What are the basics to know?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Abokiniec, Aug 4, 2009.

  1. Abokiniec macrumors newbie

    Aug 3, 2009
    Ok guys, I have a few questions ive googled on, and still cant find myself something i understand, could you help me out please?

    White Balance -
    How is it used?
    When is it used?
    Advantages of using it on camera other than on a program?
    How to use it properly?

    What is aperture and how is it used? / when?

    What is shutter speed? How is it used and when?

    And what is frames per second and what is it used for?
  2. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    Never mind Google. You need something old-fashioned. A book. About digital photography. Your local library will oblige... ;)
  3. Abokiniec thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 3, 2009
    Haha thanks Doylem, I'll go looking for one tomorrow :) It's rather late here now ;)
  4. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Look at any of the following explanations, or just google.


    Aperture (simply) is the hole that light passes through in a lens. Manipulating the aperture gives you different Depth of Field.

    Shutter speed is how fast the aperture is open, and therefore controls how much light hits the sensor.

    On DSLRs, frames per second usually refers to the number of shots a camera can take in "burst" mode- consecutive photos one after another.
  5. maestro55 macrumors 68030


    Nov 13, 2005
    Goat Farm in Meridian, TX
  6. Acsom macrumors regular

    Jul 10, 2009
    White balance is a digital thing. Ambient light has different "temperature"; skin tone looks different in morning sunshine versus under fluorescent light. Your camera's sensor is blind to this difference, and needs the white balance adjustment to compensate. I generally set mine to "auto", but sometimes I get screwy results indoors (a trait of Canon, I've read). Indoors I'll set it to the type of light. Some day I'll learn how to set custom white balances, but until then I'll adjust it in the computer, as needed.

    Aperture and shutter speed and ISO (which you didn't ask) are the "exposure trinity".

    Aperture controls depth of field. Lower numbers separate the subject from the rest of the photograph; higher numbers include more of the photograph in field of focus. It is used artistically to control the message of the photograph.

    Shutter speed controls the sense of motion. Higher shutter speeds stop motion, lower shutter speeds add blur and a sense of motion. That's pretty simplified, but it will work for now. When shooting action, for example, if your shutter speed is too high (fast), you can get something like a soccer ball glued to a foot; but if it is too slow, you can get the entire subject an indistinguishable blur. You choose the right shutter speed to stop the athlete but leave the ball with a bit of blur. It's a lot easier to describe than it is to do, believe me.

    ISO controls the amplification of the digital signal. In low light, you might not be able to get the optimal balance of aperture and shutter speed for the type of shot you want to take. In that case, you can raise the ISO (higher number) to get the other two parameters in the range you want.

    Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO have the advantage of being mathematically related. If you halve your shutter speed, you can double either your aperture or your ISO and get the same exposure. If you double your ISO and aperture, you can cut your shutter speed to 1/4 of its previous value (half, and half again). The best description of how to use the trinity to get the results you desire is Brian Peterson's Understanding Exposure; he wrote a book about what I've tried to say in a couple paragraphs. And he did a hell of a lot better job than I have. It isn't just getting the proper exposure, it's getting the right creative exposure to make your photo say what you want it to say.

    Frames per second is a fast action thing. If you're tracking an athlete going up for a pass, you want to maximize your chance of getting the "money shot". If you're shooting 2 frames per second, you're probably not getting the money shot. If you're shooting 6 frames per second, you might get it; if you did everything right, one of those 6 generally jumps right out at you and says "ME! ME! PICK ME!" Again, this is a lot easier to describe than it is to do (I'm a lousy action photographer).

