How To Master Your DSLR Camera Pt.2

A guide to getting the most out of your camera.


In part two of this series addressing the DSLR, we’ll take a look at your camera and what sets your DSLR apart from all other cameras, in this tutorial we will be discussing the importance of how the shutter is an important part of exposure and sets the mood and essence of your images.

For those of us in the know when we look at the exposure triangle we do recognize the elements that make up the diagram. We also have a complete understanding as to how they work individually but the exposure triangle is an absolute misnomer as in no way helps us to understand how they actually relate to one another.

We have to have a complete understanding of the three elements individually. In my previous article I covered how ISO is achieved and was standardized. ISO is a feature and a standard that was used in the manufacture of film. You would purchase your film as you were aware how that film would react to light and how much detail you needed and would be produced in your print or transparency. The films sensitivity to light was achieved by the size of the grain and how closely they were packed on the emulsion. As I don’t want to digress too much please refer back to my previous article. However an understanding of film sensitivity is a very important step in your understanding as to how the camera’s sensor responds to light.

A digital camera’s sensor does not have a native ISO. You choose one for yourself. If the sun was very bright and you needed the sensor to respond quickly you should select a lower/slower ISO value. and if the quality of the image is of far greater concern you would then select even a much lower/slower ISO number, or the light was very bright, a low/slow setting, and visa-versa. If it was becoming dusk, a higher ISO setting/faster as everything in the scene was becoming darker and you did not want to underexpose your picture or experience a blurred image because of camera shake. If you did not have a clue you would set ‘Auto ISO’ and simply hoped for the best.

I dealt with the three settings individually when dealing with exposure and did explain how important they are to one another and should never be left to chance. Creatively, in my photographic classes, they were always dealt with individually.

A. The lens aperture: We have already covered depth of field and now know that the size of the aperture is one of the most important factors when considering and controlling how much of the image will be in or out of focus in the scene that we are photographing. Bokeh has become a very hip word when describing the region that is now out of focus with some smartphone manufacturers applying this phenomenon artificially and even boast about achieving this pseudo out of focus background effect.

The exposure diagram above has been rendered to indicate the “Sunny f16 rule.” As this rule is based on the amount of incident light that you are working in during the day in bright sunlight and not the light that is being reflected off the subject, termed reflected light. The Sunny f16 Rule is a way to set for the correct exposure during daylight without using the camera’s light meter. So for example, if your ISO is 100 at f/16, then your shutter speed will be 1/100 second and so on. If you have a camera with stepped settings then it would be 1/125th of a second. The enclosed diagram gives you a much better understanding as to how the three settings relate to one another and looks nothing like a triangle.



B: ISO setting: Usually set according to the amount of light that we have at our disposal, or the quality of the image we want or need to reproduce. The lower this setting the less noise, ‘grain in film’, that will be captured along with the image we are recording. Usually depending on the quality of the digital sensor in your camera. Digital sensors have improved in leaps and bounds since their first inception and also with the aid of Ai and image interpolation have markedly improved in very low light situations and are now capable of producing almost noiseless images when needing to. Generally the camera manufacture should indicate what the native setting for the particular cameras sensor should be. Normally they are in the lower range, i.e. 100-200. The higher the native ISO the more confident the sensor manufacturer is.

C. The third setting indicated on the exposure triangle is the shutter speed and correctly it is also an important consideration when it comes to the establishing of correct exposure, but, and this is a big but. The most important function of the set shutter speed is help us control the amount of motion perceived in an image. In a moving subject, the lower the shutter speed setting the more motion will be seen. The higher the shutter speed the more you will be able to freeze subject motion. Controlling subject motion within an image is a huge study in itself and I will suggest that you look for a tutorial covering this topic, as it is vast, important and very rewarding. I am just going to cover a few of them. The shutter speed setting is used to convey motion, freeze action control the movement of water or to render the image as you wanted it to appear, i.e. the subject in a predetermined controlled focus but the background blurred or blurry, controlled but by varying degrees. Panning is a topic being discussed and hopefully you would want to master and explore for yourself in one of the many tutorials that has been made available to you. I have included a few images with brief descriptions that without fail would motivate you to be able to achieve far more with your photography.


