Lessons on photography

EXIF: 50mm | f5.6 | 1/15 s | ISO 100

When considering the relationship between aperture, shutter and ISO, the goal is always proper exposure based on your camera’s metering system. The camera’s built-in light meter determined how much light is necessary to achieve proper exposure and makes the necessary adjustments, based on whatever priority mode you are shooting in.

If you look really close you can see that this photo appears just slightly out of focus. It’s not, actually. What you’re seeing is blur from trying to hand hold at 1/15s shutter speed. Now, if I had a truly legit reason to shoot that slow, maybe I could justify it, but the fact is, I made a mistake. If you look at the EXIF data above you can quickly see where I went wrong.I shot in aperture priority, meaning that I told the camera to open the lens to f5.6 and fix it there, while adjusting the shutter speed to whatever was necessary to achieve proper exposure. The problem is, I didn’t check to see what shutter speed my camera decided was needed. Had I, I could have made changes.

My lens will shoot at two stops wider (or brighter) than f5.6. If I’d shot at f2.8 I would have doubled my shutter speed twice to 1/60 s (1/15 x 2 = 1/30 x 2 = 1/60s). That’s easily hand-holdable. Alternatively, I could have upped my ISO to 200, which would have also doubled my shutter speed. Had I shot this at f2.8 and ISO 200, my shutter speed would have been around 1/120 s, which would have totally eliminated any risk of blur. But I was in a hurry and while I do recall selecting f5.6, I don’t recall looking at my shutter speed in the viewfinder. My bad. The lesson here is to take care and, whenever possible, take your time. I’m really happy with this street portrait, which make me doubly disappointed with not getting a totally sharp shot.

F stop values: f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22…

Shutter stops in fractions of a second: 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 and so on.

ISO stops: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and so on (you almost never want to shoot higher than 1600).

With a non image stabilized lens you can shoot at 1/60 shutter speed safely, as long as you’re not using a telephoto lens zoomed in.

With an image stabilized lens (Nikon calls theirs VR while Canon calls theirs IS) you can usually get away with 1/30 s and sometimes ever 1/15 s if you’re really careful.

For each stop you widen the aperture of your lens (i.e. shoot at a lower f-stop number) your shutter speed increases by a stop.

For each stop you up your ISO, your shutter speed increases a stop.

So the point is, you should always be checking your shutter speed to make sure it’s at least 1/30s or faster. If you are shooting people walking and you want to freeze them, then up your shutter speed to 1/120 s. If you want a bit of a blur on their legs to show movement, then lower your shutter to 1/30 s-1/60 s. If you’re shooting a portrait shot like the above, then up that shutter speed to ensure you don’t end up with a blurry photo.

Anyway, hope that helps. If anyone has anything to add, feel free to jump in.

This entry was posted in Black & White Photography, Portrait Photography, Street Photography, Toronto, Urban Photography, Winter Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Lessons on photography

  1. Kieran Hamilton says:

    This post is great, I’m just learning digital photography and was a bit confused about all this kinda stuff, thanks!

  2. I’m learning the very same valuable lessons right now – can I remember them when I’m out shooting? That’s the question!! Having to judge quickly what settings to use, and remember to check ALL of them is tricky… but it always gives us an excuse to go out and try again for a better shot!

  3. Frances says:

    Sigh….all of that is so overwhelming to me. I hope to one day be able to speak the lingo – I’m not there. I bought Photoshop Elements 9 tonight and am afraid to open the box. The Photoshop I currently have is from 2002 and very confusing, I don’t get it. I thought it would be easier with the cheap Elements 9, but as soon as my son saw it…he says I will be disappointed, because it’s confusing too. That’s where the fear of opening the box comes in!! lol. Oh well, maybe tomorrow. Nice picture of the man. I wish you told a story about him… 😦

  4. Thanks everyone.
    Frances: Be sure to check out youtube for video tutorials on how to use Photoshop Elements. There are tons of tutorials for photo editing I’m sure you’ll find handy. I find watching the videos a great help.

    As for remembering everything, the main thing to remember, in my opinion, is to check your shutter speed. If it’s not fast enough, that’s when to consider your other settings. You can make the lens brighter by lowering the f-stop number and/or you can up your ISO, which makes the sensor more sensitive to light.

    I’ll write some more about it in the near future.

    As for the man in the photo, he was handing out pamphlets on Yonge St. across from the Eaton Centre. I walked by him thinking he had an interesting face. Then I turned around and came back and asked if he’d mind my taking his photo. He asked why and I said it was for a class project and he said okay. I often use the ruse of a class project to get photos of strangers. It sounds reasonable and much less creepy. 🙂

  5. Frances says:

    Thank you! I will… I always look at You Tube for help with things – fixing toilets etc lol. I do have that book you recommended. Understanding Exposure. But ever since I took Champix to stop smoking 1 year and almost 3 months ago, not only did it take away the desire to smoke, it took away the desire to read – which really sucks! (no pun) But anyway, why am I telling you this lolol. I should put time aside and made a true effort. Thanks for the story on the man…less creepy for sure. 🙂

  6. Great technical notes. You would be a great teacher and I hope to see more of these instructional notes accompanying your photos.

    Hope all is well in life.


  7. Thanks Frances and D. I might try to redo this article in more simplistic terms and in a proper, linear fashion. It’s a bit scattered but I was writing on the fly without much of a plan.

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