A 5 year old’s guide to photography terms

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I suppose its the same with any hobby/trade/profession; there are masses of terms that are used which insiders know, but which might as well be Chinese as far as newcomers are concerned.

There are some who revel in the use of them trying to bamboozle the newbie into thinking they know so much of the impenetrable jungle.

What I’m going to try and do is list some of the main ones and explain them in terms which a 5 year old could understand. This is not perhaps likely to be as helpful as possible as having seen my THREE year old grand daughter using an i-pad and compact camera, she’s probably way ahead of me but as I often think that technology should be sold with a 10 year old boy attached to explain it to me I’ll try and reverse the process.

OK so here goes:

First up we have three ways of controlling the exposure. What we term exposure is the total amount of light that is necessary for the image to be correctly exposed. That means neither too light nor too dark.

Those three ways are:

1) Size of aperture

2) Shutter speed

3) ISO rating

Taking them one at a time – the difficult one to explain first:

The aperture is the hole in the lens through which the light goes. Fairly obviously the bigger the hole the more light passes through. Unfortunately this is represented by numbers going the other way. The larger the number the smaller the hole. There is a reason for this and it does help to understand it so you understand what the camera is telling you.

These numbers are called F stops. The F standing for focal and the number is the relationship between the focal length of the lens and the diameter of the hole. (I’ll come back to focal lengths later- a whole separate can of worms.) If you have a lens with a focal length of 50mm and the hole in the lens is 25mm then the F number is 2 (50/25) shown normally as f2. if the lens has a focal length of 100mm and the hole is 50mm in diameter then again the F number is f2 (100/50) If your lens is 50mm and your camera’s is telling you the aperture is f11 then the size of the hole is about 4.5mm 50/11 and so on.

Now comes the confusing bit as to the odd numbers you see. In photography what we what to know is what adjustments we need to make to get the right exposure and the standard is that each stop will double (or halve) the amount of light falling on the sensor. (Stop really relates to the aperture size only but is used generally to denote a doubling or halving of the light getting to the sensor) So we need to know when we enlarge or decrease the size of the hole when it is going to do that. If we start at f2 then each stop smaller is f2.8 f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, f22. That is moving from one to the next will always half or double the exposure depending on which way you are going.

That’s the confusing bit isn’t it? Why aren’t they all the same difference? f2 f4 f8 f16 etc. Well its all to do with physics/mathematics. Take yourself back to school and those maths lessons that you so loved. If you want to do the maths be my guest but if you take the diameter of the aperture and apply pi -r squared (haven’t got mathematical symbols on my keyboard) you will find that the AREA of each of the holes is half that of the previous one, so its letting in half the light.

Matters are further confused by cameras theses days because you can increase them in half or even third stops so you will see figures like f3.5 f6.7, f9.5 but they are just intermediate stops. So if for example you needed to double the amount of light you are letting through and your camera tells you the aperture is f8 then you need to adjust it to ……da da. f?? Answer at the end.

OK, so the second adjustment we have is time or shutter speed. This is the length of time the shutter is open and allows light through the hole. Just like a shutter on a window but somewhat faster and the time is accurate. Again we need to have time split into segments that double/half the quantity of light going through the hole/aperture. So this one is fairly easy to understand. If we start at 1sec then 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 Again in the digital era what the camera gives you is an even greater range usually going from 30seconds to 1/4000

So it’s fairly common sense to see that if we wish to double the amount of light going through and the camera is telling us its set at 1/125 we need to change it to?? da da…(answer at end)

Hopefully you are following me so far. You can probably see that we have an infinite choice of how we mix the two and still allow the same total light through to the sensor. For example if we take a shot at 1/250 using f11 we would get exactly the same exposure if we used 1/60 at f22. (2 speed settings slower and 2 aperture settings smaller) The reason why we might want to change either shutter speed or aperture I’ll leave until another time.

Now there is a third element we can control to adjust the final image although this one doesn’t change the amount of light going into the camera, it adjusts the sensitivity of the sensor to that light. Don’t ask me how it does it, go find that 10 year old boy I mentioned at the beginning. Suffice for us to know that it can be done. How? Simples. By adjusting the setting known as the ISO rating.Duh. The what?? If you tried to guess what ISO stood for and you though photographic thoughts you would be around a long while. The initials stand for International Standards Organisation and it is that organisation that sets the standard internationally for various matters including film speed from where we derive the sensor speed. What do the numbers mean? I haven’t a clue but who cares? All we need to know is that a doubling of the number represents one stop (there’s that term again) increase in speed. ISO in the camera usually start at 100 or 200 and keep doubling 200, 400, 800,….. up to massive 25600 and probably beyond. One point we have to consider when deciding on the ISO to use is that the faster the rating (bigger the number) the more noise we are going to get. Noise? Ye, thats the jangling of chains you hear every time you press the shutter! No idea why they called in noise. It’s what in the film days was referred to as grain, the little speckles that you would see in a photo where the lumps of silver had clubbed together to get you a faster emulsion. Noise comes in two types, (everything these days has to be more numerous than the old days doesn’t it?). But I’m not going into that here. If anyone is still with me I think thats quite enough to absorb at the moment. In future blogs I’ll come back and explain the relationship between all three and how to use them to improve your results. (If anyone’s interested)

