Photography 101

Here’s a quick guide for my photography students who are struggling to understand their digital cameras:



· Auto – Camera picks shutter and aperture and controls flash

· Program – Like auto but equivalent exposures are available as is control of the flash

· Aperture Priority – Select the aperture and the camera automatically sets the shutter speed

· Shutter Priority – Select the shutter speed and camera automatically sets the aperture

· Manual – Photographer sets aperture and shutter speed



(Also pre-programmed scene modes such as fireworks, museum, snow, etc)

· Portrait – Camera opens lens to create shallow depth of field

· Landscape – Camera closes the lens to create large depth of field

· Sports – Camera sets high shutter speed

· Macro – Camera allows lens to focus on small objects

· Day/Night – Camera takes time exposure followed by a flash to light foreground

· Flash Off – Flash will not fire



· Single area focus – Camera focuses on a subject in the centre of the screen

· Continuous focus – focuses continually on a subject and will follow a subject

· Manual focus – Photographer manually focuses the lens



· Matrix (evaluative) meter – Complex default metering system

· Center-weighted meter – Exposure is averaged over the entire frame

· Spot meter – Takes a precise measurement in the very center of the frame

· Partial meter – Similar to spot but covers a larger area


ISO (Sensitivity of the digital sensor)

· Auto ISO mode – camera automatically selects the sensitivity of the sensor

· Low ISO (100 – 200) for best quality images

· Medium ISO (400 – 800) when light is less than ideal

· High ISO (1600) when light is lacking (indoor sports)



· Automatic mode – flash triggers automatically

· Red-eye reduction – flash fires several times to reduce red reflection in eyes

· Forced flash – flash fires

· Suppressed flash – flash does not fire

· Slow sync (also called night scene) – Captures ambient light at night and flash fires to light foreground

· Rear-curtain sync – Similar to slow sync but flash doesn’t fire until right before shutter closes

· Flash exposure compensation – Increases or decreases the output of the flash



· Ability of camera to adjust the amount of light entering the camera

· Used to make dark (or underexposed) scenes lighter and light (or overexposed) scenes darker





o Standard for most point-and-shoot cameras

o All parameters (like sharpness, contrast, colour, white balance) pre set

o Easily opened by all photo viewing software

o Files are relatively small



o Available on all DSLR and some point-and-shoot cameras

o All parameters changeable by software

o Special digital editing software required (Photoshop Elements, Aperture)

o Large files



o Keeps all image file information

o Do compress images to about one-third original size

o Needs special software to open

o Files are very large



· Is a simple graph that shows the brightness of an image

· Shows pixels in your captured imaged

· Left side shows dark pixels and right side shows white pixels

· No ideal histogram but what out for too many pixels rising on the edges of the graph



· Auto white balance (AWB) – default for all photography including flash

· Pre-set while balance – for use when light source turns whites into other colours

· Sunlight, shade, electronic flash, fluorescent, tungsten

· Custom setting available by using a white card or 18 per cent gray card



More information (From

Digital cameras – A beginner’s guide:

Basic Photo Tips – Aperture, Shutter, Speed and ISO

Travel photography

Making photographs


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