Table of contents
Photography is all about light, whether digital or traditional film, and exposure is the greatest factor influencing photo quality. The correct exposure level can be achieved by setting the ISO, White balance, F-stop, Shutter speed and Exposure functions on your camera.
The ISO is the sensitivity of your camera to light. For film cameras we use film of different ISO values, but for digital cameras, we only need to set the ISO rating via the camera settings. Generally speaking, setting the ISO to a lower value (such as ISO 50/100) can help you achieve a higher quality images with less noise. A higher ISO value (such as ISO 400 or above) provides higher sensitivity and helps in the capture of fast-moving subjects such as race cars, but image quality may be slightly lower with a greater chance of noise.
The White balance setting is used to compensate the color temperature of existing light to prevent inaccurate color reproduction. Most digital cameras sport the White Balance function, and they support many preset White Balance settings, such as fluorescent, tungsten, and sunlight.
F-stop / Aperture
The F-stop is the value of the lens aperture or opening, such as F/2.0, F/2.8,F/3.5,F/5.6,F/8,F/16, the most common F-stop values. A larger F-stop value corresponds to a smaller aperture (not a typo!). The size of the aperture determines the amount of light that is allowed through the lens. A larger aperture allows more light to reach the image sensor.
Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter remains open to allow light through the lens. The common shutter speed values are 10, 5, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/100, 1/500/, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000, measured in seconds. A smaller value corresponds to a faster shutter speed. If you are capturing high speed objects, a slower shutter speed may result in blurriness.
Exposure compensation allows a user to manually control the exposure in plus and minus Exposure Value (EV) steps; the former makes the final image lighter and the latter darker.
Most digital cameras provide automatic settings. When using these, the user does not need to pay attention to any of settings mentioned above, as the camera will calculate them all automatically, based on the photographer's selection of the automatic mode. Users only need to press the shutter button and the camera will do the rest.
Most compact, ultra-compact and SLR-like digital cameras typically feature a host of built-in scene mode functions. In each function are defined settings for the exposure parameters (including F-stop, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and others) for a given type of scene. Here, we will introduce you some of the more common scene modes (different cameras may call them by different names).
This mode is designed for portrait-type shots. In this mode, the camera will use a small F-stop value (such as F/3.5, for a larger aperture) and a shutter speed of about 1/100 sec.
If you are in motion or your subject moves at a very fast rate, select sports mode. The shutter speed is very quick in this mode (e.g. 1/250)
This mode is designed for night shooting, with the camera parameters set to compensate for low light levels. This mode will give you a larger aperture size (such as F/3.5 or F/2.8), a lower shutter speed (1/15 sec) and a higher ISO value.
If you are outdoors and want to take shots of far-away objects, you can give landscape mode a try. When using this mode, the F-stop setting will be high (such as F/5.6, for a smaller aperture). This results in the camera focusing on objects further away, and objects up close may appear blurred.
On a snowy day outside, most objects will be white. This mode configures the settings to a small aperture size (such as F/4.8), a higher shutter speed (1/160 sec) and a higher EV step.
This mode aids users in the taking of close-ups, such as flowers or very small objects. If you want to shoot objects within a distance of 10 inches, we highly recommend using this mode. When using this mode the camera will auto focus the object and the background, including other object in the picture, can appear blurred.
* Different cameras may use slightly different settings in same the mode
All DSLR or SLR-like digital cameras have full manual support, and some compact digital cameras may also feature a host of manual functions. With manual control, users have the ability to get creative with their images by using/tweaking any or all of the settings mentioned above. Remember, however, that manual controls are mainly meant for professional use, and it will take a bit of practice to master.