In the meantime the answers: f5.6 and 1/60th

TO lighten the mood a bit here’s a couple of shots from the yesterday.

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Trying something new

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As you know we live on a narrowboat which during the summer means we are continually visiting new places and that gives me a multitude of photo opportunities. However, during the winter we slink into a cosy marina to avoid the worst of the weather but that means we are static and unless we drive I’m walking much the same area each day.

So. Needing to find something different and slightly out of the box, as they say, I decided to have a go at…..

Well, not sure if it’s got a title or not but I had seen an example somewhere so I decided to try my hand at……

This.

Putting the camera on a tripod I chose the smallest aperture  – f22 – and put on a polarising filter to give me the longest exposure possible which was still only 1/4sec and then panned the camera vertically whilst opening the shutter. I could probably have done it without it being mounted on a tripod but I was after not too much of a jumbled image. This is the result which I’m quite pleased with.

No such thing as bad weather?

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Read the magazines or photo books and they all say that there’s no such thing as bad weather. Yes, everyone loves a sunny day or better still the golden hour at sunrise and sunset but, they say, even if the sun is not shining there are plenty of photo opportunities.

They then go on to show stormy seas with thunder clouds looming or mist hanging trapped between mountain ranges giving superb images.

What they seem to be less inclined to do is show what to do when the weather is really against the photographer which is what we have had for the past few days. Solid cloud. 17% grey. Horizon to horizon. It makes for totally flat images, especially here in middle England where I have neither seas or mountain ranges to make an interesting photograph.

Anyway I thought I’d challenge myself and see what I could do in the circumstances. A church yard seemed appropriate, and a muddy towpath.

Did I succeed in making a master piece? Don’t think so but I’m reasonably pleased that there are a couple of passable images. Converting to B & W was the only way of making them acceptable. Taken on my Olympus OM-D EM5 with 14mm Lumix f2.5

Todays offerings and some advise on shooting snow pics.

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You know that white stuff that comes out of the sky? Snow. What we all want at Christmas but only the kids at any other time – except of course us dedicated photographers who will seize the opportunity as soon as it’s covered the ground to pull on our boots, wrap ourselves in warm clothes and sail forth into the elements to capture the beauty for posterity.
Reality hits when we get back home and find we have a whole load of under exposed images. Like this:

 

What went wrong? Well it was just Mother Nature telling you that you and your computerised camera don’t necessarily see things eye to eye.
As it’s still December and we could have plenty more snow before we see Spring here’s a tip that may help.
The cameras brain, although we may think it’s very clever actually has very tunnelled vision. It’s not seeing the view you are (not strictly correct as I’ll explain in a later blog but ok for this discussion) it’s seeing millions of pixels of light and it’s expecting the sum total of those pixels to end up as a mid grey (in photo terms 18% grey scale) so when the scene is so predominately white it thinks it should compensate by reducing the exposure.
The best way to check what it has done is to look at the histogram of the shot. Eh? Do what? Histo_thingy? What’s that?

Yeh, I know, another bit of technical jargon just to convince you all photography is far too complicated to bother mastering. No. Wait. All it is, is that graphic of a mountain range you have probably seen sometime when you’ve been pressing different buttons to try to work out what they do. Like this:

Anyway depending on your camera/phone you should be able to find an easy way of viewing it after any shot. I will cover this in more detail in a later blog but for now suffice to say that you don’t want any of the mountain range up against the edges. Like this:

If your shot is underexposed there will be a heap on the left hand side as in the example above and if you are shooting in anything other than manual mode you will need to use your exposure compensation to allow more light in. In no good adjusting anything else because, remember, your camera thinks it’s doing the right thing. Depending on your camera you may be able to do this with a dial or you may need to delve into the menu to find it. You shouldn’t need to delve far as it’s a jolly handy thing to use ad should be available most of the time.

If you can’t be arsed to look/find the histo whatsit then just check the preview on the back but it’s not nearly as accurate or reliable a way of doing it as its very influenced by the light you are viewing it in and if you are in the middle of a snow covered field – as above – it ain’t gonna look the same as it will on your computer at home.

