|Column: Swish and click|
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 09:05
Buttons, dials, menus, switches, buttons, buttons and more buttons! The D-SLR – or digital single-lens reflex – camera, is a daunting piece of machinery. But it isn’t all that difficult to use, really. Just swish and flick, and your camera can be a magic wand.
Once you’ve switched it on, it’s quite simple. There is usually a dial with the different modes. If you’re shooting in Auto, don’t bother. You might as well return the camera and buy a little compact.
The presets aren’t bad. They’re just, well, presets. Sometimes each situation calls for that automatic preset, like when your girlfriend actually jumps for that bungee she’s been scared to do for the past half hour. Courage doesn’t wait for you to get the right camera settings. The main settings are no-flash for auto settings during the day, portrait for people shots, landscape for mountains and scenery, macro for close-up shots, action for sport, and night for, well, night time.
The settings for the serious photographer include aperture priority, shutter priority, pre-programmed and manual. Today, I will tell you what the manual setting does, which is possibly the hardest to use.
Manual means you can control every aspect of the camera. The main settings you need to worry about are shutter speed, aperture –or f-stop –ISO, and white balance.
Your shutter speed is how fast or slowly the shutter of the camera opens and closes. Basically, it’s how long your sensor is exposed to the scene you are photographing. The faster the shutter speed, the more it ‘freezes time’ and the less light you allow into the camera, resulting in a darker photo. The slower it is, the more light you let in, but the more movement you get in, too. So you can have a beautifully lit photograph, but a blur of a dog running through it.
This is where aperture comes in. Your aperture/f-stop is also how much light you let into the camera, but in terms of how wide open your lens is. The wider it is open (low number), the more light you let in but you also have shallow depth of field, meaning that less of the photo is in focus. Your subject may be clear but the background will be blurry.
The narrower the opening (high number), the less light is let in, but more is in focus. Your aperture depends on the lens you are using. Usually, the kit lens has a focal length or zoom between 18mm and 55mm, and am f-stop between 3.5 and 5.6. The more you zoom in, the higher your f-stop goes.
ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor. The lower the ISO, the less light you let in, but the sharper the image. The higher the ISO, the more light you let in, but the grainier the shot. The grain is called ‘noise’.
Finally, white balance is your colour temperature. The auto setting will give you a white balance which balances all the colours of the photograph’s spectrum equally. Setting it onto ‘tungsten’ in tungsten light, it will try to balance them as it would be balanced in the auto setting. Play around and you can get some awesome effects. But remember, always set your white balance to ‘flash’ when using flash, else everything looks washed out.
When these settings are used well together, you can get the perfectly exposed picture with your exact desired effect without using any fancy equipment. Play with these settings, try balancing them differently and in various situations, lighting and types of shots. You’ll be surprised how much four little settings can do. It’s just like magic.
Who to follow this week: @LiamLynchPhoto for some examples of amazing gig photography.
Nikita Ramkissoon is a journalist and sub-editor at ITWeb.co.za. She has been a freelancer for over five years, focusing on entertainment and conservation, and has recently become a geek-in-training with ITWeb. She loves photography, rock and indie music, Guitar Hero and geeks. Environmentalist. Tourist. Artist. Musicist. Non-feminist feminist. Activist. Evolutionist. Bloggist. Journalist. Greatest. She can be found tweeting @nikistarfish. She is also a wannabe Jedi and rock star.
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