Camera Basics : An Overview – Part II

Let me thank all of those who appreciated myfirst post about camera basics. Here comes the second one. Remember, this short course can give you a fair idea and some useful information about cameras and their use. However, you cannot start taking wonderful pictures without spending some tme. The learning curve in this field is not that complicated or steep. Yet, it definately asks for time!

 Camera Basics : The Aperture

The aperture is the opening light enters the camera through, and on most cameras a iris allows you adjust its size. Widening the opening allows more light to contact the film, so it and the shutter affect your exposure time. The aperture also affects the depth of field, or the area that is in sharp focus from the closest in focus element to the farthest. As the aperture size decreases, the depth of field increases as out of focus elements are less noticeable when the lens area is reduced.

When you adjust the aperture size, each click either doubles or halves its current size. The aperture uses a system of f-numbers in a standard order. The larger the number, the smaller the opening. Depth of field for a long lense is much narrower than for a shorter one. As decreasing the size of the aperture reduces the amount of light entering the lens, it can make it a little more difficult to focus, so most cameras keep the aperture open until you click the shutter. Most cameras come with a preview button that closes the aperture down to whatever setting you’re using, letting you see how sharp it really is.

Camera Basics : Films

One of the most important factors to consider when selecting your film type, is its speed or sensitivity to light. High speed films are very sensitive and so require little light, allowing you to select a lower aperture or shutter setting even in lowlight conditions if necessary. The downside to using high speed films is that the grains on the film have to fairly large so they’ll react quickly enough, which can severely hinder image quality should the image be blown up. Low speed films require a great deal of light to function properly, but because the grains are smaller it can render fine details. The downside to slower films is if there isn’t quite enough light, you may have to use a slower shutter or wider aperture setting. Overall, high speed films are for lowlight or action scenes, and slow films are good for static subjects that have a lot of detail you want to bring out.

There are two standards for measuring film speed, ASA (American Standards Association) and DIN (Deutsche Industrie Norm). They are usually displayed together via ISO (International Standards Organization) as follows: ISO 100/21. Any increase or decrease in the numbers is proportional to the increase or decrease in film speed, if you choose one film that’s number is twice as high as another it is twice as fast. Each doubling or halving increases or decreases the required exposure by one full setting, on the aperture or shutter, so keep that in mind.

Many prefer black and white film to color because of its ability to enhance the dramatic. Its simplicity allows it to convey moods and contrasts far easier than color, which sometimes complicates the image overly much. Black and white is also far easier to develop and print at home and the equipment isn’t terribly expensive or complicated. It is also available in a far wider range of speeds, from ISO 32 to ISO 1250.

If you’re going to use color film, you also need to decide whether you want prints or slides. Prints are made from a negative and are printed out on special sheets of paper. Slides are made into small transparent films that are placed in cardboard mounts and viewed via a projector and screen.

Prints are the most popular because of the convenience with which they may be viewed, such as in an album or frame. Also, prints are easier to manipulate during development to remove unwanted flaws or distortions.Slides maintain greater color quality and are better for use in magazines or other reproductions. It is also far easier to “enlarge” a slide by simply projecting a larger image allowing you to recreate a scene more accurately.

It is easier to judge the quality of a slide, so some people take their pictures on slides initially then have their favorite images carried or to prints. Slides cannot be adjusted but very little during processing, so great care must be taken during the initial exposure. If you use daylight slide film in an area that has artificial lights, you may see false colors on the finished product. Fortunately, there are films specially created to compensate for this that work with standard tungsten photographic lights and common house light bulbs.

I hope you have enjoyed this lesson on camera basics.

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How To Take Better Pictures?

How can you take better pictures? Good pictures come, not from fancy studio equipment or an expensive telephoto lens, but from having an eye for the world around you and how it looks through a camera. How can you develop this eye for photography? By looking through your viewfinder, even if you do not intend to take a picture. Concentrate on what you can see and how the image goes together. When thinking about how things look through a camera, keep in mind the differences between how YOU see, and how IT sees. The camera takes in an entire scene, without showing interest in any particular part, your eyes, though, tend to focus on a specific thing you find interesting.

Your eye can change focus from one object to another almost instantaneously, making everything look in focus. A camera, however, can only focus on ONE subject at a time. Your eye can focus on objects in deep shadow far better than a camera can, as it automatically contrasts what you are focusing on.

However, a camera can focus our attention on a very small and specific detail that might normally be overlooked. It can also capture details on a moving object that would be impossible for our eyes to notice. The biggest thing to keep in mind, though, is that your eye can focus on a particular thing, ignoring its surroundings. A camera takes in whatever it’s aimed at.

First Thing to Do!

The first thing to do when preparing to take a picture, is to choose your subject. That sounds stupid, but depending on where you’re at, you’ll probably have a number of subjects available, so you need to focus in on one that will be interesting. Work to keep it from appearing messy and disorganized. Keep it simple. Three examples of how to do this are: closing in on your subject, angling down to block out distractions, and shooting a vertical image to eliminate distractions to either side.

Know Yourself

There are two kinds of photographers. The first one captures those brief opportunity shots by relying on quick reflexes, always having his camera loaded and ready. The second kind patiently prepares a scene for his photo. By choosing his position and angle carefully, he can even somewhat control natural light. Both can present interesting and entertaining pictures.

