Week 1-How Does a Camera Work?

If you were to formally study photography, chances are you would start out with a slr film camera and always be in manual mode (which might be only your option depending on the age of your camera).  Something like this beauty, but probably something a little newer. 

This is my favorite camera, It's a Canon Pellix my grandfather bought in Japan when my mom was born.  

There are many benefits to learning manual but I thought we could discuss how to better use the camera you already have, which probably has a few semi-manual settings.

All cameras, digital or film are based on the same system. Both have batteries, shutters, apertures, dials, buttons, lenses etc.  The main difference between a digital and a film camera is just that, the film. Film has film and digital has a sensor in place of the film.  We will discuss that topic more in depth in a later post.

Over the next three weeks, we will discuss the three main components (other than the lens) that let light into the camera.

1)        The shutter-controls the speed that light enters the camera.

2)        The aperture-controls the amount of light you let into the camera

3)        The ISO-ISO refers to the sensitivity of the film to light or the sensitivity of the sensor to light.

Today, we are starting with the shutter. Every camera has shutter.  Imagine that your camera is your home.  The film/sensor is a room and the shutter is the curtain.  The longer the shutter is open the more light gets into the room.  On your camera, you control the speed at which the curtain opens and closes with the shutter speed dial. It also should be noted that the curtain or in technical speak, leaf is located in the lens. 

There is a good chance that your speed dial is located in a different place. If you don't know what to look for use your camera manual.  Also, the Tv setting is shutter speed priority-meaning you set the shutter speed and camera adjusts the aperture for you.

First we will discuss the manual aspects of shutter speed. And, we will try to keep this simple.

Shutter speed is measured fractions of a second.

1= 1/1 of a second (one whole second)

2=1/2 of a second (half a second)

4=1/4 of a second

These times are really slow for a camera.  If you adjust your shutter speed to 1 and are holding your camera, it will be blurry.

Generally speaking, if you want a sharp(in focus) image, you will want something more like 125 or (125/1 of a second).  Everyone will tell you something a little different but the idea is that the faster the shutter speed the sharper the image. 

If you want to capture an image of water droplets splashing from a fountain you will want a fast shutter speed.

If you want to capture the smoothness of the water rolling down the rocks in a river, you will want a slower speed and a steady surface for your camera.

Other options you may have on you camera include (B) for bulb and (T) for time.  Bulb keeps the shutter open as long as you are pressing the release button.   Time opens the shutter up when you press the release and remains open until you press the release again. 

If you camera has a manual option, you probably have a setting for Tv, play with this to learn more about how the shutter speed effects your photographs.

Now for those of you wanting to have fun with a point and shoot, you will want to play with the different settings like sport or the night setting.

Sports is you guessed it for action shots, moving objects you want to freeze, like the water droplets from a fountain.

The night setting is especially fun, if you leave the flash on, it will freeze the closest objects to you and capture the ambient light of the background.  

Not the most flattering picture, but you get the idea.

Not the most flattering picture, but you get the idea.

If there are not people in your photograph or they are moving quickly you might end up with photos like the ones below.. (You can create these light trails in Tv mode and manual as well.)

Last but not least, don't forget a flat surface.  If you don't want light trails in your photos or your subject is out of focus for evening shots, the shutter speed is too slow to be held by you and your weak arms. Just kidding, it's just because you are a person and not a tripod.  If you don't have a tripod, (which is perfectly reasonable) find a flat surface and shoot from there, or even better set the self-timer and stand back.

Hopefully this made sense. It is just a small part of learning to take more expressive photographs. Take a few shots this week playing with the shutter speed and let me know how it goes.   See you next week.

Jessica HernandezComment