Welcome to Aperture & ISO Week!
If you’re new here, we are talking about the basics of learning photography, including the tools we have at our disposal to help us see and feel more deeply about the world and moments around us.
You can bookmark this link if you want to keep the series handy!
This week we are delving into the aperture and ISO settings on our cameras. If you remember from the post on the Exposure Triangle, aperture (or fstops) is how we measure the opening of the shutter curtain when we take a photo. The size of that opening determines how much of the scene will be in focus.
The smaller the number the bigger the opening and the larger the number the smaller the opening:
Small number (f1.2 - f2.8) = fewer objects in focus
Large number (f3.5 - f22) = more objects in focus
Small numbers are great for pictures of 1-2 people and animals as well as photos of objects that you want to draw particular attention to.
Large numbers are excellent for landscapes, groups of people, and any other scene that you want to have fully in focus.
ISO or “film sensitivity” is measured in numbers. In our case, when using digital cameras, we use ISO to tell the sensor how much light to record.
To remember ISO numbers, here’s a neat analogy.
Think of ISO as the flooring in a house. Hardwood or tile (ISO 50-200) won’t hold much water if rain falls on it. Thin carpet soaks up a little more (ISO 400-800), and plush carpet soaks up the most (ISO 1000-3200). ISO numbers “soak up” light in the same way that different kinds of flooring are affected by water.
The reason I am bundling aperture and ISO together is because they work hand-in-hand when it comes to composing a photo. Shutter speed has an important place too, and we will focus on it next week.
If you worked through (or even just looked at) the fun sheet from last week (find it here), you will have noticed that the last exercise asked you to set the top dial on your camera to M, which is manual mode. I will be crafting the rest of these posts and their accompanying fun sheets around manual mode. It’s the main mode I photograph in and it’ll be easy to learn because I’ll give you some shortcuts :)
First, set your aperture to the smallest number possible.
Next, set your ISO for the lighting situation you want to shoot in (whether indoors or outdoors), take a few photos and tweak that setting if you need to, and leave it there until you change lighting situations. After that, the only thing you need to think about is the shutter speed dial! Keep your aperture the same for a day or two, play around with photographs at that setting before changing it.
People photos make for great aperture opportunities…
Nature and food as well…
…and so do animals/pets!
You don’t have to look far in order to find something to practice aperture on!
Let’s chat briefly about the shutter speed dial.
Inside the viewfinder you’ll see a blinking line on a scale of dashes after you tap the shutter button to focus the lens. This is your exposure meter and it will tell you whether the photo will be darker (under exposed) or lighter (over exposed). It is controlled by the shutter speed dial (reference your camera manual for it’s location if you haven’t already), and as you spin it, the blinking line will move. Moving the line to the middle is generally a good place to start, but be sure to try any spot on the scale to see what happens and which photos you like the most as a result. It’s so much fun to experiment!
Feel free to change the aperture and ISO every day if you’d like, and take note of how the numbers change the look of your images. I’d suggest changing only the aperture OR the ISO each day if this all feels very new. But whether you change the aperture, ISO, or both, simply adjust the shutter speed dial to get the photo just how you’d like it.
Congrats on making it all the way to the end of the post! I’m excited for all the adventures you’ll have this week with aperture & ISO :)
Here’s your fun sheet!