Camera Catastrophe

I’m freely going to admit, I know nothing about cameras!

Throughout this course of study, terms like exposure, f/stops, shutter speeds, ISO settings, resolution, compression, file size, white balance and file format have been used. Everytime I heard one of these words, I started to panic. I could literally feel my heart racing and was pretty sure my blood pressure raised. I was, and for the most part still am, lost.

I took 10 different types of photos on various settings. I used the same subject (my dog, Riley) for all of the pictures so I could see the differences in the pictures.

My first attempt was a disaster! Some pictures were completely black and some were completed white (correct terms are underexposed and overexposed). I had no idea what I did wrong. I followed all the directions. I tried it again by switching the ISO to reflect the actual light outside (I was doing the opposite of what I first tried). It worked! My pictures are not perfect, but each photo does show a picture of a dog!

Then came the photo review. Mine were so bad it was laughable. Others in the class had these professional looking pictures and seemed to know exactly what our instructor was talking about. It was all over my head. I got off the class chat feeling frustrated, but also a little excited to try it again.

So I called in the big gun, my neighbor and professional photographer, Kelsey. You’re never too old to have a tutor! We started from the beginning and went through each type of assigned photo one by one. We talked about how to set the camera on the correct settings for each type of picture. Needless to say, my photos turned out much better this time.

I did learn a little about the three basic settings when on manual; ISO, f/stop and shutter speed. I still can’t figure out what settings should be used for all the different types of photos, but at least I know what these terms mean.

ISO (International Organization of Standardization) measures the sensitivity of the image sensor. The same principles apply as in film photography – the lower the number the less sensitive your camera is to light and the finer the grain. ISO works together with the shutter speed and F/stop.

F/stop or Aperture is a setting you use to determine how much light should enter the lens. Meaning the lower the f/stop setting, the more light you let into the lens. The higher the f/stop number, the less light you let into the lens. For example, if you are outside on a bright sunny day, you would want a setting of F32 or higher. It works like a pupil. When you step outside, your pupils contract and get smaller. When you are in a darker place, your pupils get bigger to try to let more light in.

Shutter speed is a setting that determines how quickly your camera will take a picture. It’s the length of time when the film or digital sensor inside the camera is exposed to light. The smaller the fraction, the faster the camera will take a picture.

I am still more comfortable with a point and shoot approach, but am happy to understand a little more about the mysterious numbers and gadgets on the camera. I imagine I will get more comfortable the more I use my camera in the manual setting. But for now, I think I will stick with the auto settings. The auto settings know more than I do about taking a good picture, but I won’t completely give up on manual!

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