As he says, once you understand how to control your kit you’ll be able to recognise what makes a great investment for your photography and what’s just the latest gizmo. Completely appropriate really because this time I’m following on from my shutter and aperture explanation to show you how to combine the two and make a manual exposure.
Now calm down – loads of people who’ve come on my One to One Photography Tuition days have blanched at the thought of having to do it all themselves. But I promise you it’s not rocket science.
Controlling your cameras may seem scary with lots of things to think about and juggle, so I want you to consider driving your car for a moment (obviously!).
Imagine you’re parked facing up hill and are going to pull out into the traffic.
First you start the engine, then press the clutch and pop it into gear, balance the weight of the car between your clutch and accelerator pedals and possibly use a bit of hand brake too as you shunt the car back and forth to give yourself space all the while judging the distance between yourself and the cars in front and behind you, turning the steering wheel an unspecified amount to ensure you don’t hit one you begin to move forward, all the while you’re using your indicators and checking traffic in the mirror and judging distances to make sure you don’t hit anyone then as you casually flick on the wipers because it’s started to rain you ease out from the kerb and re-calculate how much to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction to ensure you don’t end up having a head on collision with cars on the opposite side of the road coming the other way, then as the car picks up speed you let off the accelerator pedal, press the clutch pedal and change to the next gear in the sequence at the appropriate engine revs (notice I say appropriate because there’s no hard and fast rule about when to change gear) and all the while you’re probably thinking about whether or not to get a take away tonight! I make no apologies for the lack of punctuation in that last bit!
My point is if you can do all that without thinking about it.
Why is it so difficult to control your camera?
I think it’s partly because we have a belief that photography’s complicated so that’s how it occurs for us, but mostly because we don’t practise it enough for it to become second nature.
So if you’re struggling with manual exposure please go out this week and practise what follows. It doesn’t matter what the picture is of, just practise setting manual exposures.
This week’s guide is mostly video based because I think it’ll be better for you to see me doing it and explaining as I go along. This one’s from the online photography videos area on our training site.
So there you go! By balancing shutter and aperture together to get your light meter into the middle you make a manual exposure.
If you let too much light into the camera by having the shutter open too long or the aperture too wide, your shot will be over exposed like this.
So you have to cut down the amount of light hitting your camera’s sensor, either by shortening the length of time the shutter is open for, or by making the aperture smaller so less light can get in.
Your camera’s light meter is a guide as to where to begin and it’s usually pretty accurate. But don’t forget, you’re the creative force in your photography. If an image looks darker or brighter than you want it to be simply let in more or less light until it looks the way you want it to.
When you do this the light meter will tell you you’re over or under exposing because the poor thing’s still trying to make your image equate to mid grey. Ignore it and make your images as bright or dark as you want them to be.
As you saw in the video there are times when the dark and bright areas of a scene are beyond the ability of the camera’s sensor to record as we see them so you have to choose which areas you want.
Or the sky
So why can I see it OK but my camera can’t? I hear you ask.
It’s because we have pupils which constantly adjust to bright and dark combined with a brain which maps all the tones into a recognisable whole. Your camera can only cope with one at a time which is why you sometimes have to choose which area of a scene you want to expose for.
When you become proficient with this technique you can shoot some amazing moody images. Damian McGillicuddy’s superb shot of the girl on the steps last week is a perfect example of this technique.
He set up his lighting for the look he wanted and set his exposure for the girl. If he’d exposed for the steps behind her, the girl would have been completely overexposed and washed out. In photography - light is everything!
By changing the ISO you alter how sensitive your camera is to light. A high ISO number is more sensitive than a low one. So if you’re shooting in low light and can’t get your shutter speed fast enough to get a nice sharp image – increasing your ISO means the sensor needs less light to make an exposure, so you can speed up the shutter.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with Beginners Guide Three where I’m going to show you how to control how much front to back sharpness you have in your image. It’s called Depth of Field and you can use it to create blurry backgrounds for portraits or full on sharpness for landscapes.
Should you fancy a little extra homework besides practising manual exposures – try this:
Put your camera on a tripod so it can’t move
Manually set an exposure for whatever’s in front of it
Change your ISO settings up and down to see what it does to your exposures.