All Together Now
So now you understand what each of the three variables does, lets look at how to put them together using Aperture Priority on your camera.
Basically in Aperture Priority mode you are setting the F Stop, and the ISO, and watching the Shutter Speed to make sure it doesn't fall too low. You can not actually change the Shutter Speed in Aperture Priority mode because the camera chooses the Shutter Speed it needs to expose the photo properly. When your Shutter Speed falls under 125 you need to either lower your F Stop or increase your ISO and that will in turn make your camera choose a faster shutter speed to use.
Different lenses have different minimum F Stops, but for the purpose of illustrating we will refer to a lens with a minimum F Stop of 2.8.
Here's a situation to give you an idea of how it works...
You are in a room that seems to have a fair amount of light coming in, so you set your ISO to 400. You are photographing two kids playing quite closely together on the floor, so you set an F Stop of 4 to get them both in focus. You hold your camera up to your eye and focus on one of the kids, the shutter speed reads 250 - Great! A fast enough shutter to freeze those little playing people - Shoot away! Then after a few minutes the sun drops behind a cloud outside and you have less light to work with inside, you check the shutter speed and it has dropped to 30... Bummer! We can't have that! So you need to choose to either up the ISO or lower the F Stop, or both. Perhaps you are cool with just focusing on one of the kids for a bit? You could drop the F Stop to 2.8, that's 2 stops down, which will allow the shutter speed to go 2 stops up - to 125. Even once you get to 125 Shutter Speed, you may want a bit of breathing room, so you could increase your ISO to 600, which would increase the Shutter Speed even more, probably to around 250 - Ace! "But what if I don't want just Johnny in focus? Betty is cute too!" Then instead of dropping your F Stop, keep it at 4 and accept the grain that's about to come into your life by upping the ISO all the way up to 1600 - these could be nice black and white photos after all!
Just make sure next time you go to shoot that you remember to put the ISO down as low as the next situation will allow you to. We have both had our moments of shooting things at 1600 ISO that we could have gotten away with shooting at ISO 200. Whoops!
This should give you an idea of why those cheap kit lenses can be really tricky to get good shots with in low light. A lot of them have a minimum F Stop of 5.6 when zoomed in - that doesn't give you much wiggle room with ISO and Shutter Speed! A lot of our in person Photo School students have gone on to purchase 50mm 1.8 lenses on our recommendation, these little guys are super affordable (around $180) and will let you go all the way down to F 1.8 - cool! They are a prime lens, which means you can't zoom with them, but it's a great way to make you move your feet to get the photo you want!
The best way to figure out how to set your camera to Aperture Priority and how to adjust the F Stop and ISO is by googling your camera model - there are so many cameras out there, we can't put the instructions for them all in here!
We know this is A LOT to take in. We are dedicating this Wednesdays online chat to big cameras only (don't worry, you can ask us other stuff the next week, or if we have time at the end of the session)
Go forth and take photos in Aperture Priority mode. Take photos of whatever interests you! Keep in mind all the things you learnt about light and composition in the earlier lessons. Practice makes perfect(er)
Big Cameras > Things to Check
In Aperture Priority mode, the camera always exposes for what it sees to be perfect exposure - so long as the little needle is on 0, in the middle of the meter above. You can force the camera to compensate for if you want the photos to be exposed darker or lighter, by setting the needle either lower (you want the images to be darker) or higher (you want them to be lighter). We nearly always just leave ours on 0 though. Sometimes you can accidentally knock the controls and have the needle compensating without you realising, so every time you go to shoot, just make sure it's set to the middle point of the meter. There should be one in the viewfinder when you have your camera up to your eye, and one on the little display on your camera. As with all the points in this lesson, we are going to ask you to google How to set exposure meter your camera model here as we can't give directions for every type of camera here!
When we have met with the lovely people in our day workshops, quite a few of them have asked why their photos have a certain colour cast. It is all to do with this little sucker here, White Balance! If you set your White Balance to auto, your life will change, well your photo life. You camera will then work in any lighting situation, no more blue, yellow or green colour casts! Google how to set your camera's White Balance, and off you go!
We both use center focus on our cameras, which means we always have the focal point set on the centre point. We put what we would like in focus in the the centre of the frame, press the button halfway down, so the camera focusses on the object and then, still pressing the button halfway (don't press down fully or take finger off) recompose our shot to how we would like it AND shoot!
BIG CAMERA / little camera
We hope you’ve had fun wrangling that big ol' camera of yours with your new tricks you’ve learnt in Aperture Priority mode. We thought we’d make our last lesson of the class a few words about when we use our big cameras vs when we use our little cameras, and set you an assignment to compare the two.
We are pretty lucky with camera phones these days (especially iPhones, sorry droidies!). They are amazing little cameras, they may not be the most high-tech option around, but they have a nice individual quality of their own that was lacking in affordable cameras/camera phones over the last decade - we kind of think of them as the Polaroids of the 21st century - most of us have one on us all the time, and with a bit of an understanding of how to create a good image with light and composition anyone can get a great photo with them.
If you enjoy lugging around a big ol' ‘real camera’ by all means, do it, but if you are like us and feel weighed down by them in your travels and every day life, don’t think you can’t get ace photos! The best camera is the one you have with you, being able to go about life and snap the beauty that pops up around you without much extra effort is an amazing thing.
There are times that you are going to get better pictures if you do take along that Big Camera though, of course we always use one for our pro photography work (although we have both had iPhone pictures published in print without anyone knowing they were from a phone!). We also take the big camera if we are going somewhere specially to take pictures (visiting a friend with a new baby seems to be a common one). We both tend to leave our cameras at home when we have been invited to a party or event as a guest, otherwise it ends up turning into a job, but if you specifically want to get lots of fancy shots of an event and don’t mind being Event Photographer, then take it along!
Snap the same thing with your phone and your real camera, both cameras have their own special qualities, it's good to be friends with both!