Are you ready to transcend Auto mode and dive into the vast ocean of manual controls? I’ve rounded up three of the most common Photography tools that will take your snapping and rolling to the next level. This is the classic triforce of photography artillery.


The aperture refers to the lens opening of a camera, which is traditionally identified as a set of blades that form a circular hole, or passageway to the film, or sensor. A larger aperture opening allows more light to spill into the sensor while a smaller opening restricts the amount of light. However, there is a tradeoff here. When the aperture is cranked open to something wide like an f/2, the depth of field is exceedingly shallow, and the camera can only focus on a portion of the image. When the aperture is closed down to something like a narrow f/16 or higher, most or all of the image will be in focus, but the camera will need more light because the hole, or opening, is smaller. So, how do we get more light at small apertures and less light at larger apertures?



Shutter Speed

We call upon shutter speed. Shutter speed regulates the amount of time that the aperture stays open. So, if we are shooting at that narrow f/16 aperture, we’ll need a shutter speed of around 15 seconds to soak up more light, in darker lighting conditions. This means the camera will have to remain steady for 15 whole seconds using a tripod and self-timer, for any motion will be blurred. Ever wonder how photographers shoot trails of light on a highway? Slow shutter speeds are the answer. Now if you want to capture fast sports action, a fast shutter speed is necessary. Usually, a good 1/500 to 1/1000 second range will stop Valentino Rossi in his tire tracks, making his bike seemed parked completely sideways through a turn. But is there a way we can have both a fast shutter speed and a narrow aperture?


We recruit ISO to further consternate you. What the heck is ISO? Well, back in the film days, you would buy different ASA (ISO) types of film. 100 – 200 was good for bright light while 400 – 800 was suitable for low light. In the digital world, this translates to the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. When the ISO is cranked up to 800 or 1600, the low light sensitivity is greater, but at the sacrifice of noise, or graininess. If you shoot in Auto mode a lot and wonder why your images are always noisy, it’s because the camera is most likely shooting up the ISO in order to ensure a well-focused shot in lower lighting conditions. Noise reduction technology is significantly improving, but if you want to avoid grainy pictures, manually set the ISO speed lower and see what happens. Just be sure to use the correct shutter speed/aperture ratio as well.


What Have We Learned?

The digital camera control triforce will take time to master. The lower the aperture number, the wider it is open, and vice versa. Wide apertures soak up more light, but reduce the depth of field. Narrow apertures provide the best depth of field, but need more light from longer shutter speeds. Faster shutter speeds are ideal for sports and will capture action dead in its tracks. Slower shutter speeds are used to express blurred motion and are great for long exposure shooting. ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. High ISOs are used in low light while low ISOs are used in bright light.

Any questions, remarks, or concerns? Leave me a comment!