Photography forum: The Basics of Good Composition--The Exposure Triangle

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Name: Sheila Caldon
Aiken, SC (Zone 7b)
Dragonflies Bookworm Hybridizer Garden Photography Daylilies Butterflies
Region: South Carolina Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Pollen collector Birds Lilies
Dec 14, 2014 12:29 AM CST
Hello Again!

I was going to take some time at the end of the tutorials to focus on the different functions of the 3 most critical settings for the SLR cameras as they can be very intimidating for beginners. If anyone has a preference and would like for me to more fully cover those first, I'll be more than happy to. If no one speaks up within this next week, I'll move on to the next topic in my outline. While I don't have my new camera in front of me yet, those three settings are exactly the same in functionality as they've always been. The slight difference being that ISO no longer represents the film speed as it's now a sensor that's recording the available light and translating it into pixels to produce the image. It's also more a matter of basically learning the "mini" computer program for your individual SLR camera as it is anything else. The menu settings and choices you need to make appear to be quite numerous and somewhat complicated, at least at first----and I hate having to read directions---but, once you get it set up and start using it more it gets easier all the time.

As was mentioned on another thread, the 3 main settings to consider adjustments to are F-stop, shutter speed and ISO, otherwise known as the "Exposure Triangle." All 3 of these settings work in concert with each other to give you a properly exposed photo. You can manually set just 1 or all 3 of these yourself, however, the modern digital SLR will choose the best settings depending on which "priority" you've given it, or, when set on automatic it will choose all three of these for you. If you've chosen "aperture priority," which will be represented by an "A" on your dial, the camera will choose your shutter speed and ISO accordingly. If you've chosen to give priority to your "shutter speed," "S" on the dial, it will then choose the aperture and ISO for you. I would imagine somewhere around eight out of ten times the camera will choose appropriately, the exceptions being very bright and very low light situations and having the two present at the same time is a real challenge. If you're unsure where to start, I would choose "aperture priority" above changing the other 2 settings and see if that doesn't suit "most" of your needs "most" of the time. The beauty of the digital age of camera's is that you don't have to change your film to get the exposures you used to with a different speed of film. It's like having 8 or more different rolls of film in your camera at the same time!

While you're studying your manuals and trying out the different settings available to see what each of them do I wouldn't try to master all three at the same time. Take one setting, such as aperture and shoot the same subject each time, dialing it in in increments, seeing how it changes the exposure each time. After you've become comfortable in your knowledge of that one, then move on to the next, changing only one of those 3 at a time, in increments, while leaving the others for the camera to choose. When you feel comfortable enough with each one separately you'll then be able to choose the best combination for your needs. Of course, the whole point in using the SLR is because it offers you complete control over those settings and allows you to fine tune the outcome you want. What I've found is that I probably used 2 sets of combinations more often than any others and that'll make setting up my new camera so much easier as it has a place for pre-sets I can program in and forget about them! Only 12 more days!

A general rule that helped me a lot is one of the first things I memorized in photography class. It's called the "Sunny 16" rule. If it's very sunny out set your F-stop at 16. Your shutter speed should correspond to your ISO, whatever it is, with the shutter speed being represented as a fraction. What this means is, if you're shooting at 200 ISO, your shutter speed should be set right around 1/200th of a second. If you keep that general rule in mind, your photos should turn out really well.

If you'd rather have me expand the discussion on the Exposure Triangle first let me know within the next week. I can work around it either way!

Otherwise the next topic I'll be covering is:

"Those Elements----Beyond the Rule of Thirds"

I'll break the next set of tutorials down, probably into three separate posts, stopping wherever it's most natural. I can't say they'll be in exactly the same order, but, I will cover all of them. Oh, and to keep from running the thread continuously, I'll post them as different parts of the heading under "The Basics of Good Composition."

The All Important Point of Focus
Color --- It's many facets
The "Other" Rule of Thirds
Foreground---Drawing you in
Middle Ground---A place to rest
Background---It's purposes
Forward Motion
Stopping the Eye
Secondary Subjects
Balance and Symmetry
Negative Space
On the Diagonal
Contrast---When enough is enough
Relationships---Not that kind.... :)

Talk to you soon! Thanks!
Beauty pleases, not only the eyes, but the heart as well. ~~Sheila
[Last edited by SheilaC - Dec 15, 2014 10:42 AM (+)]
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Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
Dec 14, 2014 3:42 PM CST
Dirtdorphins wrote an excellent, illustrated piece on f-stoppery. It's here: The thread "How I learned about f-stops" in Photography forum
Name: Vickie
Elberfeld, Indiana, USA (Zone 6b)
Bee Lover Garden Photography Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Daylilies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: United States of America
Region: Indiana Garden Art Annuals Clematis Cottage Gardener Garden Ideas: Level 2
Dec 15, 2014 6:13 AM CST
Cool, Sheila! I never thought of my camera as having 8 rolls of film in it at once, but that is exactly what the digital age has given us Thumbs up I have found that I get confused when I try to change too many settings at one time, so your advice about changing only one at a time makes sense.

Jumping around a bit here on the triangle, but I have found that I absolutely hate changing the ISO speed above 400 because of the grainy texture I get.

I will have to see if my camera even has an f-stop at 16. If it does, I didn't know it. If the sun ever shines again around here, I will have to give it a try. It's been very drab around here lately.

May all your weeds be wildflowers. ~Author Unknown
Name: Sheila Caldon
Aiken, SC (Zone 7b)
Dragonflies Bookworm Hybridizer Garden Photography Daylilies Butterflies
Region: South Carolina Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Pollen collector Birds Lilies
Dec 15, 2014 11:56 AM CST
Hi Vickie,

I most often use 100/200 and, like you said, rarely go above 400 either. You would need to increase the ISO if you are in low light situations, such as night photography or low light indoors. If you wanted to photograph the light of burning candles you would need a higher speed that can capture more light.

I'm glad the tutorials are helpful to you. Smiling
Beauty pleases, not only the eyes, but the heart as well. ~~Sheila
Name: Asa

Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016
Dec 15, 2014 3:30 PM CST
This article about Digital vs. Film ISO is pretty instructive:

The takeaway is that film differs chemically from ISO to ISO (becomes more photosensitive) whereas the DSLR's photosensor sensitivity is fixed - and the ISO-ing goes on in the processing - much like pushing or pulling exposures in the traditional darkroom.

I've also seen the math done (the curves) of digital vs film and the sensitivity curves are radically different.

So...long story short, ISO in a camera is an approximation and varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. To think about it 1:1 with film ISO becomes less useful the harder you think. However, the principle that "the higher the ISO setting, the noisier the photo" still applies.

But it's really like comparing apples to oranges dressed up like apples. Or something.

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