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Photography Fundamentals

8:38 AM - July 8, 2014 by Dan Makela



A DSLR camera, which stands for “Digital Single-Lens Reflex,” has a mirror that shows you what the lens sees through the viewfinder. When you press the button to take the picture, the mirror moves out of the way so the light can shine on the sensor to get the exposure. DSLR cameras are more adjustable and allow you to change lenses to get different looks.

Shutter Speed


The shutter is a kind of door that blocks light from hitting the camera’s film or sensor. When you press the button on the camera, the shutter somehow moves out of the way and allows light to hit the film or sensor for a specific number of or fraction of a seconds, after which it closes again. This is known as taking an exposure. How long the shutter open is the shutter speed, for example, one-half of a second.


The aperature is the hole where light goes through to hit the film or sensor on your camera. The hole can be wide, to let in a lot of light, or narrow, to let in only a little bit of light. How wide the hole is also determines how much of the scene before the camera will be in focus. A small hole will keep for example the person in the shot as well as the mountains in the background in focus. A wide hole will allow you to focus on the person, but the mountains in the background will be blurry.


The ISO setting on your DSLR camera indicates how sensitive the sensor is to incoming light. If you’re taking pictures in bright sunlight, you would set your ISO to 100, or the lowest ISO setting on most DSLR cameras. This setting means that there is plenty of light coming into the camera, and there is no need to boost the sensitivity of the sensor to “grab” more light in any way.

If you were taking photos indoors and there wasn’t enough light for some reason, you could boost the ISO to let’s say 3600, and this would allow you to take the picture and the camera would amplify the light to increase the brightness in the picture. You want to avoid doing this when possible, because it adds a grainy “noise” to your image so that objects come out a bit less clear and the colors might appear a bit spotty.

White Balance


Different types of lighting has different color hues. For example, sunlight has more blue tones while fire has more red tones. Our brains adjust our perception so that a white piece of paper looks pretty much the same to us under different types of lighting. Cameras do not make the same adjustments automatically, so we use the white balance setting on our cameras to shift colors to match our expectations.

That’s why we have the White Balance setting on our cameras. If you set white balance to Daylight or select the icon of the sun, you are telling the camera you are shooting in sunlight and so it can automatically dial back on the bluish tones a bit in the final picture for you. Check your camera's manual or just set it to Auto if you're completely not sure what to do.

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