Saturday, January 30, 2010

Photo Basics - Basic Definitions

I am taking Photography I this semester and I thought it would be interesting to blog about what I'm learning as I'm learning it. Not only will blogging about what I’m learning help make sure that I actually understand what I’m being taught, but if I can help at least one person in the universe understand the basics of photography then even better.

And so this is the fisrt part of my "Lessons from Photography Class" series.

Obviously I am going to make some mistakes along the way. (I had never even picked up a camera more sophisticated then a “point and shoot” until two weeks ago.) This is a learning process for me and my posts can only reflect my wide-eyed inexperience. But I am not one of those pretentious people who think only certain people can take good photographs. Not everyone can paint a masterpiece but that shouldn’t stop anyone from giving it a shot. I do not have this burning passion to be the most awesomest photographer ever. I am approaching this with a laid back attitude. This is a hobby for me and I just want to take better then average photos. We’ll see where it goes from there.

So, you are welcome to come along on this little ride with me. I will post pictures from my assignments along with the lesson so you can see examples of what I’m trying to explain. If I find someone else who has already explained it better then I ever could I will link to them. I will try to post each lesson weekly unless there’s a holiday and we don’t have class. Hopefully by the end of this you and I both will see a big difference between the quality of photos I take.

And if not, well at least it’ll be fun.

Ok, let’s kick this party off with some basic definitions. A camera is basically a light tight box that contains photosensitive material (film in a film camera or a sensor in a digital camera). These are the main parts of a camera and what their purpose is. A lot of these I will go into more detail about as we go on. I know this seems like a ridiculously simple place to start, but I want to make sure I start from the very beginning.

photo details here

Camera Body: The casing of the camera which holds the camera parts. There are two different types of cameras; Single Lens Reflex (or SLR) cameras and fixed lens cameras (or “point and shoot”). I don’t want to get into too much detail about the difference between the two since I will be focusing on SLRs, but you can read more about it here if you’re interested. One of the biggest difference is that SLRs have detachable lenses and fully manual setting capabilities.

Lens: The lens is basically the eye of the camera. It draws the light into the camera and focuses it on the film plane.

Viewfinder: The "window" through which you look to frame your picture.

Exposure: The end result of light acting upon the photosensitive material (i.e. the film of sensor). The intensity of that light (controlled by the aperture) and the time interval it does so (controlled by the shutter) are what make up the exposure.

Shutter: The shutter is the piece inside the camera that blocks light from reaching the light sensitive material (the film or the sensor) until the photographer presses the shutter button. The shutter then opens, allowing light to pass through the lens and strike the film or sensor, recording the photograph.

Aperture: If the lens is the camera’s eye, then the aperture is the eye’s iris. It dilates and contracts to control the diameter of the hole that the light passes though, to let in more or less light. Similar to how your pupil dilates when there isn’t a lot of light; the aperture will do the same thing.

ISO: The ISO is a number used to express the light sensitivity of the digital camera. ISO has its origins in film photography, where the ISO setting measured the sensitivity of a particular roll of film to light. Even though the ISO doesn't let in more light like the aperture or the shutter, it does make your camera more sensitive to light (which has similar results).

With a digital camera, you usually can shoot at a variety of ISO settings. Higher ISO settings allow you to shoot digital photos in low-light conditions, but such photos are more susceptible to noise and grainy images than photos shot at low ISO settings.

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