Welcome to the second article of this multi-part series on the basics of photography. Today we are going to expand on what we discussed in the first article.
The Aperture and the Shutter
Today’s DSLR cameras have more bells and whistles than a Mercedes Benz. What it all boils down to is the shutter and aperture. These two items control what the final image will look like. Let’s start with an overview of what they are and what effect they have on each other. We talked about how aperture and shutter speed effect the exposure of an image, but there is more to these items. As you can imagine, these features can be manipulated depending on what you are looking for in your final image.
At its most basic level, the shutter controls motion, this can be the motion of an athlete running for a touchdown, or the motion of the camera as you wobble back and forth. Aperture controls how much of the image will be in focus. This is called “depth of field”. I am sure you have all seen a great portrait where the person is in focus but everything around them is blurry or out of focus. This is controlled by the aperture. The lower the aperture, or bigger hole (remember from the first article), the lower the depth of field will be. A can explain these by two different types of photographers we have. For our youth sports photographers, if we are taking a picture of a football team we would want a large depth of field so everyone is in focus. This would need to be f-11 or higher for a large football team. If our school photographers are taking a close-up of a child and they want the subject to “pop” out of the picture, they would want a low depth of field, like f-2.8 if they are really looking to blur the background.
Balancing the two
In the sample above, our wedding photographer wanted a low depth of field, so she would have set the aperture to a lower number. However, she needs to adjust the shutter speed accordingly while taking the following into consideration;
- Ensure the proper exposure.
- Make sure to freeze movement within the scene.
- Make sure there is no camera motion visible in the image.
Now, let’s say one of our youth sports photographers is shooting action photography. In order to freeze the action, we need a fast shutter speed. When selecting the aperture, we need to take the following into consideration;
- Ensure the proper exposure.
- Make sure we have the right depth of field.
Before we move on to aperture, let’s take a look at how shutter speeds can negatively impact your images. After all, we all want to be considered the best photographers, right?
Like I mentioned earlier, there are two different types of motion we are trying to control with shutter speed, subject motion and camera motion
Motion blurs the image. Camera motion will affect the entire image while subject motion only affects what is actually moving.
Before we look at how to choose shutter speeds we will address what is a common cause of ruined photographs.
Unless you are a photographer in San Diego here in earthquake country who just so happens to be taking a shot during an earthquake, most camera motion is due to hand holding your camera while shooting. No matter how steady you think you hold your camera, everyone falls victim to camera motion, everyone! Use shutter speed to combat camera motion to freeze that movement..
A good rule of thumb is to make sure to keep your shutter speed above 1/60 if you are hand holding your camera. If you are using a longer lens or a heavier lens, then bump it up to 1/125 or 1/250.
There are also lenses with Image Stabilization that help combat camera motion as well, but they are going to be on the expensive side.In my next article I will get into what is, in my opinion, the fun part of photography, composition. Make sure to check back to this site soon to see the next installment!