You too can preserve those once-in-a-lifetime outdoor moments as postcard-perfect pictures every time you click your camera! In our instructional series, starting next month, we’ll guide you, step by step, to becoming a master camping photographer.
Today we’ll touch on the basic principles of photography, just to whet your appetite, but in the next few issues of Caravan & Outdoor Life you’ll find a detailed, step-by-step guide explaining what all the controls on your camera can do for your photography.
With the arrival of the digital age our lives have changed dramatically. Everything we do – how we communicate, the way we store and play music, and how we take photos – has been turned on its head.
Some things have not changed, however, and they include the basic principles of photography. A good place to start is to understand how a camera works.
There is, of course, a major difference between compact cameras and single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras – those big, professional-looking ones with detachable lenses. We’ll deal with both. Although many automatic compact cameras allow only limited control, it’s still very useful to know the principles of photography.
Any camera, whether it’s an older film model or a new digital device, is really just a lightproof box with a hole behind the lens at one end and light-sensitive film or a digital sensor inside the box at the other.
Shutter speed and aperture In very simple terms, when we take a picture we allow light to enter through the lens by using a shutter to open the hole (aperture) for a short time and then close it (called the shutter speed). Light reflected from the object we are photographing enters the camera and reaches the film or digital sensor, which in turn records the image. We have therefore exposed the film or sensor to the light, and that is why photographs are also refered to as ‘exposures’.
The next important thing to know is that the film or sensor of your camera has a certain light-sensitivity rating. The ‘ISO’ or ‘ASA’ indicates the ‘film speed’ (or the rate at which it is able to absorb light to create an image). Film speed is the measure of a film or sensor’s sensitivity to light against a numerical scale, which will be covered in more detail next time.
Depth of field
Another fundamental aspect of photography is depth of field. This refers to the part of your picture that is in focus and sharp, compared to the parts immediately behind or in front that are out of focus or blurred. This can be an intentional creative effect that’s achieved by adjusting the camera’s settings. Sometimes you might want something in the foreground in focus, and the rest of the photo out of focus, while at other times you might want the foreground out of focus – or perhaps you want the entire image in focus, right from the foreground to the distant horizon.
With some forethought you can position a group of people in an interesting way, or your subject can be arranged or set up to make your photographs more interesting. Or, depending how you ‘frame’ your picture, you can make the resulting photo much more captivating. This is called composition.