Both of the above examples can benefit from taking a moment to consider how their subject will look. Merely snapping off a picture will result in A picture, but not necessarily a GOOD picture. Some things to consider before taking a picture are: Is there a lot of miscellaneous and distracting clutter around the subject? Are there any patterns that might benefit or detract from the image? Would a vertical shot be better? Should you take your picture from a different angle, maybe moving even just a few feet?

Zeroing in on your subject may not always be the best call. Sometimes shooting off-center can yield a better result. Pay attention to any lines in a scene. They can draw a person’s attention to or away from your subject. Lines can also convey movement or action.

Find a Niche

Sooner or later, everyone finds their niche in photography, that one thing that makes them distinctive. The best way to find yours is to experiment. Shoot a variety of photographs on widely different subjects in widely different styles.

The first aspect of taking pleasing photographs is to be able to identify interesting subjects and approach them creatively. The second aspect is understanding how best to use your camera and film. How should you handle your camera? How should you focus it? How big a part does lighting play?

Another thing you need to consider is how your particular camera works in relation to what you are trying to take pictures of. For example, a camera with a slower shutter speed is less than ideal for photographing an air show. Understanding how your camera works will go a long way toward helping you take better pictures.

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Camera Basics : An Overview – Part I

The camera consists of a lens that gathers and focuses light, an iris that controls how much light enters the camera, and a shutter that controls how long the light is allowed to contact the film. When you open the shutter, light from your subject is allowed to contact the film. The film has a coating on it that contains silver halide crystals, which are extremely sensitive to light. When exposed, the light causes a chemical reaction, changing the salts into black silver. Naturally, the more light allowed in, the more crystals that are affected. The lighter areas (such as the sky or sun) cause more silver to form and thus are darker. That’s why the end result is called a negative, because it is the opposite of what you normally see. The development process reverses this, putting the colors back where they are normally.

 There are literally hundreds of different kinds of cameras and each one is designed for a specific application. Talking about camera basics, we’ll take a look at one of the more common cameras, the 35mm SLR. The 35mm is a compromise between simplicity and quality. They use negatives about 1″x 1 1/2″, big enough to render decent quality, page size prints. The SLR refers to Single Lens Reflex. It is a very simple design. A mirror reflects light from a single lens to the viewfinder. The lens is usually removable, allowing you to use special purpose lenses.

 Some people do things one way, and others do it a different way. The same is true with photography, so many different types of cameras have emerged. Some find the 35mm too big, so smaller “pocket cameras” were made. In addition to being very small themselves, they also use very small film cartridges. They’re useful for making prints up to the size of a postcard. There are also instant cameras, that eject a print intermediately after taking your picture. It usually takes a few minutes for the image to develop fully, but is still far quicker than taking it to a photo-lab.

For high quality prints, there are a variety of larger cameras with correspondingly larger film sizes. One of the most common uses 120 rollfilm, which produces negatives 2 1/4″ wide. Though bulkier, these cameras are still hand-held and render high quality prints even when the negatives are blown up to many times their original size. With faster shutter speeds, it isn’t quite as crucial to hold yourself steady, but with slow shutter speed, even slight movements can make a picture blurry. The easiest way to counteract this is to use a tripod, but sometimes you can even just brace yourself.

Camera Basics : Focusing

In order to have sharp images, you need to insure your camera is focusing correctly. Though the size of the aperture lens can affect the size of the area that is in focus, the main factor is how close to the lens your subject is. Most cameras have a simple focusing ring that moves the lens forward and backward, changing its distance from the film and affecting the focus.

Some of the simplest cameras have a ring with distances in meters and feet marked on it. You focus it by selecting the appropriate distance. There are much more accurate methods of focusing, such as split-image. The most common split-image focuser has two semi-circular prisms that split images down the middle. You adjust it until the two halves match up and focus properly. Another version of it is one composed of many tiny micro-prisms that have the same basic effect, but break it up into many hundreds of pieces, similar to a kaleidoscope.

Range-finder focusing creates a double image of the unfocused subject. It is very easy and clear to tell whether the image is correctly focused. This makes it particularly useful for focusing Single Lens Reflex cameras in dim light, when it is often difficult to get one to focus properly. The area that will be in sharp focus is relatively narrow at close range, the background and surrounding area will be somewhat out of focus. The farther away your subject is, the wider your field of focus will be.

Camera Basics : The Shutter

When firing a gun, you don’t jerk the trigger because it throws your aim off, you gently squeeze it so it stays on target. The same basic principle applies to your camera. When you get everything centered and just right, carefully press your shutter so everything stays the way you want it. The shutter controls your film’s exposure time, so it is very important you pick a speed appropriate to what you are doing. Most of them are set by a numbered dial. The numbers stand for fractions of a second, so 100 means 1/100. Most SLR cameras go up to 1/1000, but you can find some of them that go as high as 1/4000 second.

The faster the speed, the less time there is for any movement on the part of the subject or camera to have an effect, so for sharp pictures, the faster the better. The normal workhorse speed is about 1/125, which is fast enough to take shots of everything but rapid motion. Close-ups usually require higher speeds, in excess of 1/250, and so do “active” pictures, like children playing. Low-light conditions often require longer exposure times in order to get a decent amount of light. This does increase the risk of blurring, so usually a tripod or other support should be used to insure a stable image.

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