Photo-creativity, Part I – The Basics

This is the first in a series of (hopefully) useful articles about photography, where I share what I’ve learned since 2017, when I started getting serious about shooting professionally. I’ve learned that I get the most satisfaction out of teaching what I know, and I hope that this provides some value and inspiration. Here are some ways to get creative with our cameras, whether you’ve been shooting for a while and need some inspiration or are just starting out. Everything here is going to be on the camera itself: no technical jargon, no computer editing, simplicity itself!


The Basics

The three most basic things that affect a photo’s exposure are time, aperture and ISO, and these are the first places where we can experiment creatively with our photos. Let’s take a look at each one in detail.


Time

Changing the time (shutter speed) of an exposure lets us do a few things, like freeze a river’s water droplets or turn the water into a silky layer of white mist, or make trails of light at night (or day). We can change people walking down the road into ghostly figures, and we can photograph the stars at night. Let’s see some examples;

To do this we can either set everything in our camera’s Manual mode if we know how, but the easiest way is by using Shutter Priority mode, letting the camera do the hard work for you (look for S or Tv on the mode dial, depending on what make of camera you have, and see what different shutter speeds can do).


Aperture

The aperture setting controls the amount of light enters the camera, but the effect that we want to use is the depth of field (DOF), in other words how much of your subject in the shot is in focus. This is how we create those dreamy blurred backgrounds and foregrounds, leaving just one part of the scene sharp, and how we can get an entire landscape vista pin-sharp from the closest objects to the farthest. We also use the aperture to get Bokeh, those lovely out-of-focus light effects, and to get those sunstars in sunset and sunrise shots.

Just like with shutter speed we have a dedicated mode on the camera called Aperture Priority which lets us play with these effects while the camera manages the exposure manually. Switch to A or Av on your mode dial, and then change your f-numbers to see what happens.


ISO

ISO, named after the International Organization for Standardization’s standard number 12282:2019 “Photography — Ditigal Still Cameras — Determination of exposure index, ISO speed ratings, standard output sensitivity, and recommended exposure index”…

…exciting stuff! ISO is essentially your camera’s sensitivity to light, and gets much more complicated than that so let’s leave it there – how can we use it creatively?

One of the things that photographers can become seriously allergic to is the idea of under-exposing or over-exposing a photo, which can limit our artistic creativity if we allow it. Under-exposing is making a photo so dark that parts of it are 100% black, and over-exposing makes it so bright that parts become 100% white. Take a look and see what I’m talking about:


To Finish

I think that ought to be enough to start with in terms of how we can be creative with our photos. Now the worst thing you can do is read or watch articles and tutorials on photography without actually picking up the camera and shooting, so go shoot and play with these settings and see what you can create!

Of course if this was useful for you or you have any questions, please let me know by dropping a comment below, it would be great to see some feedback.

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