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DSLR 101 – ISO

Time for lesson number two in our DSLR 101 series! Our topic today? You may have heard of it, it’s a little thing called ISO.

ISO is traditionally a measure of film speed; basically how sensitive a roll of film is to light. Obviously if you’re using a DSLR you’re not using film but your camera still has ISO settings. Instead of film it’s a reference to how sensitive the camera’s image sensor is to light. ISO settings can vary greatly but most cameras have at least 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. The lower the number the less sensitive the sensor is to light.

Although lower ISOs are usually desirable (leave your camera on Auto settings and it’ll choose 100 or 200 most of the time) to give you clear, sharp photos there are times when a higher ISO can be useful.

Choosing a higher ISO allows you to use a higher shutter speed or smaller aperture. This is especially useful for shooting in low light, particularly shooting action in low light (for example indoor sports events or concerts). It also comes in handy in places like museums and art galleries where use of flash and/or tripods may be prohibited, or in any low light situation when you don’t have a tripod available!

Higher ISOs cause a grainy effect, which, while we often want the clearest photos possible, can sometimes be desirable to create a certain look in an image.

You can choose your ISO setting in the menu of most DSLRs, check your manual if you can’t find the ISO option in yours.

Extra tip
Try taking the same shot at several different ISO settings so you can get a feel for what each different setting produces.

Learn from Big Shot

bigshot In keeping with the theme of learning, here’s an interesting program I hope expands in the future. Bigshot is currently only running workshops in the New York City area but it looks like they might reach other cities soon. The Bigshot workshops allow kids to build their own camera from a set of Bigshot click-together camera parts. The idea is to teach engineering and science concepts while building a working camera, which can then be used to teach photography.

The program is run by Columbia University and, although you can’t buy the Bigshot camera parts, you can visit their website to learn how the different parts of a point and shoot camera work.

DSLR 101 – Auto Exposure Bracketing

Do you own a DSLR but use it mostly as a very expensive point-and-shoot? Time to take off the training wheels! Join us for DSLR 101! Don’t worry we’ll take it slow, and the little green rectangle of the auto setting will always be there for you to run back to if you find yourself in over your head!

Welcome to class, first up; auto exposure bracketing.

Auto exposure bracketing allows you to automatically take a series (usually three but sometimes up to seven) of photos, each at different exposures. Basically the camera takes one image at what it perceives to be the correct exposure, one underexposed, and one overexposed.

What your camera views as the correct exposure may not necessarily be the exposure that suits a particular image best. You may find that you like your photos slightly overexposed, or that for a particular shot the underexposed version appeals to you more.

Auto bracketing allows you to take the different exposure shots in one quick succession, meaning it’s almost as fast as just taking the correct exposure shot. Especially for beginner photographers this is a great way to get shots in different exposures, and learn which ones you like best in which situations.

Overexposure is not always a bad thing, it can make for some interesting effects.

Most DSLRs will let you choose the brackets you want (usually anywhere from a third-stop (not much variation in exposure) to two stops (lots of variation)), and the number of images you want to take.  How you set auto exposure bracketing varies from camera to camera so you’ll need to check your camera’s manual (look for AEB), it’s often found as a menu setting but some cameras have a specific button for bracketing.

Extra tip
Auto exposure bracketing works differently, depending on if you have the camera in Aperture Priory Mode or Shutter Priority Mode. Basically the camera will change the setting that is not in priority to control the exposure (e.g. if you’re in shutter mode the aperture will be changed).  Therefore if you want to maintain a certain shutter speed or aperture make sure you put the camera in the priority mode for the setting you want to keep set.

That’s it in a nutshell, get out and play! If you like you can add the results to the Photodoto Flickr group here.

Daily Photo Blog

Yesterday I published the first daily photo on my shiny new photo blog. That’s the photo over there on the right. The blog, imaginatively named Eye Tales, is here.

I wanted to make it simple, both for me to add the daily photo and for visitors to navigate. I went with WordPress because I already have blogs with them so I’m familiar with managing and editing and, if you don’t mind having .wordpress.com in the address, it’s free.

The theme is called Duotone and is specifically designed for photoblogging. It has a couple of nice features, the first is the inclusion of some of the technical information from the camera (shutter speed, ISO, camera model, etc) which happens automatically without me having to input any of the info. The other feature I like is the changing of the blog background colours to compliment the photo.

The first day was easy, we took a trip to the beach so there was plenty of photo inspiration, but already today (day 2) I had to search around my apartment looking for something interesting to photograph during my lunch break! This is good though, this is forcing me to get my camera out and be a little creative. I didn’t add any words to the first two posts but I may do that in future posts, I certainly like that the option to add words is there.

If you’re inspired to try your own daily (or even not daily; weekly?, bi-monthly?) photoblog you can sign up for a WordPress blog here (this is by no means the only option, just the one I found most convenient) and get started. Let is know in the comments how it goes!

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