Saturday, September 13, 2014

Quick glance at the Creative Shooting Zone - Digital Photography

Understanding the settings on your camera makes you half the photographer you once thought you could not become. Knowing when, where, and how to use them completes you. Your level of dedication then holds your hands and walks you forward towards differentiating you from another "wanna be photographer", to people actually recognizing you in public because your work inspired a lot of them to take up photography as their hobby, and they made you their role model.

I am sure many of you have noticed "Tv", "Av", and "M", "B", "C" modes listed on the mode dial (or at least a couple of those modes), but the question is, how many of you have tried them out? 

Those creative modes are there on the camera for a reason. If you are ready to make a leap in to the world of exciting shooting modes, here is a crash course on various creative modes of a digital camera to get you started:

NOTE: The terms I have made references to in this post are based on the Canon system because that is what I use. Other camera users, kindly find out the respective terms used for the same / similar feature(s) on your camera. A wise person once said, thee refer to the instruction manual of thine camera when you needeth the instructions on operating it (or something similar to that).


1) P = Program
You are shooting outdoors, your try to capture a moving subject, and there is constant change in the lighting. The "Auto" mode isn't helping you get the best exposure of the scene that you had in mind, which makes you want to smack the subject to the ground. Well, with Program (P) mode at your disposal, you don't need to go that far.

In this "semi-automatic" mode, the camera analyzes the scene and quickly makes the necessary changes to the Aperture and Shutter values depending on the ISO value we set, and comes up with the final exposure. It may be one of the easy ways to understand ISO.

Scenarios where this mode comes handy:
a) when very quick adjustments are needed
b) when we want / need control over the ISO
c) when you need control over the Flash
d) when we want to manually control the white balance
e) when we want to shoot in the Adobe RGB color space which has more broader and accurate color range than the traditional sRGB color space that produces subtle colors suitable for web viewing (for basic explanation, see: color spaces).

To sum it up:
Shutter speed = Automatic
Aperture = Automatic
ISO = Manual

2) Tv = Shutter Speed Priority
This is a semi-automatic mode in which the camera allows you to select the Shutter speed of your choice, while it varies the aperture (f) value automatically, depending on the lighting conditions. Irrespective of which mode the camera is in, the final exposure operates on the principle of "exposure triangle".

To sum it up:
Shutter speed = Manual
Aperture = Automatic
ISO = Auto / Manual

3) Av = Aperture Priority
Aperture is set to manual control in this mode, thus allowing the camera to handle the required shutter speed for a scene - based on lighting. Remember, when you are in control of the aperture, you control the depth of field too, along with the amount of light you allow to reach the sensor.

Shutter speed = Automatic
Aperture = Manual
ISO = Auto / Manual

Note: In both the modes discussed above, ISO is a user configurable variable. Users may choose to change the ISO value for a scene, or let the camera adjust the ISO value automatically (by setting it to "A")

4) M = Manual
As the name indicates, this is a complete manual mode, in which you have total flexibility over every individual setting of your camera. Yes, now you are in complete control of your camera and you are its boss!

Initially, you may find it hard to manage all the settings by yourself for a particular scene, but once you get used to the Manual mode, all other camera modes start to appear redundant. I take pride in this, as I have transformed myself from using semi-automatic modes to full manual mode for quite some time now. For someone who is learning photography, it is a kind of an achievement really.

Personally, I feel it is a wise choice to use any of the semi-automatic modes under dynamic shooting conditions, as changing every setting manually won't be feasible all the time.

To sum it up:
Shutter Speed = Manual
Aperture = Manual
ISO = Auto / Manual

5) B = Bulb
Almost all DSLRs these days come with a fascinating, one of its kind mode called the "Bulb" mode. It gets its name because the exposure can be controlled for longer periods of time, varying from seconds, to hours. The technicality behind this mode is that you can lock the shutter open for extended period of time, so you can let your brain go creative to produce long-exposure shots.

Eg:// Capture lightening, star trails, light painting, motion trails, shooting fireworks, etc.

