Basics of Photography

You can take good photos with almost any camera these days and even the camera on your phone will get the job done. There is a saying, the best camera is the one that is with you. Sometimes this is your phone, so my advice is get to know it and use it. Put this camera to good use. Its all about keeping things simple and travel light. If you are exploring in a city, then its not always good to get a big camera out on a tripod and start taking photos, this is when your phone camera works well.


This is Old Harry Rocks on the Jurassic Coast in England.


Most of the time you will be wanting to use your dedicated camera to take Landscape Photos, which is correct as a dedicated DSLR or Mirrorless Camera will have a much larger sensor and you will also have much more control over the photo being taken. Not to mention the better dynamic range that a dedicated DSLR or Mirrorless Camera will have over your phone camera.

Auto or Manual Mode???

This is a big thing to jump into as you will be always wanting to photograph landscapes in full manual mode. You will need to get to know what the light triangle does to your photos. By the light triangle I am meaning: Shutter Speed, Aperture, and ISO settings. These three elements are how your camera will pick up light in the scene and then record it as an image. Let’s take a look at what each of the light elements are and what it does to an image.

Shutter Speed

This is telling the camera how much time you want the shutter to be open for. The longer the shutter is open, the more light is let into the sensor and therefore the brighter the image. You can use shutter speed to capture motion such as at a waterfall, a slow shutter speed would result in the water in the waterfall being smooth and blurry. Another example is capturing a moment in time such as in sports photography or wildlife photography. If you a wanting to take a photo of a bird flying through the sky, then you will need a fast shutter to freeze the bird in motion. If your shutter speed was too slow, then the bird would be blurry in the image. Having control of your shutter speed is a very powerful way of becoming more artistic with your photography and as a result getting better images.

There are certain situations where you will need to keep your shutter quite fast. This is when you are hand holding your camera to take photos and not using a tripod. The general rule of thumb with shutter speed when hand holding your camera, is not to let the shutter speed go less than double the focal length of your lens.

If you are using a 50mm lens, you don’t want your shutter speed to drop below 1/100 second.

There are some differences to this rule that you will need to consider too. The above rule would be perfectly fine if everything in the image is static and not moving. However, if you are taking a photo of a woodland scene and the wind is blowing the tree branches, then you might want to think about bringing the shutter speed a couple of stops faster. Although doubling the focal length to your shutter speed would be ok to take away movement in your hands and body, it might not be fast enough to take movement away from what is happening in your scene.


Aperture

You might hear people talk about a lens being fast. This means that a fast lens will have a wide-open aperture and with it being wide open lets in more light, so therefore it becomes a fast lens. If you look at the front of any camera lens, you will see that there are some blades which widens or narrows the aperture. If you see this happening on the front of your lens, it will give you a better understanding on what is happening to your camera when changing the aperture setting. The wider the aperture, more light is allowed into the sensor and a narrow aperture less light is allowed into the sensor. All this helps you create images that are not just snap shots but real true artistic Landscape Photos.

So what happens when the aperture of your lens is wide open. This generally creates a shallow depth of field, which means the small area of focus is going to be sharp while the rest of the image is going to be blurry. This is called bokeh. A good example of this is when you are taking portrait photos and you want to isolate the people in the photo from the background. You can therefore get a wide aperture such as f1.8 or f2.8 and set the focus on your subject, the camera will then put the background out of focus with your subject in focus. This technique also works well in street photography, product photography and certainly wedding photography. However, with Landscape Photography, generally you will want a nice even focus right through your image.

This is when a narrow aperture comes into play. Normally a good aperture setting in Landscape Photography is somewhere between f8 and f16 which will normally give you nice even focus through the image.


This is not always the case with Landscape Photography. For example, a lot of Landscape Photos are taken with a nice wide-angle lens, such as 14mm. Wide Angle lenses are great to stretch out the image, make your foreground appear huge and the background far away. With this, your depth of field needs to be big, and even at f16 your camera will not be able to focus on the subject close to your camera as well as the detail in the background. This is when you will need to possibly make the aperture wider for example bring it down to f4 and focus on the foreground. This will then give you super sharp, crystal clear foreground. Because you have done this, now the background will probably be blurry. To solve this, you will then need to take another image, but focused on infinity, meaning the furthest element in the background of your image. You may also want to narrow the aperture for the second image but try to keep all the other settings the same. You will then need to post process this in Lightroom or other photo editing software to blend the two images together. This will then create one image that is perfectly in focus throughout the whole image. This technique is called focus stacking. I will discuss more about focus stacking later in this e-book.

The aperture depends on the lens you have, which is why there is a big difference in the cost of different lenses. The faster lenses, i.e. the ones with the widest apertures are generally more expensive. A fast lens would be an f1.8 or even an f1.2, but these are expensive lenses and are generally on prime lenses only. Therefore, in my opinion it is good to work with prime lens instead of telephoto lens.

Telephoto lenses are the ones that you can zoom in with. You will normally get a telephone or zoom lens as a kit lens with your camera. These tend to have variable aperture. This means that the minimum aperture varies depending on if you are zoomed in or not. For example, you might have a 28mm to 70mm kit lens with a Sony Camera. The widest aperture on this lens would be f4 if you are at 28mm or if you are at 70mm then the aperture would be f6.3. This is just an example and your lens might be different, but if you see the f number is ranging from say f4 to f6.3 then you know that it has a variable aperture depending on the zoom focal length you are using.

ISO

In general, with the ISO setting on your camera you are telling your camera how sensitive to light you want the sensor to be. The more sensitive to light, the brighter the image.

ISO stands for International Organisation for Standardization. It is basically a recognised standard of measurement and is used in camera settings to monitor the sensitivity of your camera sensor.


A good rule to work with when setting your ISO is the more sensitive to light your camera is the grainer and nosier the image will be. Some of the high-end cameras can get some good ISO settings such as 12,000. Most cameras with ISO setting so high would have very noisy detail in the image and would therefore not be a useable good quality image. The other way to look at ISO is that it is a quality meter for your image. The higher the ISO, the less quality the image will be.


For landscape photography, you would keep the ISO setting as low as possible to get the best quality of image. Most camera will come down to ISO 100 but some can go as low as ISO 50. Only look at increasing your ISO is certain situations for example if you are hand-holding your camera and you are at the widest aperture and as slow shutter speed as you can. At this point you can bring the ISO up to increase the sensitivity of your sensor. The key here is not to bring it up too much or you might risk spoiling the image with grain and noise.


There are other elements to consider when taking Landscape Photography, which is the White Balance setting. This is normally ok on Auto White Balance for the majority of Landscape Photography situations. This will be cover in another Photography Blog post so keep an eye out for future posts on my website and social media feeds.


Thank you for reading this post, and if you would like to take up a One-to-One Landscape Photography session with me to take this further, send me an email and let me know what you would like me to cover in the session and the location you would like to go to and I will get back in touch with you. My email is markstinchonphotography@gmail.com

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