Thursday Tip {Sudbury Portrait Photographer} – Getting to Know your Camera (cont’d)

Getting to Know your Camera Tips – continues.

To recap what we learned last week, please visit my previous post here:

Shutter Speed

  • Is the amount of time that the camera shutter is open.
  • Determines how much time the sensor is exposed to incoming light.
  • Shutter open too long:
    • excessive light hits sensor
    • overexposed (white) photo
    • motion from hand may cause blurry photo
  • Shutter open too briefly:
    • very little light hits sensor
    • underexposed (dark) photo



There are some trade-offs for the shutter speed that are good to know about. 

  • The higher the ISO, the grainier or noisier the image. This is most visible in dark rooms with high ISO, because noise and grain show up most in underexposed regions of pictures.

What is a good old snow day good for other then shoveling? Well, to me it is taking pictures of the pretty snowflakes and demonstrating how the shutter speed affects the image. Now keep in mind, that for me to be able to adjust the speed, and keep the the image lit the same way, I had to change the f/stop and leave the ISO at 250.

Plus, I love bokeh, so the last image is my very favourite of the series for several reasons: First, because it freezes the moment with the high shutter speed, and makes the snow flakes nice and round; and Secondly, because the f2.8 gives a very blurry look to the background. As you can see, a slow shutter speed like 1/20 captured the snow in motion so they look like streaks:


Tip on the use of Shutter Speed! An average person can hold a camera at 1/125 sec shutter speed, but if they go lower (slower) they will end up with blurry images due to motion. Pro photographers usually can go as low as 1/20 sec but that depends on their ability to keep a very steady hand. I recommended using tripod, if you shoot slower then 1/60 sec.



  • ISO – film speed setting – determines sensitivity of film (digital medium) to light.
  • The acronym “ISO” refers to the International Standards Organization, a body which standardized how film speed is done in all cameras, since 1974.
  • Low ISO, or slow film, is relatively insensitive to light, meaning you can shoot in bright settings and your image won’t be overexposed.
  • High ISO, or fast film, is very light sensitive, so it will pick up light where slow film would ignore it. It is, therefore, best in darker settings.


And here are the trade-offs for ISO settings:

  • The higher the ISO, the grainier or noisier the image. This is most visible in dark rooms with high ISO, because noise and grain show up most in underexposed regions of pictures.
  • Cheaper or older digital cameras are very limited on the ISO setting and the higher ISO usually produces a very bad quality.
  • Newer cameras like Canon Mark III (which I use) is capable of producing decent images at a very high 25,600 ISO, however I can start to see graininess appearing at around 1600 ISO.


Some examples of the different ISO setting demonstrated by my lovely aquarium!

Please note that I only changed the ISO and not the f-stop (f2.8) and the shutter speed (1/60 sec). I did that so you can clearly see what changing of the “film” sensitivity does to an image:



White Balance

Not nearly as many people know about this as there should; even “pro” photographers use their camera on an auto WB setting. I admit, I use that setting too when I am at an event or shooting a wedding. There is just no time to be constantly changing WB as well. However, knowing what a White Balance is, and how it affects your photograph is very important. So here it is:

  • The reason we adjust white balance is to get the colors in your images as accurate as possible.
  • The camera is set to make assumptions about the type of light in a given situation.
  • The range in different temperatures go from the very cool light of blue sky through to the very warm light of a candle.
  • For cooler (blue or green) light you can tell the camera to warm things up, and in warm light you can tell it to cool down.
  •  Temperature of lights is measured in degrees Kelvin (K). Here are the different light temperatures that you need to know.
    • 1000-2000 K Candlelight
    • 2500-3500 K Tungsten Bulb (household variety)
    • 3000-4000 K Sunrise/Sunset (clear sky)
    • 4000-5000 K Fluorescent Lamps
    • 5000-5500 K Electronic Flash
    • 5000-6500 K Daylight with Clear Sky (sun overhead)
    • 6500-8000 K Moderately Overcast Sky
    • 9000-10000 K Shade or Heavily Overcast Sky


Now, lets look at your setting selection on your camera. Most will have all of these symbols but some will be missing a couple. If you can’t find what you are looking for, just set it to the closest temperature possible:


Auto – this is where the camera makes a best guess on a shot-by-shot basis. You’ll find it works in many situations but it’s worth venturing out of it for trickier lighting.

Tungsten – this mode is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors, especially under tungsten (incandescent) lighting (such as bulb lighting). It generally cools down the colors in photos.

Fluorescent – this compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent tubes and will warm up your shots.

Daylight/Sunny – not all cameras have this setting because it sets things to fairly ‘normal’ white balance settings.

Cloudy – this setting generally warms things up a little more than ‘daylight’ mode.

Flash – the flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in Flash WB mode you’ll find it warms up your shots a touch.

Shade – the light in shade is generally cooler (bluer) than shooting in direct sunlight, so this mode will warm things up a little.


Last but not least, let’s look at these setting in photographs. How does it affect the image when you change your WB. Easter is not that far away, so I thought demonstrating this function on colourful Easter eggs would be helpful. These images were taken beside a window (natural) light. I used these setting throughout the images: ISO 100, f2.8 and 1/60 sec:



These were all the important manual settings you need to know in order to understand photography and create wonderful images. Remember, no one can do this perfectly for the first time; we all need to practice, so keep on shooting!

P.S. In Manual mode!

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