Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Holy Trinity of Camera Settings

More often than not, beginners think of the latest expensive camera as the Excalibur of picture taking, endowing you with godlike capabilities to produce clear, vibrant and stone-cutting sharpness throughout your photos with the press of the shutter button. Anyone though, who first held up an SLR and shot with it for the first time would attest to this initial disappointment. 

After the initial disappointment, you realise that your thousand/s dollar/s camera will not instantly produce blazing, rainbow popping  photos at the push of the shutter  button, you are forced to learn what you did wrong.

Most of beginner photographers' first shot with their brand new all-manual camera would look a little bit like this:

My first shot with my $ XX,XXX camera was an ambitious take on shooting the abysmal darkness of the world around me.

The irony is with cameras, the more expensive they are, the more likely you have to work on taking a picture.

Contrary to what you may have thought, your new expensive (yes, all DSLRs are expensive) DSLR is not the Excalibur. It cannot grant you the Kingdom of Camelot simply from pulling it from the stone,  and simply waving it around for people to see will more likely get you robbed (or stoned) han respected.

A camera is not your excalibur, it doesn't emanate an aura that automatically makes you a better photographer. To me, seeing a camera as a sword is a misinterpretation. (Unless you're into super macro where the blunt side of the lens smashes right into your subject)

If you must compare your camera to a weapon as dictated by your testosterone fuelled (more likely MMORPG fuelled) manliness, Compare it to a bow.

"I steal from the rich to fund my photography hobby"

A bow, like a camera, can come in many shapes and forms. Some make arrow-shooting easier and has more features than standard bows, which is why they may also cost more than your standard bow. 
Regardless of what bow you have however, you wouldn't hit the broad side of the barn unless you learn how to aim, calculate wind speed and know how far you are from your target. 

Photography is similar to that in the sense that you have to factor in different elements to predict the desired outcome.  

Not all of these elements though are under your control. Natural light for example can be one thing you have to compromise with unless you're Christopher Reeve from Superman 2.

Come to think of it, He could have just gone all Terminator on Lex Luther.

What Can you Control?

There are countless things you can control with a full manual camera depending on the model. Technology is ever evolving and things that would require hour's of post processing years ago can be done in the flick of a button in your new handy $x,xxx camera

All photographers however, should know the holy trinity of settings; shutter speed, aperture and ISO.  Knowing these three settings alone can already move you up in the path of likes from my online friends.

There are countless descriptions of these settings online but if you are one of the unlucky people to stumble unto this blog, here is a short description for each of these settings.

Shutter Speed:
The speed at which a camera takes a picture. I won't go all that technical into this but think of the camera's shutter as your eye and the shutter speed controls how long your eye stays open before they blink.

A fast shutter speed will "freeze" motion while a slower one will blur it out. get your shutter speed slow enough and you just might even remove moving objects from the scene entirely.

Aperture controls the level of sharpness an image is. A large aperture (small number) gives you a smaller part of an object in focus while a smaller aperture will give you a shot what is more in focus throughout the picture.

     The hazy motorbike rider is a testament to the Aperture 2.0 

Aperture f11 sharpens even the background

ISO is the third in the trinity of settings that every would-be shooter should have. Prior to digital, the only way to change ISO was to change your entire roll of film. Thankfully, now we have the convenience of changing our ISO's after every shot without it burning a hole in our pockets.

ISO basically controls your camera's sensitivity to light. A low ISO makes the camera less sensitive to light limiting the amount of light that can be captured, and a high ISO makes it more sensitive allowing it to capture more light.

So why not just use a high ISO throughout your entire photo shoot? Simply put, the higher ISO you use, the more noise you get.

The camera advertised up to ISO 800,000 

Noise in a picture can mean many things. but most often noise is classified by the amount of grain a picture has.

ISO basically bumps up your camera's ability to take pictures in low light with the cost of increasing noise to the photo. Think of a guitar amplifier being brought up to its highest volume, You can hear it better, but the sound ends up being distorted and in effect "noisier"

The rule of thumb is of the three settings you have, ISO is your last resort. Unless you intentionaly add grain or noise as part of your picture, it is best to keep this as low as you can possibly go.

Some people however take this too far and force themselves to picture at their lowest ISO at all times.  That would be defeating the purpose of these three settings. A little noise would be better than blurry faces.

Below is a chart from that might just simplify everything I said into one image. But if you got it till the end of this, you must have enjoyed the ride of blabbering.

For them however, it is the Tri Force of Camera Settings

These three settings will get you a long way in your walk to the online haven of likes and shares that may very well bring you close to the justification of why you spent that much for a camera. The beauty of starting out is that you are free to make mistakes, these mistakes help you become better in the long run. And, please use your camera to shoot, its a camera for God's sake not a bloody necklace.

To close this post,  here are some legendary bows you can name your camera, because well, like I said, it ain't no sword.

Brahmastra - Ancient Bow believed to have no counter-attack nor defence against it. It never missed its mark and could annihilate a whole army. - great stuff 

Eaglehorn - Gives a big Agility boost to DOTA characters as well as a nifty Diablo 2 Bow. (Yes, I am still stuck with Diablo 2.

Artemis - Though not the Actual name of a bow, Artemis is the goddess of the hunt, and was associated with the bow as one of her symbols. 

Lothlorien - One of the bows carried by Legolas in Lord of the Rings

Narayanastra - Vishnu's Bow that could fire millions of arrows simultaneously. - Talk about frames per second

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