure compensation, the shutter speed used by the camera will be 1/125 sec. If you use -1 exposure compensation, the shutter speed will be 1/500 sec. Every increment in exposure compensation (+2 | +1 | -1 | -2) increases or decreases the amount of light going through the camera by a factor of 2.

Red-eye Removal
In-Camera Red-Eye Removal finds and corrects red eyes caused by a reflection of the flash off the cornea of the human eye. When the ambient lighting level is low, the pupils are large and red-eye occurs more frequently. Having red-eye removal in the camera allows convenient correction of pictures on the spot. Most of the time the system works, but there are times when an entire group of people look like vampires on the prowl! There are no guarantees that using in camera red-eye removal function will help you take normal looking pictures, but there will be a lot more of abnormal pictures if you do not use it.


When you should use tripods:

1. When your shutter speed is slower than 1/focal length of the lens. Thus
with a 50 mm equivalent lens, you should not attempt to handhold shutter speeds slower than 1/60 sec. and with a 500 mm equivalent telephoto lens, you will have to keep the shutter speed at 1/500 sec. or faster. 2. In any low light conditions 3. You need to use a tripod all the time if you want clear pictures in any condition.

When buying a digital camera always look at the type of batteries it is using. Some have large LCD screens, these consume a lot. Using the flash also cuts in half the time you are using the camera. If possible, buy a camera that has specially designed rechargeable batteries. These come with their own charger and last a lot more than if you were to use normal AAA rechargeable batteries. NiCad Batteries NiCad (nickel cadmium) batteries offer a relatively long life, high discharge rate and economical pricing, but they have distinct disadvantages as well. NiCad batteries must be completely discharged before they are charged or their performance per charge is diminished. You can expect around 700 or more recharge cycles depending on usage; you should periodically cycle these batteries through a complete discharge. Be aware that toward the end of their supply, they go from good power to zero power rather abruptly. Lithium-Ion Batteries Li-ion (lithium ion) batteries have long shelf life but in AA, AAA forms they are not rechargeable. These non-rechargeable lithium batteries do last from one and a half to 2 times longer than NiMH batteries; Lithium-ion (or lithium) is not environmentally friendly and requires special disposal. NiMH Batteries NiMH (nickel metal hydride) batteries are the battery of choice for high drain applications (digital cameras). They have a long life and can last from 5001000 charge cycles. Per charge cycle, NiMH will run one and and one half to two times longer than alkaline. They are more robust and can be recharged at any point in the discharge cycle. Nickel metal hydride is environmentally friendly, requires no special disposal procedures and contains no toxic metals. Moreover, they are much less toxic during the recycling process. NiMH batteries are fairly expensive. They also lose their charge faster than other types, if stored for more than a week, should be recharged before use.

Photographic filters

Photographic filters have been in use for a long time. They were required for special effects or to enhance the contrast of some colors. They were also used for white balance. For example, a film set for daylight color temperature, would have produced yellowish photos when taken inside, with incandescent light bulbs lighting the scene. To compensate, a blue filter had to be used, to get the right colors. The major advantage of digital cameras is the fact that you can adjust the white balance of a scene electronically, without the use of a color filter. As far as the image effects that could be obtained with some filters (like blurring the image, changing color hue for specific areas of a photograph, etc.) there are better ways of getting them onto a photo. Very cheap image software can produce more effects on a photograph than all the filters in the world combined. With a little bit of imagination, using software to get the effects you want is the best way to go. The only filter a digital camera actually needs is a polarizer. Polarizers come in two varieties: Linear polarizers Circular polarizers Each has the same effect but circular polarizers are more expensive. Digital cameras can use both (linear and circular) polarizers. Polarizers produce deeper colored blue skies, minimize light reflections from glass and water and reduces glare from non-metallic surfaces. They also provide good color saturation. Can be used in extremely bright light situations to reduce the amount of light entering the camera; this enables more selective depth of field control. Copyright 2007