The Creative effect of the shutter speed setting on your images.

Isaiah Bekkers. I have not been given the camera settings so these have been deduced. On inspection, we see that the whole image is completely static. The skateboard rider is just about to land back on the board as the laces of his left shoe are trailing upwards and both his feet are still off the board. There are only two ways that this effect can be achieved, the first being a particularly high shutter speed i.e. 1/500th as a starting point and more until the effect has been achieved. I have used the set shutter speed of 1/500th as this is a standard stepped setting but modern digital cameras are capable of step-less settings i.e. 1/650th. Usually, step-less settings were calibrated to 1/3rd of an f-stop value. I suspect that with today’s technology any setting could or would be achieved. The second worth mentioning is the use of a flash. When the flash fires the flash duration is extremely short and the image would only be exposed exactly when the flash fires. This does not appear to be the case with this photograph. As effective as this picture is it can only be produced by someone who knows exactly what he or she is doing and the result of much practice and experimentation but the result is worth the effort and achieved by the shutter freezing the movement.

Jerome Prax: This image as pleasant and it was made even more compelling due to the movement in the water cascading over the rocks. This has been deliberately set and controlled. There are several very important factors that you need to take into consideration when wanting to achieve this kind of effect. The first is that you would have to use a shutter speed that is slow enough to control the flow of the water. Slower and the water would appear smoother, higher and the movement would be arrested. There’s no hard and fast rule that you need to adopt but I recommend that you start at 125th 60th 30th etc if you are using the prescribed ISO setting, generally 100 or 200 and use your preview and adjust your shutter speed settings from there. The second most important fact is that the camera must be kept steady. If the camera or lens has a built-in image stabilizer this can be used to great effect if you are already competent with the use of your camera. However, having the camera on a sturdy tripod will help you to achieve the exact amount of movement in the water as you have the preview facility in your camera to help and to guide you. Also, the time of day and weather conditions will affect the angle of the light and should also be taken into consideration. The shutter speed setting has been used to control the movement of the water.

Watcharlie: This is a very common technique used by photographers looking to create this effect commonly termed or called panning. This is achieved by the photographer deliberately setting a very slow shutter speed i.e. 30th 15th or even slower. Framing the subject and in this case the cyclist. He started following the cyclist from his right in an ark and at the right moment depressed the shutter release–but kept the camera moving until he completed the movement. As the bus, other cars and the motorcyclist were also in the frame at the same moment and moving faster their speed is exaggerated. If you were not familiar with this technique I would strongly recommend that you take it upon yourself to learn how to do this, as it will move your appreciation and understanding of your photography into a different realm. Once again, it is with uderstanding and the correct use of the shutter speed that will enable you to achieve this effect.

David Dodds: One of a series of photographs taken by David on an expose of the Lipizzaners in South Africa. David who is an extremely talented and accomplished photographer was able to interpret the setting exactly as he wished to portray this. The photograph was taken a few years ago but the technique and skills needed are just as relevant today. At that time David used a Canon EOS ID Mark II fitted with a Canon 70-300 used at 300mm. The exposure was at 1/60th with the ISO setting at 800. The shutter speed selected enabled the essence of this majestic horse to be artistically captured and portrayed. As Dave took a whole series of very compelling and artistic photographs that required a range of very low shutter speeds. He has a seperate visually promotable website, where the Lipizzaners and other Horse Fine Art pictures are available for sale in the ARTS section. Please avail yourself of the opportunity and enjoy the magnificence of some of Dave’s other works.

I have included a short video clip to show the environment David had to work in as this will inspire you as well. In a future edition I will rerun the article that we did as not many of you have seen this and it is a work of art in itself.

The South African Lipizzaners have earned the honour of being the only performing Lipizzaners outside Vienna, recognized by and affiliated to the famous Spanish Riding School and a close association in maintained between the two to this day. Visitors from all over the world are invited to visit the majestic South African Lipizzaners, which have, over generations, become an integral part of the country’s culture and heritage. These horses are loved by equine specialists, racing enthusiasts and those who have little to no prior knowledge or experience of these elegant animals. The Lipizzaner Centre is situated in Kyalami, Johannesburg.