Photography 101

I’m sorry for the delay between posts.

No, I’m not. Frankly, I’m a busy individual even if I do say so myself. I have your best interests at heart though, which is why better late than never.

To the point then. Onward, tally ho, amateur photographers. Its time to talk of many things, of mice and men, of shutter modes and .. well. Just shutter mode, no men and definitely no mice.

The shutter or S mode is where things get interesting. The shutter is that part of your camera that exposes the picture sensor to the image you’re capturing. Essentially, what happens is that you capture the light and wizardry happens in the form of a photo. The longer the sensor is exposed, the brighter the image. So in darker situations, lower shutter speeds are required, whereas higher shutter speeds work for brighter scenes. You can of course, do a boost for dark situations using ISO levels, but later on that. For now, we’ll confine the discussion to shutter speeds.

The shutter speeds vary from model to model, so it depends entirely on the camera you own. I can tell you what most entry level DSLRs have – which is a speed from 30 seconds of exposure to around 1/3200 of a second. I have no idea what situations call for such extremes, we lesser mortals usually stay around the 4 sec – 1/400 of a second. Anything lower than 4 seconds means you need a flash – definitely. Otherwise, the picture would be rather dull and the colors very muted. Which reminds me – do get an external flash – the pop up flash on the camera is just useless in indoor photography. More on that later.

A practical example is called for here. Let’s say you need to snap a picture of the moon. Now the moon is a pretty bright object considering it has no light of its own but does a reflection of the suns’ light. You try capturing a piccy of it with a point and shoot, a zoom or a mobile and all you end up with is a blob of white with a black background. You don’t want a blob of light surrounded by darkness – you want that photo where each crater on the moon’s surface is visible.

This is what you want, right? Not a weird white blob surrounded by black, but a nice, crater-y photo of the moon.

This is what you want, right? Not a weird white blob surrounded by black, but a nice, crater-y photo of the moon.

This image was taken with a 210mm zoom, focus at infinite and Shutter speed set at 1/400 of a second. Yes, for the moon, you need a zoom lens of at least 200mm to capture anything approaching detail. More zoom is always better in such cases. Savvy?

However, when you go to the other end of the spectrum – somewhere at or lower than ¼ of a sec or are using a zoom lens (anything north of 100mm in my humble opinion), remember to use a tripod since hands tend to shake at longer exposures and the slightest shake will ruin your picture. Also, the larger the zoom, the more effect the slightest shake will have – your anti-shake / vibration reduction mechanism can only do so much before it gives up and you get a blurry picture.

For example, this is a macro photo taken in a fairly low light environment. The shutter speed was set to ¼ of a sec and flash was disabled, a bit of help in setting the levels was taken courtesy Adobe’s Photoshop since the camera couldn’t cope properly (Yes, most photos are fine tuned in image editing software to help pop out the colors and other stuff) with the exposure levels in this case. To give you an idea, the room is a 10 x 10 and was lit with a single energy saver bulb of 25 watts. So yes, not much light.

Tasty. No?

Tasty. No?

At the end of this post, a few general rules of thumb to guide you by – the faster the moving object, the higher the shutter speed you require to capture the subject in a frozen shot. More light is always better. Pop up flashes on the camera are to be avoided like the plague. Practice – it really makes perfect. Ask questions from people who are into this stuff, you can always pick up a few good hints.

Finally, use a good photo editor. Plenty of free ones out there.


An erratic, absent minded individual with a curiosity level equivalent to that of a dead cat. If I do something, it's probably on a whim and not planned, just like my blogs. Which are, like me, erratic, boring and certainly worth wasting time over since it's yours anyway.

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