Everyone has a passion, and if you’ve read any of my previous articles, you probably know that photography is a big one of mine. Over the past two years as I've furthered my skills, one thing I haven’t taken the time to do is familiarize myself with the three pillars of photography: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. After a rather disastrous photoshoot the other day (it was ridiculously sunny which in turn made most all of the photos bright and blurry beyond editing), I decided that I needed to learn how to control the camera in its entirety for myself. Rather than rely on automatic mode, I figured it was time to start using manual mode. I took to learning these three pillars and found that while simple in concept, they can still be a little bit confusing to some in terms of how and where to apply them. Without further ado, here is an aspiring photographer’s guide to the three pillars of photography.
ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. When you have a lower ISO, there is less of a sensitivity, and vice versa with a high ISO. What allows for the varying levels of ISO is a very expensive part of the camera simply called an image sensor. By increasing the ISO, the sensor is able to get a quality photograph in low lighting without using the flash. Increase at your own risk, though, because it will add a slight textured graininess to the final product.
Each time you increase the ISO, you essentially lessen the time that your camera needs to be exposed to that shot. Increasing it helps with capturing live-action photos. It’s best, however, to keep the ISO low in a low-level setting if the camera is mounted on a tripod or some sort of flat, steady surface.
2) Shutter Speed
Shutter speed is the length of time a camera shutter remains open to allow light into the camera sensor. With a fast shutter speed, action can be stopped and captured in that exact instant. By slowing down the shutter speed, it allows more of a blurred motion effect. Shutter speed is measured in fractions- the smaller the fraction, the shorter the exposure time.
Setting a slower shutter speed is often used when taking time-lapse photos, such as a picture of the night sky or a waterfall. A quicker speed is best for stop-motion photography, such as when shooting a sporting event or quick-moving animal.
Aperture is how widely the lens is opened, or dilated. It is used to focus on the main subject of the photograph and blur out the excess background, giving the photo a more concentrated effect. F-stops are how they are described, which essentially means that we are stopping the lens from dilating all the way or increasing to what effect it does dilate.
The smaller the number, the larger the aperture (confusing, I know). F/9 is much smaller than F/2.3. When the number is smaller, it means that it will be focusing on a smaller amount of that photo, in turn blurring the majority of the background, and vice versa with a larger number. Essentially, the less you want in focus, the smaller the number.
Hopefully by exposing you to the world of ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, I shined a little more light (pun totally intended) on the three pillars of photography for you. I have a feeling that with a little bit of practice, you'll be photographing in manual mode like a pro shortly!