How It Works
How Photography Works!
So you want to be a photographer, or maybe you just want to be better at photography for your personal needs. Either way, the best way to be a better photographer is to understand the foundation of how photography works. At the core, photography is as much a science as it is an art. This statement is often said about a lot of things, but in the case of photography its very true. See photography as an art is obvious, but how photography works is a science, physics and applied science to be exact. Now there is no way that we can go into an in-depth understanding of exactly how photographic science operates in this one short article, but we can hit the highlights so you have a foundational understanding to build on.
Photography is the transformation of light into a storable medium and this is your canvas. At the basic core, photography is about storing a pattern of light that is normally seen by the eyes into a storable and sustainable medium. In the early days that meant a tintype, then it was film, and now it's digital files. No matter what the storage medium is the same principles apply. A lens is focused onto an area where reflected light is collected and manipulated until a satisfactory representation is achieved and then the light is exposed to a medium (on the case of a digital format a sensor with interprets and encodes the information about the pattern) which reacts to the light and forms a permanent image.
Lenses are Your Sketch Pencils
People tend to think that that the camera is where the magic happens, and truth be told, there is a lot of the camera involved in how the end product turns out, but it's really all about the lenses. Lenses are made up of optical elements that bend and focus light in precise ways and manipulate how much light makes it through to the storage medium (film) or the optical collection sensor (digital) there are literally thousands of lenses on the market in hundreds of different types. They can range from a hundred bucks or less to several thousand dollars a piece. The quality of the lens affects the price, and the quality Is determined by the elements that comprise it. Lenses fall into three basic types standard, telephoto, and wide angle. Each of these main types serve a specific purpose for particular photographic tasks. To put it simply the lenses are what gather and manipulate the light to make the image on the medium, the better the lens the better the image result will be, but also the higher the price for the lens.
Lens Settings are The Brushes
When you select the lens settings that you choose for the lens such as the aperture and shutter speeds you are choosing which brush you will use to paint your picture. To get the best possible results you need to make sure that you use these settings correctly.
Aperture is the measurement of the opening of the iris (the part of the lens that controls how much light reaches the sensor or film once the shutter is opened). To put this in simple terms, the lower the light of what you are photographing, the bigger the aperture needs to be to get a good picture, and vice versa, but be mindful too much exposure (the aperture is too big (the f/stop is too small)) and the image will become oversaturated or hyper-exposed, and could be washed out. If it's too small (the f/stop is too large) and the image may be too dark to see.
Shutter speed is the measurement of the amount go time that the shutter remains open to allow light to be exposed to the film or sensor. The longer the shutter is open the better the result will be, but be careful, movements of the objects you are focusing on, hand tremors, or even sudden changes in light can cause blurriness, skipping images, and other issues.
It’s a fine balancing act to determine the correct combination of shutter speed and aperture setting (f/stop) for what you are shooting. The good news is that most cameras today have some sort of autofocus and auto exposure system built in that helps to get you great pictures without all the work. But knowing how to do it yourself allows you the chance to take advantage of advanced techniques to do some really cool things in your photography.
The Camera is the Tool, You Are the Artist/Scientist
There are a lot of settings on your camera that can affect the end result of your image, both for film, and for digital photography. Learning to use them is key to being a better photographer. At the simplest core though the camera is a tool for converting the collected light into a storable image. This is done by the opening of a shutter that is in place between the lens and the film or optical sensor. the shutter on what is called an SLR (single-lens reflex) is behind a mirror that swings up out of the way to let the light pass. The purpose of the mirror is to direct the light/image to the viewfinder on top of the camera body so that you can see what you are about to take a picture of and exactly how it will look when it is captured. Once the mirror is out of the way, the shutter opens and the light hits the film or the sensor and the image is stored. In the case of a film camera, as the shutter closes it triggers the movement of the motor to advance the film so you can take your next picture, in the case of a digital camera, it signals the CPU to close that film and get ready to create a new one for the next picture. Ultimately how the image looks is up to you and the choices that you make as a photographer.
This is just a basic foundation of how photography works. If you want to be a better photographer, or you want to advance into a photography career having a better grasp of the fundamentals of photographic science, this is a great place to start. Use this basic knowledge as a jumping off point to explore more and learn all you can about both the art and science of photography and you have much better results. Also, read about the Creativity of Photography.
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