By increasing the exposure by 1 stop (I’ll explain that too in a late blog) the image above becomes much better:

Here’s todays shots for my 365 project.

ICE!

Caught out by the snow and an early new years resolution

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Woke up this morning to about 2″ of snow. Something of a surprise as there had been no indication that we would get any in our neck of the woods but intrepid explorer that I am I decided to invoke a new years resolution I was going to make early and that is to take at least one passable photograph every day. I know there are lots of folks who do this 365 project and I did try sometime back to get into the habit but after the first couple of days I lapsed.

Now the most important word in my resolution is “passable” A lot of the 365 projects I’ve seen may have stuck to the letter of the attempt but added very little to the artistic coffers of the world.

I’m pretty positive mine won’t either but they will have to pass my critique at least. Also to make it perhaps more of a challenge – hey who am I kidding? – I’ll be amazed if this lasts till 5 January – I’m going to do it with just one lens.

With the snow today I thought it would be an ideal trial run to wrapping up in full waterproofs I eventually managed to drag the dogs kicking and screaming out of their bed to come for a walk and hiding my Olympus OMD EM5 and 60mm Sigma f2.8 inside my jacket we set off.

I ended up taking about 6 photos and decided that the 60mm was not the ideal one to be restricted too. Bear in mind that on the Micro four thirds system that’s equivalent to 120mm.

Here’s the best of them:

Later in the morning the sun started to make a feeble attempt to come out so I ventured forth again, this time with the Sigma 19mm (38mm equivalent) with a little more success:

 

Will it last? Suspect not but hopefully I’ll keep going for a few days.

Free Photo Magazines

Would you be interested in getting FREE electronic copies of some of the UK’s top photo magazines? Amateur Photographer, Practical Photography and Digital Photography are all available free in the UK if you are registered with your local library.

If you are all you need to do is register for their e library section and then download the app

If you are an android user then its here.

There is an extensive back catalogue available and you can download them to read off line or browse on line.

 

 

Non Photographic (sort of) rant

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I, like x trillion other people have an iphone. Being of advanced years I don’t live by it. I use it to send a few texts every month, to receive the odd phone call, and most of them are odd – how to people know I’ve had an accident when I didn’t even realise myself?

I use it to keep my diary, answer e-mails, read my library books, surf the internet (is that a term still used or does that partly show my age?) and last but my no means least to take photographs. When I bought it I didn’t think I’d use it much and I don’t so I didn’t get a huge amount of memory. But now its telling me the memory is getting full.

It very kindly tells me which apps are using up the memory and I thought it would just be a matter of then deleting the documents etc I didn’t need.

It appears however, in Apples infinite wisdom you can’t do that. You have to delete the whole app and then download it again.

How stupid is that?

What about all the settings on various apps that I might want to retain?

What about my passwords which I’ve probably forgotten but are in the App?

What about Apps that were no longer available but work for me?

Any suggestions as to whether I can work around this will be very gratefully received.

Rant over. Quick note on a couple of blogs I’ll write about soon. How to get FREE electronic copies of popular photo magazines and my quest for a compact tripod. –

 

Panoramas

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I mentioned in an earlier post about using stitching in a software program instead of a wide angle lens to get the same effect and thought I’d muse on that a bit more.

The most obvious advantage is that the field of view can be as wide as you like and can even end up giving you a “fish eye” style: Here’s one I took the other day on the canal bank just as an experiment to see the extreme I could go to.:

Grand Union Canal Yelvertoft

It’s actually made up of 12 frames and you can see that the viewpoint is very much the fulcrum, there being no bend in the canal at that point at all.

Some cameras including phone cameras have the facility to do this in camera but I’m not a great believer in doing that. I think you loose so much control.

Tips for taking a panorama:

  1. Use a tripod. I didn’t for the above photo (do as I say not as I do!) but it makes life easier and you can get an even horizon. The software should be able to stitch it as the above proves but you will possibly end up with a narrower image due to the cropping necessary.
  2. Shoot in portrait mode rather than landscape, it gives you more height in your final image.
  3. Overlap your images by at least a third to give the software plenty to stitch together. Some programs are better than others if you don’t have much of an overlap. I tried a new program the other day – On1 – and it couldn’t stitch any of the images together. I tried my usual software – Affinity Photo and it had no problem whatsoever in making the panorama from 5 images. But its easier if you have a good overlap.
  4. Use manual exposure control. With the different images if you leave it to the camera its going to change its settings and this will again make stitching difficult. Assess the scene and take a few trial shots of the lightest and darkest areas to see what your preferred exposure should be. Remember that its easier to bring back detail from shadows so make sure you don’t over expose your highlights.
  5. Use manual focusing. See above, same issues.
  6. Shoot in RAW. I say this but the usual benefits of RAW files – having much more information to adjust in post processing – might not be available to you depending on how your software treats the files but I personally do not do any work on the images before stitching them. If you have software which can synchronise adjustments – like Lightroom – then if you do have major issues with white balance or exposure it might be best to do it before stitching but I think generally it is likely to make it harder to merge the images seamlessly.

