I’ve always been into photography, but never knew how to use a camera properly. Let alone things about white balance, aperture and ISO. And that wasn’t all to great when I was carrying a damn heavy thing on the read. To get the most out of my Nikon DSLR, I started doing a photography class at my university. Now I won’t go into detail in the class itself, but I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the things that I found helpful. I’m sure there are some of you that are struggling with the same things and are just shooting pictures on “auto” – I’m still guilty of that sometimes!!
On the first row in the picture above you can see the aperture. The aperture affects two areas. Firstly, it controls the amount of light that enters the camera. A small aperture means that the camera doesn’t allow much light to enter the camera. A big aperture means the contrary. Then the camera does allow much light to enter the camera. Then, the aperture also affects the depth of field. When a small aperture is used, the depth of field is greatest. When a large aperture is used the depth of field is shallow, which makes objects in the background appear vague.
To make things a little bit more simple: if you want a clear picture, you should use a small aperture like F16, F22 or F32. If you’d like to have the background to appear vague, then use the biggest aperture the camera allows (the lowest F number).
On the second row in the picture above you can see the shutter speed. In short the shutter speed is how fast a picture is made. A fast shutter speed can clearly capture moving items, while a slow shutter speed will capture the same item blurry. The shutter speed is connected to the ISO sensitivity.
On the third row of the picture above you can find the ISO sensitivity. The ISO sensitivity is the sensitivity of your camera to available light. A high ISO sensitivity makes it possible to take a picture in low-light environments, without having to use the flash. Sounds perfect! But there is a downside. The higher you set the ISO sensitivity, the more grain there can be seen in a picture. So if you want to have the best image quality, you should keep the ISO sensitivity as low as possible.
Now there is something called an ISO sequence, which typically starts at 50, 100 or 200 and then continues in the power of two: 100 – 200 – 400 – 800 – 1600 – 3200 – 6400 etc. Here, it is important to know, that each step between the numbers doubles the sensitivity of the sensor of your camera. So ISO 400 is four times more sensitive to light than ISO 100 is. Now you’re probably wondering why this is so important. Here’s the answer: the more sensitive, the less time it takes to take a picture. So a picture made with ISO 400, is made 4 times faster than a picture with ISO 100.
This means in short, that if you’re shooting in manual and want the best quality, you have to set the ISO sensitivity as low as possible. But in order to create a clear image, you then also have to make the shutter speed as low as possible (otherwise you’ll be left with an entirely black image).
Are you still following me? I totally understand if you don’t! The first time my teacher told me all these things I honestly didn’t understand a single thing. I even thought about dropping out of the whole course. But when it finally came to the point that we actually had to take our camera and make pictures, I finally understood what he meant. So my advice to you is: just take your camera and explore! You’ll be alright!