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Beginner's Guide To DSLR Photography With Mike Browne - Part One

So, why do you need to know about Shutters and Apertures? Mike Browne from PhotographyCourses.Biz explains.

|  General Photography
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Mike BrowneHi, If you don’t know me yet I’m Mike Browne. I’ve been an award winning professional photographer since 1992 and shoot commercial, social and illustrative images for all sorts of clients all over the UK.

With my TV producer / director partner Jayne Whitelock I also run, a training website especially for beginners.

There are loads of controls on DSLRs and you’ll be relieved to know that most of them you can leave well alone. In this series I’m going to take you through the most important (and often most confusing) ones you need to take control of your photography. Believe it or not it’s YOU who’s going to take amazing pictures - not the camera. If you’re not seeing the results you’d hoped for, you’re ‘stuck’ in auto mode or maybe getting some great images but aren’t sure how you did it, this series is for you.

Over the next six Beginner's Guides I’m going to explain some fundamental ‘building blocks’ of photography. And in number seven I’ll show you how to put them all together to create this image.

Fast Car

So why do you need to know about Shutters and Apertures?

Shutter speed and aperture are the main exposure controls. An exposure is an amount of light hitting the sensor of your camera to capture an image, and making exposures is what photography is all about. When you’re in auto your camera is making the exposure for you by coming up with combinations of the two. There are also semi automatic modes where you have a bit more control. There’s shutter priority (TV) where you’re telling the camera the shutter speed you want and it’ll set an aperture to go with it. In aperture priority (AV) it does it the other way round. You tell it the aperture and the camera sets the shutter for you. The easiest way to explain what they are and do is to show you this clip from our photography DVD.

So sit back, get comfy and I’ll explain:

Good eh? So that’s what they do and how they work.

"But hang on Mike." I hear you say. "Why do I need two exposure controls? Surely it would be easier to just have shutter speed or aperture and then it would be like a brighter or darker button."

I take your point but you do need them both - as well as the ‘bonus control’ called ISO I alluded to in the video (watch out for more on that in Beginner's Guide six).

The shutter is all about movement. If you have your shutter open for a long time (in photographic terms even a 1/30th of a second is a long time) and something in your picture is moving it’ll record as a blur. How much of a blur depends on how fast it’s moving and how slow your shutter speed is.

Slow Shutter Speed

1/15th second shutter speed at f/29 aperture. Don’t forget – the bigger the f number the smaller the aperture is.

If you wanted to freeze the movement you need to set a fast shutter speed.

Fast Shutter Speed

1/400th second shutter speed at f/4 aperture – that’s a big wide aperture.

Now, think back to the video. If you wanted a slow shutter speed to create blur, the shutter would be open for a relatively long 1/15th second. If you couldn’t compensate for all the light pouring in through that long opening of the shutter by making the aperture really tiny, your picture would come out too bright or ‘over-exposed’.

Conversely, if you set the faster 1/400th second shutter speed, only a little light can get in because the shutter isn’t open for very long. So the picture would come out too dark (under-exposed) if you couldn’t open the aperture wider to let in more light and compensate for the fast shutter speed.

I know – it seems complicated but relax and think about it for a moment and it makes perfect sense. Imagine the light to be liquid for a moment. If you took a beer bottle and made a tiny hole in the top with a nail, then turned it upside down the beer would escape painfully slowly. Take the top off with a bottle opener, and it would gush out and make a foamy mess all over the place!

There are also some very valid reasons for wanting to choose a large or small aperture as well because your aperture controls how sharp your image is from front to back. It’s called Depth of Field
and we’ll go into that in guide three.

By the way - I’m going to show you step by step how I took both these images by combining shutter speed and aperture in Beginner's Guide four in a few weeks time.

If you’re too impatient to wait you can always get yourself a copy of our Photography DVD which is where this bit came from.

Use discount code epzguides and we’ll even give you a fiver off which can’t be bad. Check out Peter Bargh’s ePHOTOzine review and see what he had to say about it.

Next week Damian McGillicuddy is back with another of his great features – then it’s me again.  I’ll be showing you how easy it is to put shutter and aperture together to make a fully manual exposure.

See you in a couple of weeks.


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2 Nov 2011 4:26AM
this is the answer that i've been looking for. thanks sir mike! Smile)
JJGEE 15 7.8k 18 England
4 Nov 2011 1:40PM
I do not understand why you consider ISO a "bonus control" ?

I would consider the sensitivity of film or nowadays the sensor a fundamental control, not a bonus.

Surely with your MF camera you never went on an assignment without considering what ISO film you needed to take with you.
Trebla 9 Canada
12 Mar 2012 5:56PM
Thanks, You explain it so well; I wish it would be longer, that is, more details and even sample shots as examples. Albert, Canada

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