Computer Engineers talk about bits, multiplexers, clock speeds and routers. Financial Engineers deal with standard deviations, stochastics and statistical distributions. And photographers? Well they have their own set of jargon that’s specifically designed to freak out the uninitiated.
If you’re looking to get into the hobby, or just want to be able to communicate with the photographer in your life in a language they understand, you’ve come to the right place.
Lets step outside the realm of point-n-shoots for a moment. To experience many of the features I will talk about in this and future articles, you will actually need to own an SLR. The distinguishing feature of SLR camera systems is that they allow you to see exactly what the captured image will look like when you look through the viewfinder.
It works by using a mirror (2) and a prism (7) to reflect light coming through the lens (1) directly to the viewfinder (8). When the camera takes a picture, the mirror simply flips up, and the light is no longer reflected up, and instead goes straight to the image sensor (4) which records the image. An SLR allows you to take see a picture through the viewfinder almost exactly as it would appear in the finished product.
SLRs also typically allow you to use interchangeable lenses, affect settings like shutter and aperture which allow manual control over exactly how light reaches the sensor.
There sure are a lot of buttons and numbers behind that camera aren’t there? One would think we were trying to confuse you ;P
Here, let me simplify it for you. All those buttons and dials and thingamajigs on your typical SLR are meant to affect just two basics of an image: Exposure and Composition. All photography tips, advice deal with improving these two metrics. Everything you will learn about photography from here on end will concentrate on these two words.
The exposure of an image defines how much light is let into the camera. It is the more ‘scientific’ side of photography. If more light is let in, the picture is brighter. If less light is let in, the image is darker. ‘Proper’ exposure is what you get when the amount of light that enters the camera produces an image that looks as our eyes see it.
Composition is the contents of an image. This is where the ‘art’ side of photography comes into play. Taking a picture of a person (hopefully clothed…), you could choose to include the background to emphasize location. Or zoom in on their eyes for a more dramatic effect and capturing emotion.
Taking a shot of a bird that stumbled onto your campsite? You could take a picture that shows the entire area in sharp focus. Or you can concentrate on your bird and leave the campsite to look like a blurred, cacophony of colors.
Shooting a waterfall? No problem, the choice is yours: Freeze the action in its place to see individual droplets of water or opt for prolonging the shutter to cause the water to devolve into wispy strings!
Just keep exposure and composition in mind when taking your next photos and you’ll find a dramatic improvement to the shots you begin to take.
Hopefully I’ve got you interested in learning more about photography. This post was meant to introduce to you SLR photography. My next posts on the topic will talk about how an SLR’s controls allow you to express creativity by taking images similar to the ones you’ve seen above. We’ll be looking at Shutter Speed, Aperture, Sensitivity and Focal length for an in-depth discussion into exposure and composition.
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