Knowing Your Camera – Photography Basics

It’s often said that a bad workman will blame their tools, but the only blame for a badly taken photograph is the photographer’s. If you haven’t taken the time to learn your way around your camera then it’s not the camera’s fault if the shot doesn’t work out.

Here, our justphotographics.com experts will explain to first-time snappers just how your essential equipment ‒ your camera ‒ works.

Part One: Aperture

The aperture, simply put, is the hole that allows light into your camera to create the image. Measured in ‘f-numbers’ or ‘f-stops’, changing the aperture setting on your camera widens or shrinks the size of the hole which has an effect on the depth of field of your picture.

So, a wide aperture, say f/1.4, will allow more light into the camera, resulting in a shallow depth of field. The background will be blurred in this picture. In contrast, a narrow aperture like f/22 will result in much less light being allowed in, and the deep depth of field created here will give a picture a sharper background.

Part two: Shutter Speed

When you press the button to take your shot, the camera’s mirror flips up and the shutter is opened. The light then creates the image on the sensor or film. How quickly, or slowly, the shutter opens and closes again determines the length of the exposure AND if there will be any motion blur.

A slow shutter speed like 1/4 is a longer exposure with more blur than shooting at 1/1000 where motion can be frozen sharply.

Part Three: ISO

The ISO settings of your camera control the most essential part of the device ‒ the image sensor. The sensor essentially gathers the light and creates the images, so its settings are all-important. Your ISO settings will depend on your shooting environment, in a daylight scenario a lower ISO of 100 will suffice. But in lower light, dusk or even night, you’ll need to boost the ISO to 1600 and above to capture your image. Unfortunately, the higher the ISO, the more ‘noise’ or grain appears in digital images. So perhaps consider using a flash instead of boosting ISO in darker shots.

These three pillars of photography should be studied and experimented with until it’s second nature to adapt your camera properly. Happy Shooting!

Photo Heroes – Robert Capa

Chances are if you’re a fan of great photography, you’re a fan of Robert Capa. You will at least have seen some of his striking images which mark him out as history’s greatest war photographer.

Born Endre Friedmann in Budapest, Hungary in 1913, he was forced to flee oppression in his homeland as a teenager. He moved to Berlin for college, only to see the rise of Hitler and be forced again to flee. This time he landed in Paris, changed his name to Capa, and began to work as a photojournalist.

The Falling Soldier

Lauded for his bravery, Capa recorded images of five major conflicts. When the allies landed on Omaha Beach for the D-Day landings, he was the only photographer to land with them. His first war zone assignment was The Spanish Civil War, where he captured his most famous picture ‒ the death of a Republican fighter, “The Falling Soldier”. In just one picture Capa speaks of the tragedy and futility of war as the shot soldier is captured mid collapse.

Though finding much success through the foundation of the Magnum photo agency, Capa’s affinity for zones of conflict was to be his undoing. In 1954, while promoting an exhibition of Magnum pictures in Japan, Life Magazine offered an assignment in Southeast Asia. Capa could not resist another foray into the field and accepted. On May 25, 1954, at the age of just 40, the great photojournalist stepped on a landmine and was killed while doing the job he loved.

History Lesson: The first photograph

The first photograph, View from the Window at Le Gras taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, would be more accurately called the earliest surviving photograph. It is known that Thomas Wedgewood had previously attempted to capture permanent images on boards covered in light-sensitive chemicals, but his experiments had limited success. The picture by Niépce is considered to be the first successful photograph.

Niépce

Niépce was a middle-class Frenchman who dabbled in scientific experiments alongside his brother Claude. Their first attempts at using light-sensitive chemicals to produce images took place in 1816, but as the brothers were also working on other inventions, progress was not made quickly. Niépce gave his method the name ‘Heliography’, a process that involved using bitumen on pewter or zinc plates which could then be inked for printing.

Heliography

After some time perfecting the Heliographic process of mechanical reproduction and using it to copy engravings, Niépce at last came upon the process that would make the first permanent photograph. A pewter plate coated in his bitumen solution was inserted into a ‘camera’ at his window and left for an exposure thought to have lasted eight hours. On removal, the soft bitumen was washed from the plate with a lavender and petroleum mix, revealing the view from that window in La Gras.

This ground-breaking image was almost lost after Niépce travelled to England to spread word of his accomplishment. On showing the photo to a botanical illustrator, Francis Bauer, it was suggested that Niépce write an account of his breakthrough for the Royal Society. His intended talk on the subject never happened, however, and Niépce gifted the image and the memoir to Bauer when he departed for France. The ‘heliograph’ went through a number of owners until it was ‘lost’ after an exhibition in 1905. It didn’t show up again until 1952 when the last-known owner’s widow discovered it in a forgotten shipping crate.

The image was eventually authenticated by historians of photography Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, who had been searching for the image in order to ascertain whether Niépce was indeed the world’s first true photographer. Much debate surrounded the date of creation with estimates ranging from 1824 to 1827. The eventual compromise on 1826 still puts Niépce nine years ahead of Henry Fox Talbot, and eleven years before Daguerre in their photographic achievements.