Photography Basics

By Matthew Bamberg / Aug 3, 2007
Since this is a travel photography blog, let’s go with the guts of the craft…

Whether you’re an experienced photographer with the best equipment or an amateur with a point and shoot camera, you can always make your photographs better.

Let’s assume you want to upgrade from a point-and-shoot, to something a little more advanced. Your choices are will vary according to whether you want a Nikon or Canon SLR (single lens reflex, or a camera that you’re able to switch lenses for different purposes).

Other brands are good, too, just depends how far you want to go with your photography. You can shoot for the stars by creating images fit for People magazine or US Weekly, or shoot in the field for landscapes as breathtaking as those in National Geographic.

Here’s some guidelines to your dream camera/lenses you may want to get (if you haven’t already done so).

1. A good DSLR camera
2. A good wide angle lens (18-22 mm with low f-stops)
3. A good telephoto lens (28-300 mm with low f-stops)

Shooting Basics
Photography is all about light. To get the correct exposure for the photo you want, you need to know what will happen at the various settings on your SLR camera. The only way to do that, I believe is try all the different settings and see what you get. Read the following first as it will show you what you’re getting into…

ISO—ISO settings have to do with light sensitivity.

• When you shoot at a low ISO (less sensitive) you get a clear, crisp image
• When you shoot at a high ISO, you can capture fast moving objects better as well as take pictures at night without a tripod.

f-stop—Think of the f-stop as how wide the aperture of your camera opens. The values can range from f /1.6 to f/32 on many cameras. Lower values means that the aperture opens wider and higher values means it opens narrowly (think of a narrow opening as a pin hole)

Note: When you buy a lens, note the f-stop value at which the lens is calibrated as they can vary from a single value to a range of values. Some lenses can have an f-stop values that are stated on the package as being in the range of f/3.5 to f/5.6. Here, the f/3.5 is the maximum aperture (lowest f-stop) on the wide end of the zoom range, and the f/5.6 is the maximum aperture (lowest f-stop) on the tele end of your zoom.

This simply means, the maximum aperture isn’t constant, but it’s depending on focal length.) More expensive zooms often have a constant maximum aperture.

Av Setting—This setting enables you to control the aperture (f-stop) while your camera determines the shutter speed.
Shutter Speed—Shutter speed is the time that your camera’s shutter stays open. Shutter speeds can be anything from 1/4000 second to 30 seconds and more.
Tv Setting—This setting enables you to control the shutter speed while the camera controls the aperture.

Exposure compensation is kind of a meter with plus and minus values that lets you darken or lighten your image. It can be used to enhance color, say, by setting it in the negative zone on objects facing the sun to bring out color.
Flash—Flash is tricky, but if you shut it off most of the time you’ll be better off. If you do shut off your flash and the light is a bit muted, try raising your ISO. A 1600 ISO will take clear pictures without a flash in the dark Notre Dam Cathedral in Paris.

Knowing these things helps you create a better image. If you want to get started using some of these settings here’s some tips as where to begin.

Try This:
• Take picture using the Av setting, setting your aperture anywhere from 4.5 to 8 and you’ll get pretty good depth of field (part of your image that’s not blurred) at the same time as getting a well-exposed image.
• Turn off your flash except where there’s a lot of shadow on your subject during the daytime.
• Use a tripod at night and practice taking pictures in Tv mode. If it’s really dark use longer shutter speed. If it’s not so dark, use a faster shutter speed.

: Take pictures so that the Ev is a little in the minus column. It’s easy to bring back color and clarity in a darker image (in Photoshop) than it is in a lighter image.
If you haven’t time to fool around with the settings use an auto mode setting. The general auto setting works well with street photography and the sports mode (running man on camera) works well to snap images while either you or the subject is moving.
Find a place to set your camera that it is steady. Use a tripod if you have one. Set your camera to Tv mode. Take a picture setting the shutter speed to 1 second, then repeat with 3 seconds 5 seconds and 15 seconds.

About the author

Matthew Bamberg

Matthew Bamberg has provided photographs and written articles for various Southern California newspapers and magazines, including The Desert Sun and The Press-Enterprise. More recently, Matt has been teaching at UC Riverside while also authoring several books like the Quick and Easy Secrets book series (Cengage), Killer Photos with Your iPhone (with Kris Krug and Greg Ketchum, Cengage), the 50 Greatest Photo Opportunities in San Francisco (Cengage) and Digital Art Photography For Dummies (Wiley).