So you've gotten a new SLR for Christmas? WOO!
But now, there are all of those knobs and buttons and dials...not to mention the meters. And everything is labeled with enough photography jargon to make your head spin. But! Do not despair! I have a pretty simple tip that can get you making more creative exposures pretty quickly and painlessly.
But first off, a jargon moment. No, no, not to add to the confusion, but to clear some up.
I remember when I first started wondering about photography. I started Googling and reading and I kept coming across terms like shutter speed, ISO and aperture. Now, I kind of got what ISO was. Because when I bought film (yes, I am old) I chose which ISO I wanted. It was how sensitive the film (and now the sensor) is to light. Ok. Shutter speed seemed pretty self-explanatory. How fast the shutter clicked. I figured the faster it clicked, the less light came into the camera. (There's more to it for both of these than I am getting into, but we can talk about those in another post, right?)
But gosh, what on EARTH was APERTURE??
Well, I am here to clear up that mystery, and then tell you how your newly-acquired knowledge of aperture can immediately help make your photos more WOW!
So inside your lens, there are blades and they can open wide to let more light in, or close down tightly to let less light in. Obviously this will affect how bright or dark your picture will be, right? It is like turning the faucet on full blast and letting a lot of water out, or just nudging it on and letting the water trickle out. Even if you leave the water on the same amount of time, you'll get a lot MORE water from the wide-open, full-blast faucet. And depending on what you're trying to do, both are viable options with pros and cons.
But, wait! There's more! Order now and you too can receive a free helping of DEPTH OF FIELD with your aperture!! Whoa, whoa...depth of WHAT? More jargon.
Have you ever seen a portrait where the subject is in beautiful, crisp focus, but the background is lovely and blurry? (If not,look at some of our stuff, we do it all the time.) It really draws the eye to the subject. But HOW? Well, the wider the opening of the lens (aperture), the smaller the area that will be in focus. So the subject will be in focus, but the background will be all out of focus. That's called Depth of Field.
Focus is sort of like a pane of glass. You set your focus, and you can imagine it makes a pane of glass that touches that area of focus. But the glass extends across the whole picture. Everything that also touches the glass will be in focus. So if you focused on the eye of the subject, but you have ANOTHER person whose eye is on that same plane, it will be in focus too! Or if there's a tree that is close to that person (think next to them, not in front or behind them), then it will be in focus. Bonus! And the wider the aperture, the thinner that glass is. Sometimes it can be RAZOR thin. Maybe the eyes will be in focus, but the ears will not be. And the smaller your aperture, the thicker the glass is. More people, further back and forward can be in focus too! It's better for group shots or landscape or architecture photography. But the background won't be as blurry.
Okey dokey! Sounds simple, right? Ok, here's the LAST tricky thing for this post. How do you know if your aperture is wide open? Or closed down and narrow? What do the numbers on the camera look like? This will sound strange but the WIDER the aperture, the smaller the number that your camera will display (f/1.8, f/2.8, f/3.5, etc.) the NARROWER the aperture, the bigger the number will be. (f/16, f/22, f/32.) I know, I know! I assumed that the WIDER aperture would be a BIGGER number. But here's why it is not. Remember those blades we talked about? They opened and closed to make the opening in the lens larger and smaller? Well, the f/number is measuring how much of THOSE are left! So, if they are dilated all way and the opening is huge, there will be almost nothing left. Maybe 1.8 mm? AHH! And if they are super closed tight and the hole is tiny, then the blades showing will be BIGGER, right? Yeah, maybe even 22 mm! ;) Oooh! We're cooking now!
So, how do we USE this information? Well, let's get your SLR off of the program mode! Change your aperture into AV (Canon) or AP (Nikon) mode. Aperture-priority baby! Now, making sure you have enough light, change your desired aperture. Try it smaller. Maybe even 3.5! Focus on your subject's eye (assuming it's your child or a person) and shoot. Look how blurry the background is! Woo! The camera will decide what to set the shutter to, in order to make a decent exposure. But you'll have taken some of the control in making a good picture. Try it! It's fun. It's also the first step towards taking manual control of your camera, which let's you really get the most out of an SLR purchase.
I know this post was long, but getting into the more creative modes on your camera will be worth it!