Light – the primary source of energy for the universe – is the central image of many religions and the photographers chief resource. The word photography derives from the Greek and means, literally, light writing.
From the relentless power of full sun over water to the beam from a single candle, it is light photographers play with, light in its many moods and manifestations that we capture on film.
Digital cameras use a light-sensitive chip rather than film to capture an image. The camera is designed to let light through a hole (aperture) on to the chip for a limited amount of time (exposure). Digital cameras use auto exposure to take care of exposing the picture for you. But there are a few things about aperture and exposure that you should be aware of.
A digital camera will gather the same amount of light with a large aperture and a short exposure or with a small aperture and a long exposure, but the image will not look the same. A wider aperture will reduce the depth of field, so that only objects at the focal point are in sharp focus. This is great for isolating a person from a busy background, but not so great for landscape photos, which require that everything be in focus.
Cheap cameras have a fixed aperture, so only exposure is affected by light. More expensive cameras offer programmed exposure modes, such as Landscape (narrower aperture, greater depth of field, longer exposure), Portrait (wider aperture, reduced depth of field, shorter exposure) and Sport (shortest exposure to freeze motion), while high-end cameras also offer full manual controls.
Even with a fully automatic camera, you can modify the exposure. Point the camera at the object you want correctly exposed and half-press the shutter button. Move the camera to compose your shot, and then squeeze the button fully to take the picture.
Many landscape photos turn out too dark because the exposure is overly influence by a bright sky. The trick is to lower the camera so that the light meter exposes more for the foreground area and then press the shutter button part way in order to lock in the exposure. Then re-compose the shot as before and press the shutter completely.
Photography depends on light. Therefore, an understanding of light, what it is, how it behaves and how you can learn to use it, is essential to creating superlative photos.
Because the character and quality of a photograph can be altered by the character and quality of light, even the most-seasoned photographers puzzle over how a scene should be lit, what lighting angles to use for good results, and what exposure settings will bring out the best detail and tonal shading. When you are armed with the basic facts about light, you will find that such elementary questions become more easily-answered.
If you are taking an outside, daytime picture, keep the sun at YOUR back. Avoid shooting into the sun. If you do, it will cause a lens flare and you will have a light streak going across your picture or other un-wanted effects
The good news is that most digital cameras have fast lens apertures, which help them take good pictures in relatively low light. But no camera likes to take pictures in really low light without a flash. More good news: most digi-cams have a built-in flash, and some allow you to use an external flash, which is many times more effective than a cameras built-in flash and helps preserve the cameras battery.
Taking a picture at night can be a daunting proposition. Night-time photography can produce some of the most dramatic images that you can create, and it can also be one of the more difficult types of photography to learn and master.
Do not get too caught up in it, though. Play around with your cameras settings and know how you will be able to achieve the best pictures at night. If your camera has automatic settings only, you may face some real challenges in your attempts at photography in the dark. Whether photography is a hobby or just a casual interest, you will be well-served if you invest in a quality camera that allows for adjusting the basic settings.
Do not use the flash. Most on-camera flashes are not effective past five or six feet in front of the camera. So at night, it may overexpose anything that happens to be in the foreground while underexposing the primary subject of the picture.
If you are in doubt, set the shutter speed higher and then take care of brightening the exposure later during the editing process. While you might not have a lot of time to think about your lighting when taking candid photos, sometimes just using the flash – or not using the flash can help tremendously.
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