basic photography: 2 of 15

I can honestly say that my excitement has gone from a reasonable level at the conclusion of last week’s class to sheer “through the roof” excitement following class 2. In just 2 hours of lecture (No, no lab tonight. 3 hours shorter – woohoo!), I learned a rockin’ amount of information and also love our prof! She’s extremely knowledgeable, down to earth, and patient. It is true, though, that she does have her rules. Totally fine! She reiterated that the focus of our course is based on the art of photography. Yes, we’ll learn the technicalities, but our focus will go beyond that. Woohoo!

So, here’s what tonight revealed.

What’s the difference between a picture & a photograph? Well, have you ever gone through a friend’s or co-worker’s photo album from a recent vacation? Did you need a pillow upon which to rest your head and a tissue to wipe away your drool? Those, my friends, are pictures. They mean something to the people who were there, but little to others. Now, what’s a photograph? A photograph communicates, tells a story,  and/or elicits emotion. It does so through texture, contrasting colors, positioning, facial expressions, and/or emotion. A photograph stands alone and tells a story.

Have you ever wondered what a film’s ISO means? First, the ISO tells how sensitive the film is to light. It also tells a tale of how much silver is on the film. Less silver = lower ISO value (ex. 100) = less sensitive = most useful in bright light. More silver = higher ISO value (ex. 400) = more sensitive = most useful in low/dim light situations.

There are four factors that control exposure, three of which are within a photographer’s creative reach. First is the aperture, which controls the brightness of the light that reaches the film/sensor. Next is the shutter speed, dictating the length of time the light strikes the film. Then there’s the ISO setting, described above. Finally, and often out of the photographer’s control, is the brightness of the subject.

Previsualization is important. When you previsualize, you look at the image you’re about to take through the viewfinder and take note of everything that will be in your image. You check four corners to see what’s there, and you look specifically at your subject. If you’re photographing a woman seated in front of a wall, is there a calendar or light switch coming out of her head? Are there power lines going through your nearly-perfect shot of an intriguing monument? Previsualize to avoid oddities such as these.

Technically speaking, anything with a shutter speed between 1/1000 and 1/250 will freeze motion. The optimum panning speed is 1/125, and anything from 1/60 and slower can be used to blur and accentuate motion. Further, any shutter speeds at 1/30 or slower requires the use of a tripod in order to be stable. The exception is with various lens lengths, and there’s a rule to apply. If you have a 200 mm lens, the next faster shutter speed (from the lens length), or 1/250, would not require a tripod. The next slower shutter speed (from the lens length), or 1/125, will require a tripod. Another example … you have a 20 mm ultra wide angle lens. A shutter speed of 1/30 would not require a tripod, whereas a shutter speed of 1/15 would. Of course, these are just guidelines and a rule of thumb, and your results may vary.

Finally, in most situations, your preference will be with the f stop. The exception, however, is when you want to work with motion. If you wanted to accentuate movement and blur headlights from a passing car, you would set your shutter speed to the desired value and let the f stop calculate. In all but motion situations, however, you would give preference to the f stop.

That’s about it for class highlights, and there will be more to come next week. We start labs next week, so things should get increasingly interesting! Yippee!

AnonymousSeptember 4, 2008 - 8:51 pm

Wow Mindy! That is so cool. Photography alwasys intrested me. I am not very good at it, but i am confident you will be taking excellent pics. muwah

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