Photography is a wonderful art form, accessible to anyone who uses a camera to capture the world in front of them.

Digital or film, mobile device or fancy-schmancy camera with interchangeable lenses, the basics of photography do not change and it applies to all. 

My friend, photography is all about capturing light. (Otherwise a photograph would be completely black.)

A photograph's exposure is a combination of three fundamental properties: light sensitivity (ISO), light duration (Shutter-Speed) and light strength (Aperture).

A good exposure is well-balanced and pleasing to the eye. Meaning it is not so dark or so bright that our image is blown out and we have lost vital detail in key areas.

If we are using a camera in full-automatic mode, the camera's programming will analyze the light in the scene and create an "exposure formula" to fit the given situation with ONE over-riding priority: avoid blurry photographs. 

Most of the time, things will come out okay and we will get a photograph that has a good overall balance, but there's more to it than that, there is also the creative side of photography.

Here are 15 photographs, they all have the same tonal balance, meaning one isn't any brighter/darker than another, except for changes which come from shooting in natural light. 

Which one do you prefer?

ISO 200  |  1/100  |  f/4.5

ISO 200 | 1/100 | f/4.5

For whatever reason, out of all these different photographs, only ONE will stand out as being better than all the others. Sometimes it's only slightly better, while other times it wins by a country mile.

In this case, that means there is only a 1-in-15 chance the camera would have delivered the kind of photograph that we prefer, the one we have already created in that wonderful, vivid human imagination of ours. (In fact, it will be much higher than a 1-in-15 chance on a sunny day.)

Personally, I like the "angel-hair" effect of blurred water, as this conveys action in an image, but since my camera's automatic programming is designed to avoid giving me a blurry photograph, it will set the properties of light-sensitivity (ISO), light-duration (Shutter-Speed) and light-strength (Aperture) to whatever is necessary to prevent any blur.

This is just one reason why people learn and practice photography. To create an image which matches (or even exceeds) what we already have in our imagination.

Once we understand the nature of how these 3 properties (ISO, Shutter-Speed and Aperture) interact with each other, and how they play a role in our photographs, we can manipulate them to give us a great photographs in any situation.

Automatic is good and it’s convenient, but semi or full-manual is often better and more gratifying…

"Load a roll of film in your camera. Confine yourself to your property and shoot that entire roll. If at all possible, do this in manual mode. Just go out... relax... look around... and wait until you see something of interest. Trust me, you will..."

Every new student (like myself) of 35mm film photography got a similar instruction when first starting out. This simple exercise teaches us to not just see the world at a glance, but to look beyond that, to really seeeee the world with brand new eyes.

On my camera, a few dials allow me access to all the camera functions I need to control ISO, Shutter-Speed and Aperture.

With smartphones free (and paid) apps allow me access to ISO and Shutter-Speed, so we have at least some measure of control, and things are getting better all the time, too.

Photography is NOT  hard to learn, it just takes imagination, a basic understanding of some things, time and practice. Plenty of practice.

Yes, you will make mistakes. We all did and we still do, but it's the thrill of the chase... the hunt and the moment of capture which holds the greatest reward for us.

So relax, you're in good company here.

"Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I'm going to take tomorrow."

Imogen Cunningham

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In