That’s it really. Simples! Once the image is stitched you can adjust it as necessary in your software. If you don’t have software that can do this then there are various ones available, some for free. There’s a good outline of options here: https://havecamerawilltravel.com/photographer/panorama-stitching-best-apps/

One other point. Don’t think all panoramas need to be horizontal. Although not all software can do it most will also cope with vertical and the one within infinity can do both at the same time. This image for example is made up of 9 images in two stacks of 4 and 5.

Yelvertoft Church

Here’s a couple of other examples:

Peak District 7 images

Peak District 4 images

Fog Bound

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Arising this morning to a thick fog I hoped that I would get some great photo opportunities when the sun started to break through as it was forecast to do. However the sun had other ideas. Far too lazy today to bother chasing the fog away so like a load of unemployed youth the fog hung around all day.

The poor dogs are beginning to get cabin fever with the weather so I decided fog or not we should go out and see what opportunities there were.

Here’s some of the results, more to come but supper beckons!

Comments?

How to use your camera

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These days all cameras are capable of producing stunning images be it a smart phone or a DSLR costing £000’s. If the result is no good the answer probably lies behind the camera, not in it.

Don’t blame yourself though. The technology and controls of a camera are so complex and no training is given when the camera is purchased. Indeed given that most sales are now over the internet thats hardly surprising.

Reading the manual isn’t always the answer either. First you probably have to download it and secondly if you have no idea about cameras or photography the instructions could just as well be written in Chinese. (I know in some cases they are!)

So what I’m going to be doing in the occasional post is a “How to use your camera course for Dummies” (I’d probably get sued for using that title due to the range of training books using that strap line but at least it would get me plenty of publicity!)

I’ll cover everything from the basic settings, choice of shooting mode, thats the big knob on the top of the camera:  how to choose what to get the camera to focus on, what the technical terms mean – aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc. I’ll try NOT to use any jargon, not to assume any prior knowledge. I think thats were most help pages go wrong.

So if you have a shiny pristine camera that you really, really would like to use to greater effect follow this blog and hopefully I’ll be able to help you along the way. There’s other posts on here too about various aspects of my photography or photography generally so hopefully you will find something that entertains.

If you would like some help on any aspect of cameras or photography let me know. I can’t guarantee I can help but I’ll try!

So let start with some basic terminology.

In this day and age of automatic controls there’s no need to understand how a camera works to get acceptable results but to get exceptional results and to really enjoy the concept of taking photographs an understanding of the controls and ways of setting the camera up are a huge advantage so I’m going to attempt to help explain some of the more common settings which you should understand.

I’ll assume you know nothing so forgive me if some of what I say is not new but there’s nothing worse than assuming people have knowledge which is missing.

 

Lets start by describing what you can control and why you would want to and then we can move back to those settings which control them.

Any photograph you take needs a certain amount of light – the correct amount of light – to hit the sensor to record the scene. (Hang on – sensor? whats that? That’s the surface inside the camera that reacts to the light falling on it and records the picture.)

We have three ways of controlling the amount of light hitting the sensor, the size of the hole through which the light passes in the lens – that’s called the aperture – the length of time that the aperture is allowing light to pass through, that’s called the shutter speed and the sensitivity of the sensor to light – that’s termed the ISO rating. ISO stands for International Organisation for Standardisation (originally in French so letters are in the wrong order!)absolutely nothing to do specifically with photography but they are the initials which every photographer understands as meaning the speed of the sensor reacting to light.

So by controlling any one or all three of those elements, aperture, shutter speed and ISO we can control how much light falls on the sensor. Why do we need 3 ways of doing this? Well, each element controls the total in a different way and will have an effect on the final image, I’ll come back to this in much more detail over the coming posts but basically you use the shutter speed to control the amount of movement you are showing, aperture to control the amount of the picture that is in focus and ISO to give you more options of being able to use the other two as you wish.

If this helps you to start to understand what your camera is doing, and how, then please  leave a comment or a like. In the next post I’ll start to explain in more detail and show you the effects these three settings can have on the final result.