If you don't find the Bulb mode on the mode dial of your camera, check the camera's instruction manual to find out if your camera really has one such mode, and if yes, instructions to access it.

The highest we get to keep the shutter open in other modes is 30 sec to 60 sec, depending on make and model of the cameras. That is more than enough for beginners and amateurs to try out different things when the sun goes down.

There are a few constraints that one needs to understand before attempting to capture images in this mode. Your biggest concern will be the battery backup, especially if you decide to expose the images for extended periods.


Lightning bolts
(Image source:

My first successful lightning capture

Star trails
(Image source:

(Image source:

Light Painting
(Photographer: Aaron Bauer)

City trails
(Photographer: Andi Andreas)

6) C = Custom
This is a unique, and a very useful camera mode which only DSLRs host, normally. With this, you may customize the settings as per your shooting requirements, and save it as a preset for future use. This helps especially when we shoot under static lighting conditions, as we won't have to change the settings time and again as we do in the other shooting modes.

To sum it up:
Shutter Speed = Manual
Aperture = Manual
ISO = Auto / Manual

Core elements - Digital Photography

To the beginners and enthusiasts of photography out there, I would like to get you started with the basics of more serious photography than shooting in AUTO all your life, which can prove to be a great start to build your Taj-Mahal or an Eiffel Tower of photographs.

I have tried in this post, to break the technical details of photography in to easily understandable English. The information in this post are based on my knowledge and experience on the subject, and verified information I found on various websites, all collated and differentiated in to two parts to make it easier to understand.

Since I use a Canon system, I won't be mentioning about Nikon or any other camera system(s) (unless necessary) in this post.

Quick Note: (The images with "Avinash K", "Avinash Krishnamurthy", and "Feast For Your Eyes" watermarks on them are my proprietary work)


When you open the lens cap, you are allowing the light to flow in to the camera through the lens, but there are two checkpoints those light rays will have to cross before they reach the sensor - "Aperture" and "Shutter".

A series of retractable metallic blades arranged in circular fashion form an Aperture (as shown in the images below), and they are placed in such a way that they collectively offer the photographer a very effective way to regulate the amount of light that travels ahead towards the sensor. It does so by closing to restrict light, and opening to allow light.

In "closed" state, the aperture lets in very less amount of light to pass through it, unlike when it is wide open. Aperture, when "wide open", lets in the maximum amount of light.

Aperture in a lens

Much closer look of Aperture
(Image source: N/a)

Depending on the type of camera and the lens used, the aperture can either be controlled manually (electronically), or automatically (controlled by the camera), or both ways separately. Initially, aperture rings were added to the lenses in order to physically control the aperture, but they got a major make-over as the years passed and technology improved. Basic "point and shoot" cameras are very portable, cost effective, easy to use, but they often lack manual controls.

Aperture can be controlled by changing the "f-stop" AKA "focal-stop" on the camera, which is denoted by the letter "f" (lower case).

Eg:// f/1.8, f/2, f/2.8, f/3.5, f/4, f/5.6, f/8.0, f/16, etc.

1) Focal length divided by the lens diameter = f-stop
2) Focal length divided by f number = Lens diameter

Graphical representation on how Aperture works

Lower the f value, larger the aperture (more light enters the camera)

Focal length:

Focal Length is not a measurement of the actual length of the lens. It is the calculation of an optical distance from the point where light rays converge (or diverge) to form a sharp image of an object to the sensor at the focal plane in the camera. When the lens is focused at infinity (farthest object(s in focus), its focal length is determined. Focal length is measured in "mm" - millimeter.

Eg:// 18-55 mm, 50 mm, 70-300 mm, etc.

When focusing the lens to infinity, make sure the aperture is set to higher f values in order to reduce the blurring of foreground.
Graphical representation of "Focal Length"

Focal length and Aperture:

When the focal length is increased, the aperture reduces**, thus reducing the amount of light reaching the sensor.

** = Aperture value remains constant only when lenses with fixed aperture are used.