    I hope this helps, I hope that others will correct anything I got wrong.
  7. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    white balance applies to all image recording, video or still, digital or film.

    nearly all cameras struggle with indoor lights, some just do it a little better than others.

    the advantage of getting white balance right (or nearly right) in-camera is you can make sure you haven't blown a channel (red, green, or blue). it doesn't happen really often, but it can get ugly. it also means one less thing to do in post.

    getting WB right is one of things that really need a calibrated monitor...so if you don't have one and can't afford one, you should probably make use of the different WB settings, and use custom whenever you can. all you need is a plain white sheet of paper or a gray card.
  8. JFreak macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2003
    Tampere, Finland
    White balance means that the image your camera takes should represent what your eyes are seeing. If the colours are wrong, you can adjust the pic by adjusting White Balance, and your goal should be that the image you're taking should look like the scene you're photographing.

    Shutter speed is the amount of time the light is affecting the sensor of the camera. Shorter the speed, the faster the subject you can capture.

    Aperture is like a pupil of your eye; the larger the pupil/aperture the more light comes through (in fixed amount of time) thus making the image less sharp. The smaller the pupil/aperture the less light comes through (in fixed amount of time) thus making the image sharper.

    These are kind of basics you have to learn.
  9. Acsom macrumors regular

    Jul 10, 2009
    Thanks for the correction, and the help!
  10. Grasher macrumors member

    Jul 16, 2009
    To understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO do this quick exercise. Set your camera (assuming it has manual controls) to aperture priority then set it on a level surface and take a photo. Watch what the numbers tell you on aperture (try starting at f5.6). Now close the aperture down a little - say to f8 - and take another identical photo from the same spot. You should see that the shutter speed has decreased. As the aperture of f8 is smaller than f5.6 less light is entering the camera and therefore the shutter speed needs to be slower for a correct exposure. Go back to f5.6 but this time change your ISO to a higher number. e.g. if it was at ISO 200 before, change it to ISO 400. Take another photo and you should see that the shutter speed has increased. Basically the higher the ISO the faster the shutter speed you can achieve, although higher ISO numbers generally result in a more grainy image (the extent to which this quality degrades depends on the camera - some are better than others).

    On white balance, first switch the auto WB mode on your camera off (or set it to a particular mode so that it doesn't change), take a piece of white paper and photograph it outdoors, then take another shot indoors under a standard tungsten bulb, then a fluorescent light (if you have one). You should see that the white paper is a different shade of white in each picture. Outdoors it should be a reasonably true white, tungsten will result in a yellowish shade whilst fluorescent will turn it a little blue. Adjusting WB is simply a matter of correcting the colour of the photo so that white shows as white. This is also sometimes referred to as temperature. In software the easiest way is to use the WB dropper tool and click on a part of the image that should be white or grey.

    I'm relatively new to photography myself and this was how these concepts were explained to me. The hardest part I for me to keep straight in my head was that a smaller aperture had a larger number. Other than that Acsom's explanation of the maths was how I understood it best.

    On the WB in camera vs program I prefer to use software as I can never properly remember what temperature to use in the camera and it just wastes valuable shooting time trying to figure it out. I shoot in RAW, which is easier to correct in software.
  11. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Oct 9, 2005
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    Get the book UNDERSTANDING EXPOSURE, by Bryan Peterson.
  12. Plymouthbreezer macrumors 601


    Feb 27, 2005
    Practice practice practice.

    A lot of the concepts are really just easier done than explained, especially over a webforum.

    That said, some of the books mentioned here will prove to be invaluable resources. Also, a camera specific book will help make the most out of your purchase.

    Showing photos for crit and suggestion is another way to learn from mistakes, and to learn what you're doing right; don't be shy with posting here in this forum.
  13. luminosity macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2006
    I was scanning this thread just to see how long it took for someone to post that.

    If Bryan Peterson got a dollar for every time someone on any forum mentioned that book, he'd probably make several thousand on it.
  14. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    I don't see the point of buying a book on exposure. there're plenty of (reliable) resources on the internet about exposure and metering.

    the stuff in The Camera and The Negative (Ansel Adams), though, aren't so common.
  15. luminosity macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2006
    The book is a classic on learning the basics of photography.

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