You can call me Bryn, or teacher/sensei if you would prefer. In this article I will be explaining your camera to you in a way that will allow you to fall back to this article whenever you may be struggling with achieving a shot, or understanding your camera. I have included illustrations using your Canon 700D as the model, which will allow you to reference back on which button to use for each specific setting you may want to adjust.
The Holy Trinity
This has nothing to do with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – but in fact is far more important. The holy trinity is a concept I have come up with for this tutorial to allow you to understand the three primary settings of your camera. These three settings are the main factors in determining how your photo comes out looking. A photographer will use these three settings in conjunction with one another to create their art, and the image they are looking to capture.
The Holy Trinity is as follows:
– Aperture (Also known as F-Stop)
– Shutter Speed (Also known as Exposure)
Before we discuss where they can be found on your camera and how to change them. I’m going to run through what they do and how they can be used in conjunction with one another.
Shutter Speed / Exposure
The shutter speed is probably the most important part of taking a photo. Shutter speed is self-explanatory, and is simply the amount of time the camera shutter stays open for. Simply put, the longer the shutter stays open for, the more movement the camera will catch. Whenever the lens is ‘open’ it’s busy printing what it sees onto the image, but if what it sees is changing position, it will end up printing a blur.
Remember when we were at Koeel Bay and I was telling you to stand still because any movement would create a motion blur? That’s because it was dark and I had to use a really high shutter speed (30 seconds!). Meaning any movement made during that 30 seconds that the shutter was open for, would be recorded.
Luckily in day light, you don’t need to worry about blur too much as there is enough light to allow you to keep a fairly fast shutter speed. You will most likely be using shutter speeds between 1/200th of a second and 1/2000th of a second in sunlight. During sunsets, this will lower obviously, as there is less light. When you go into the shade, you will also need a slower shutter speed.
Sometimes however, you want that motion blur – perhaps you are shooting a sunset at the beach and you want the movement of the waves captured. You will need to set the camera up on a tripod (any movement of the photographer holding the camera will also cause blur with a low shutter speed), and then once your camera is firmly mounted on a tripod, you can look at lowering the shutter speed, to something around 1.5 seconds. Meaning the shutter will stay open for 1.5 seconds, capturing the waters movement in that time. You will see a lot of my photos have water looking like silk, that is due to using a long shutter time.
ISO can be thought of as a light booster, that allows you to increase the speed of your shutter. Say you want to take a photo of a tree, but it’s getting dark out and if you are using 100 ISO, your shutter speed to get the right light is 1/50th second, and you want to shoot hand held and not on a tripod. Then you can look at increasing your ISO to ‘boost’ your light and allow you to increase that shutter speed. Say you move the ISO to 400 instead… Now you will be able to shoot the same scene at something around 1/200th second shutter speed.
Now you may think, “Well if increasing the ISO allows you to get faster shutter speeds, why don’t you just increase it to 12 800 and then you can shoot in low light with a fast shutter speed”.
However, increasing the ISO also degrades the image quality. The higher the ISO the more noise you will see in your images, and you want to keep it as low as you can (while ensuring you get enough shutter speed). For landscapes you will generally be shooting on 100 or 200 ISO. For birding or action shots it’s different. Remember how we discussed the shutter speed above? Remember how 1/200th second was recommended as a minimum general shutter speed? Well for moving objects like birds, sportsmen etc. You will want an even quicker shutter speed, because their fast movement will get picked up as blur easier on the camera. For sports shots or birds, you will generally be at 400 ISO or 800 ISO.
You can generally push your ISO to around 3200 if you’re shooting stars or night photography. However, remember that those images will contain a lot of noise. So keeping it at 1600 ISO for stars is advisable.
Aperture / F-Stop
The concept of aperture is a little trickier than the others, as it serves two functions – well one function, but that function has a side effect. The primary function of the aperture is to control your depth of field. Depth of field is how much of the photo is in focus. For portraits people will shoot with a low F-Stop while for landscapes you will want a higher f-stop. That’s because with portrait photography, you want to isolate your subject and hide the background etc. While with landscapes you want to capture a lot of detail, from the rocks in the foreground to the ocean in front and then the mountains in the distance.
If you’re having trouble understanding still, take a look at the chart below. As you can see when the photo was shot at F2.8, the plane was only in focus near the front, but as they increased the F-stop, the more detail was seen.
This brings us to the other part of F-stop, the side effect from it. The lower the F-stop, the more light that gets let into the camera and thus the quicker the shut speed. While the more you up the F-stop number, the darker the image will get and thus requires a longer shutter time to compensate for. You can see in the same image above, that the first photo was shot at F2.8 and used a 1/8th second shutter speed. While as they increased that F-stop number, the shutter speed had to be increased as well to make up for the F-stop. The image on the far right required 20 seconds of exposure! Just because the F-stop being at 32 meant that so little light was being let in.
In practice, you will generally be shooting landscapes on between F8 and F13, while portraits and action shots will be shot at something low like F4.5.
Manual vs Av Mode
Now that you understand the above, you can make sense of how manual mode works versus Av (aperture priority) mode.
Since you now know what aperture is, you may be able to tell that AV mode gives priority to the F-Stop. Meaning that it allows you to select an F-Stop and an ISO, and then it will calculate the shutter speed for you. If you are shooting in AV mode and see blur in your photos, that means it’s calculating a shutter speed that is too slow and you can rectify this by….
You guessed it! Since both lower the F-Stop or upping the ISO increases light, you can change one of those. Say you were shooting AV at 200 ISO and there was blur, you can now try changing the ISO to 400. This will mean that the camera will calculate a faster shutter speed for you now, as it has more light.
Say you were shooting AV mode, but you kept noticing that the camera was making the images darker than you wanted. This means that it’s underexposing your images, and you can compensate for that. Use the exposure compensation (AV+- on the back of the camera) and set it to a value you want, +0.3 (each dot is representative of a third), +0.6 or +1. Until you find that your photos are being exposed properly. Likewise if your images are coming out too light, you can set your AV+- lower, to the negative numbers.