Photo Lesson Overview on CGIPix.com

CGIPix is an observation that Nikon, Canon and the rest no longer make cameras,
they make computers that you can attach a lens to.
Here is a basic overview of what it takes to create good, better or best pictures, you decide how much effort you want to put into your pictures.

The basics of photography, all on one page:

Exposure

Exposure is getting the right equation of Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO, based on the available light, to create a well exposed picture.

With film, color or black and white negatives have a wide margin, and can be off by 2-3 stops and still produce acceptable results. Slide film has a very narrow margin, if it's off by more than 1/2 of a stop, the results are disappointing, if it's off by a full stop, it's unusable.

Digital cameras have an extremely wide range, especially with post processing using Adobe Photoshop. Exposure is not as critical using a digital camera, but the closer to perfect exposure you are, the less time it takes for corrections, and the prints also look better.
Auto Exposure

Cameras have great built in exposure meters, but they can be fooled, and it also leads to an inconsistent appearance when you use the built in meters. I admit, it is easy to use the built in metering, and "P" is my usual setting for most shots. The pictures come out with good exposure, but there are changes. If you reframe, and put a bit more sun in the photo, the exposure is turned down, and the main area gets a bit darker. Whenever you are shooting a backlit subject, the camera will read the main lighting, and leave the subject dark. For sunset photos, I have to overexpose by 1-2 stops using the exposure compensation when the sun is still out. With the sun in frame, it is the main source of the reading, and you get an orange ball, with a dark surrounding area. Overexposure lets the sun become brighter, and also brings out the detail in the frame. Once the sun goes below the horizon, the exposure compensation gets turned to underexpose by 1-2 stops. The camera meters on the remaining light, and your sunset colors go to pale yellows. By underexposing, the colors captured by the camera more closely match the colors you see.

Adjusting ISO

Digital cameras are great, you can adjust the ISO whenever you feel like it. With film, you had to change out the film to change ISO. The best approach is to leave the ISO on the lowest setting, and adjust it only when you have to. Exposure is based on 3 variables, aperture, shutter speed and ISO, if you keep one of the variables a constant, the other two are easier to work with. Shutter speed goes faster, aperture opens wider, instead of shutter speed goes faster, ISO goes higher, aperture gets closed down. Also, ISO 200, or whatever the lowest default setting is, will produce better results.

Dark Subjects

Whenever shooting a subject where the majority of the frame is darker than a grey card, you will need to set the exposure compensation if you are using any camera automatic exposure. If it's a black bear, then you would need to adjust exposure for about 1/3-2/3 underexposed. The camera's exposure meter will want to make the bear grey, so by adjusting exposure, you are telling the camera to make the subject darker.

Light Subjects

With light subjects, it's just the opposite of dark subjects. You will want to overexpose by 1/3-2/3 of a stop. A scene with a lot of snow is the classic example, if you let the camera do the metering without compensation, the snow will end up looking grey. Adjusting the exposure compensation will make the snow appear white.

Grey Cards

A grey card is just that, a card printed in 18% grey. The 18% number is the average light reflected from the average scene, and is where most built in camera meters are set at. You use a grey card by placing it near subject, and taking a camera reading just from the card. This reading is closer to a correct exposure than pointing the camera at the scene, and hoping it's close to 18%.
Shooting in snow, or a black car are two shots where the camera's 18% grey reading will be thrown off by the subject.

Light Meters

A light meter is the greatest tool a photographer can have for perfect exposure. You take a light reading of the light falling on a subject, not the light reflected from a subject. One time when a friend was looking at my negatives, she said "They are all the same." She remarked that the negatives, basketball shot indoors under bright lights, low light interior shots, bright sunny day shots and cloudy overcast day pictures all had the same density and tone in the negatives. I'd never really thought of it, because that's how they are supposed to be, good exposure leads to consistent negatives. When it came time to print, it was real easy, set the enlarger exposure for the first print, and all the rest were real close to the original setting. I would take multiple light meter readings, throughout the shoot, and shot everything on manual exposure. If a cloud blocked the sun, take a reading, reset exposure. Once the clouds passed, take another reading, reset exposures. You become more attuned to the light when you shoot manual exposure, and you are taking more creative control in the picture process.

Sunny 16

Sunny 16 is a good guideline to follow. Whatever your ISO is, then on a sunny day, you set your aperture at F16, and your shutter speed equals your ISO.

On a sunny day, using ISO setting of 250, your camera exposure would be F16, 1/250 second and ISO 250 setting. You don't always want to run around shooting at F16, so you open up by two stops to F8, and change shutter speed two stops to 1/1000. I still keep sunny 16 in mind, even when shooting in "A" Aperture priority mode, it keeps you checking the camera's exposure, and will tell you if your ISO is not set to where you thought it was.

The Exposure Progression for Beginning Photographers

It's usually easier to follow this progression -
When you get a new camera, shoot with it on "P", or program mode. The camera sets the shutter and aperture for you.
Switch to "A" or "S" as you get more comfortable with the camera, and need it.

"A" - Aperture Priority - You set the aperture, and the camera sets the shutter speed automatically, useful for landscape and scenic photos, when depth of field is important.

"S" - Shutter Priority - You set the shutter, and the camera sets the aperture, useful for sports and action shots, where fast shutter speeds freeze action, or using slow shutter speeds for panning.

The drawback with either mode, is you can set it where it falls out of range for the available light. Keep an eye if the camera is telling you about too much or too little exposure. If you use "A" and set it at F16, using ISO 200, and are in the shade of a tree, your exposure could go down to 1/30 of a second or less, leading to blur. When you are using "S", setting the shutter speed for 1/125 for panning, and using ISO 1000, then you may overexpose in bright light. With the "P" mode the camera will adjust both aperture and shutter, to properly expose. When you take away the camera's ability to set both, you need to keep a closer eye on the exposure.

Once you are completely comfortable with the camera and exposure, then you go to manual settings. You control aperture and shutter, based on ISO setting and available light. You have complete creative control over the picture, and you have to make the decisions.
Do I want fast or slow shutter speed?
How much depth of field should there be?
What level of grain and noise should there be with the ISO settings?

Manual settings take more time and effort, but they do lead to better photography.
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