Camera Settings & Aperture

Since I have owned my camera, it is alway on “auto” mode. I have taken nice pictures, but it is time to get it off auto mode, and understand the other functions it has and be more creative. This post is not necessarily going to be interesting, but a post for me to gather my thoughts and compare some different settings. I started taking a camera class at Charleston Center for Photography, and am super excited about what I have learned in my first class, some of which I am going to share with you.

Camera Settings

Most DSLR cameras have a variety of auto functions to choose from ( auto, landscape, portrait, etc.)  They also have settings where the photographer gets to pick settings (p-program, a-aperture priority, s-shutter priority, m-manual. I learned  in detail about two modes that I have been practicing in this week.

A- Aperture priority-semi-automatic mode allowing the photographer to set a desired aperture. The camera will select an appropriate shutter speed to get an average exposure. Aperture is also knows as “f stops” and is written as f11, f2.8, etc.

S-Shutter priority semi-automatic mode allowing the photographer to select a desired shutter speed and the camera sets the proper aperture to get an average exposure. Shutter speed is expressed in fractures of a second, written as 1/125, 1/60, etc.

So what is aperture?

  • Aperture refers to the hole in the lens that allows light to pass through the shutter.
  • The aperture setting or f-stop is adjustable.
  • The higher aperture number, the less light will reach the sensor.
  • Aperture is the primary control for depth of field(portion of a scene that appears sharp). Greater numbers give greater depth, lesser numbers give less depth.
  • The largest aperture numbers refer to the smaller lens opening; conversely, the smaller the number the larger the opening.
  • Changing from any aperture to the next higher number (e.g f8 to f11) reduces the diameter of the lens opening by half, and therefore, cuts the light reaching the film in half. Changing to the next lower number (e.g f8 to f4) doubles the area of the lens opening which doubles the amount of light reaching the film. This change is one “f” stop.
  • Aperture priority mode allows the photographer to select the aperture desired for a particular shot, and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed based on camera ISO settings and the brightness of the scene.  This selection will always render the scene medium in tonality and will not compensate for overly bright (thick snow) or overly dark (dark trees) scenes.
  • Three things affect depth of field;aperture, focal length, and camera-to-subject distance.
  • Landscape pictures=high depth of field=less light=large aperture
  • Portraits or single subject in busy backrgound=low depth of field=more light= small aperture.

So how do I remember it?

Less depth of field=only subject in focus, background blurry=more light let in camera=bigger circle= small f number=portraits

More depth of field= everything in focus=less light in camera=little circle=large f number= landscapes

F36, shutter speed 5/8 second. Typically when someone is shooting landscapes they want a lot of picture to be in focus like this one.  

This is the same picture, with different settings. I changed the aperture, so the camera adjusted the shutter speed accordingly. The numbers for this picture are f 5.6, Shutter speed 1/60 second. This picture was shot in aperture priority, with a f5.6, which is toward the low end of aperture. It has low depth of field, see how much less detail is in this picture compared to the one above?


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