I have been a stock photographer for over 25 years. For the last 5 years I have been shooting stock footage aswell.
- Shutter speed
- Depth of field
Most of these tips will apply to people using DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras. Some tips below will also apply to people using compact cameras as well that normally have less control over the exposure.
But you can be just as creative with a compact camera.
As the phrase goes, "the best camera in the world in the one you have with you!"
A 50mm lens is often regarded as standard focal length similar to that of the human eye.
Lenses with a smaller number between 15 - 35 mm are called wide angle lenses and able to see more of a scene, but of course everything will be smaller and further away.
Lenses bigger than 50 mm with a number between 70 - 300 mm will bring the subject closer and bigger in the frame are called a telephoto lenses.
3. Shutter speed
The shutter speed is the length of time that it takes to take a photograph.
The shutter is like a curtain going across the camera sensor.
On the wheel on the camera shown below, each number increase is a one stop increase and the duration twice as short as the previous number, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500 etc.
This mean`s 1/60th of a second, 1/125th of a second etc.
The sound you will here is the shutter opening and closing.
1/125 would just sound like a “click”.
1/8th second would sound like “click click”.
1 second exposure would sound like - "click……………click".
And so on.
Sports, action or wildlife or freezing water droplets use a short shutter speed.
If are trying to take pictures in low light, at night or to blur water, a longer shutter speed is required, which is fine as long as you can rest the camera on something solid.
I`d recommend also putting the camera on something soft so that it doesn’t get scratched. (And set the camera to self timer so there is less chance of making the camera wobble before you take the picture which will make the image look blurry.
The aperture is found in the lens and like the iris of an eye, it lets in more or less light.
Changing the aperture on a camera lens (normally now done from the camera,) you will see numbers between 2.8 to 22. (Written as f/2.8 to f/22.)
(Different lenses will have a different range of aperture numbers, and more expensive lenses will have a broader range of numbers.)
The best ever analogy I've heard was if correct exposure is a full bath of water.
If you have a tap with a small hole, it will take longer to fill up the bath.
A large tap hole, and it will take less time to fill up the bath.
In the case of photography and exposure, the tap hole is the aperture / iris, and the time it takes to fill up the bath is the shutter speed.
You can't change one without affecting the other.
It is useful to know that correct exposure varies according to scene and subject, the lens, the aperture or the shutter speed. (On many cameras you can choose the aperture and the camera will select the correct shutter speed, or you can choose the shutter speed and the camera will select the correct aperture. This is caller Aperture or Shutter priority.)
Sometimes cameras are fooled or try to find an average exposure for the whole scene, and cannot see the world as the human eye can.
This is when you see that the scene is too dark or too light.
With the beauty of digital cameras you can see straight away how the image will look so you can compensate accordingly.
If it is took dark, increase the exposure by + 1 stop or more.
Too bright, decrease the exposure by - 1 stop or more.
This is called exposure compensation.
This feature can often be found on compact cameras too.
Shown below with an example of the sunset.
It is only safe to look directly at the sun at sunset or sunrise when the sunlight is at its weakest.
6. Depth of field
This is a phrase used to describe how much of a picture will be in focus.
But depth of field will vary according to the aperture and lens being used.
Using a wide angle lens and a small aperture of f/11 for instance and most of the image will be in focus.
Using a telephoto lens and a big aperture of f/4 for instance and the background will be out of focus.
This is less noticeable using compact cameras.
Generally during the day set the ISO to 100.
When would you need to go higher? If you photographing a subject in a dark surrounding during the day (like inside an old building,) or night and you couldn`t rest the camera on the floor, wall or on a tripod, or need to freeze motion if the subject is moving quickly.
Although technology has vastly improved in digital cameras.
As a general rule the higher the ISO, the noisier the image will be.
You will begin to notice the dots that make up the image becoming more and more noticeable.
Whether you are using a compact camera, a DSLR or a Mirrorless camera, flash is generally only useful for only a few feet in front of the camera and not very good for illuminating a scene at night time. No matter how powerful it is.
I`ve lost count the amount of times I’ve seen flashes going off at night time from places like the Eiffel Tower with little chance of illuminating the whole of Paris!
So I would just recommend using flash for photographing people in front of the camera, during the day or night.
Flash is often good for portraits during the day, as it gives a nice sparkle to the eyes, which would otherwise be dark and full of shadow.
I wouldn't recommend photographing people with the sun behind the photographer. This often leads to the model squinting and also can also lead to strong shadows and highlights depending on what the model is wearing.
Whichever way you are standing, avoid looking directly at the sun.
My favourite setup for portraits?
Always look at light and where the sun is in the sky. The sun plays and important part in how an image will look. Avoid if you can photographing a subject at midday when the sun is at its highest the light gets brighter and harsher.
Also better if the sun is shining down the side of a building giving side light, rather than when the sun is totally facing a building or when it is in complete shadow. (So a building or a landscape always look nice when there is a lot of relief giving the effect of light shadow light shadow etc.)
There is a rule in photography called the rule of thirds.
If the frame is divided up into thirds, top to bottom left to right, images often look more pleasing if you have the subject of interest off centre resting on a third of the frame looking into the centre of the picture.
Sometimes rules are made to be broken of course, and you may want to have the subject in the centre, perhaps when you are photographing a body of water and want to show the perfect reflection as well.
10. Have fun!
Trying to get the attention of your model?
Never be afraid to act silly to get a reaction!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paul Hardy