Photography

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"When I was teaching at Harvard in the 1970s, I went to Project Incorporated in Cambridge and took photography classes. I didn't even know how to aim the camera in those days." - Ann Beattie

These basics can be used to improve your day to day photography.

The aperture

When we step out of the dark into the sunlight, we usually blink our eyes. Our pupils are wide open in the dark and it takes a moment to adjust them to a small aperture. In fact we react very fast to changing light conditions. So fast in fact that most of the time we're not even aware of it.
 
In photography we are continuously dealing with the amount of light that is avalaible to us. And more specifically with the difference between the dark and light areas of the scene we want to record. This difference we call contrast. In our eye we regulate the the amount of light that reaches our retina with the pupil, the round opening in the iris that gets larger or smaller. With a camera we have two devices to regulate the amount of light. The aperture and the shutter speed.

The shutter speed

With SLR's, single lens reflexes, the aperture is located in the lens.  When we press the shutter release, the shutter curtains or leaves move very quickly from right to left or from top to bottom. Between the two curtains or the leaves, an opening or a slit is left open, through which the light passes onto the film. The film sits directly behind the shutter.
 
The amount of time the light is let in, is variable. It can be very short: 1/2000 of a second for example. But it can also be rather long. As long as half a second: 1/2 s. That amount of time we call shutter speed. It indicates the amount of time the shutter is left open.
 

Metering

We measure light with a light meter. In almost all cameras it is integrated. We always meter the light on our subject. So that means it is the most important part of the image we are recording. If everything is equally important, then we have to take care that the difference between the light parts and the dark parts of the image (the contrast) is not too big.
 
We always must pay attention to bright objects within our frame. Like a window, a light, or the sky. They will influence the metering severely. The light meter will measure the whole frame and will not know at what it is looking. A meter basically expects an even distribution of black and white over the whole image. We all know that this is not the case in reality.  So if there are a lot of bright parts in our frame, but they are not our subject, (it is as if our camera is thinking: It is very bright here; my aperture must be small and I must close my shutter fast). So to avoid that, we have to take a reading very close to our subject.  Move in till the subject area fills our frame exclusively.
 

Blur

The shutter speed not only determines the duration of the exposure, but it also has an important impact on our image. If we take a picture with a fast shutter speed, the image will seem frozen. Even a speeding car will look as if it is parked in the middle of the road.

But if on the other hand we take a picture with a slow shutter speed, everything in our image will be blurred. First of all it is very difficult to hold our camera steady. And if something in the frame moves, it will be blurred in the picture.


Something About Flash!

Flash is great to get sharp pictures in low light, but it has its limits. For some subjects its best to turn it off and find a way to hold your camera still for a long exposure. For other things you need to think carefull about where you stand and how you arrange whatever you are photographing. For groups of people, try to get them all roughly the same distance away, not too close and not too far from the camera. Around 4-8 feet is usually best.

[ Data collected from www.xs4all.nl -wim wiskerke, www.suite101.com ]

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