This is a post designed for those who attended my workshop Eyes, Cameras, Concepts at Beverley Station Arts last week, but it’s in no way limited to those people. This is a brief recap over some of the things I spoke about in the workshop. It’s also a pretty good starting point for anyone new to this blog, as it will cover most of the concepts which will be assumed knowledge in all other posts.
To kick things off I spoke about stops, exposure the mechanics of aperture, shutter and ISO, and about what a camera does, which can be aptly summed up in one sentence:
A Camera records light in extreme detail, over a set period of time.
More specifically, a standard digital camera sensor records the amount of light which hits each pixel over the period of exposure in a degree between 0 and 255, each for red, green and blue, over two thousand times down, and three thousand times across. So the metric through which we can measure how much light enters a sensor is called ‘Stops’. An increase of one stop is a doubling of the amount of light which enters the sensor, and a decrease of one stop is a halving. It’s based on these that we were able to explore how many stops the world would be brighter or darker, if we had more or less suns.
The Exposure Triangle
How much light is let into your camera is controlled by three variables: Aperture, Shutter and ISO. To recap on how these work, I did promise some of you the video of my 17 year old, scruffy haired self explaining them:
Here are the slides I used when introducing Shutter, Aperture and ISO
A lot of people starting out with photography zoom in and out to change the framing of their image, or simply to increase their reach. This is valid, but disregards the significant aspect changing focal lengths has on your image. This is generally known as compression, and it goes something like this:
As you increase the distance between your camera and your subject, the relative distance between that subject and it’s background decreases.
This is why, in terms of compression, zooming in and cropping achieve the same thing. This is also why selfies are so difficult: When you have such a short distance between the camera and your forehead, the relative distance between your forehead and ears becomes dramatically longer. I have two diagrams and two examples to show this, and I’d encourage looking at both until they start to make sense.
I’ve started with the details from part one because they were probably the hardest to memorise. But I still insist that as photographers, our understanding of cameras should always be secondary to our understanding of images. In regards to this particular workshop we looked at how the camera is really a very poor substitute for the eye, and so the best practice is in viewing your camera sensor, not as a means to recreate what your eye sees, but as an end in itself.
How To Become a Better Photographer
Once you go on from here and perhaps explore the rest of the blog, you’ll find it’s dense and nerdy, and not always strictly about imagery. Where I do draw the line is talking about lenses. There are so, so many blogs about which lenses you should buy and why, and I try to take great strides to avoid this in my blog. Cameras and lenses are means to an end and the best they can hope for is to make our strive for great images more convenient.
When you start out taking photos, your understanding of cameras and lenses, and what there is to buy, usually progresses alongside your progression as a photographer. You find out about fast lenses around the same time as you come to understand aperture. As you come to understand ISO you begin to want a camera which can be pushed further in this regard. But this way of thinking will trap you eventually, and there comes a point where every photographer has to accept that it is no longer their camera which is making their images look good.
-The primary concern for all photographers should be putting something interesting in front of your camera.
-When you break down the scene in front of you in terms of light (where is the light coming from? Are there any spots of hard light or shadow? How intense is the light?) You can get a pretty good idea of what your camera will see.
-Move. Tied to the habit of zooming instead of moving, is staying in one spot and waiting for things to happen around you. One of the most important things you can be doing as a photographer is moving, moving yourself in relation to the subject, the subject in relation to the background, subject in relation to light, light in relation to subject and background.
If you’re just starting out, Digital Photography School is a seemingly endless resource with a lot of good beginner information.
The blog I used to refer to constantly has now changed considerably in style, but the Photojojo blog is still full of fun and quirky ideas for cool photographs, with a good dose of incidental photographic knowledge on the way.
David Hobby’s Lighting 101 is essential reading as soon as your photography progresses into artificial lighting.
Stanford’s CS 178 photography course is essentially the backbone of this blog.
Finally, look at photographers on flickr, 500px, and wherever you can find people. Admire their photographs, reverse engineer them, and when you’re feeling up to it, talk to them.