Foundations: Focusing, Making The Right Thing Sharp

In the majority of portraiture, the subject’s eyes are the main focus of the shot, and it’s therefore important to ensure they are sharp, especially when using a wide aperture. By default, your camera’s autofocus system will usually focus on whatever is in the centre of the frame, or closest to the camera. As a result, when your subject is positioned off-centre or behind foreground elements, you will end up with a blurred subject if you rely on the default …

Foundations: Shooting Modes; Automatic, Semi-Automatic and Manual

The range of modes and settings can seem daunting at first. The best – and quickest – way to become a confident photographer is to experiment with your camera on every setting, so you fully understand how ISO, aperture and shutter speed inter-link. It’s often better to do this exercise without having another person involved – having to worry about your subject getting bored or uncomfortable adds unnecessary pressure at this stage! In summary, the different exposure modes are: In …

Foundations: Metering Modes, Getting Your Exposure Right

Whenever your camera isn’t in full manual mode, it measures the amount of light reflected from the scene (a process called ‘metering’) and uses inbuilt algorithms to decide how to set the aperture, shutter speed and/or ISO. The camera doesn’t understand what exactly you are trying to capture, so by default chooses exposure settings that result in the tones in the image averaging to a mid-grey tone. Adjusting the metering mode changes which parts of the image frame the camera …

Foundations: ISO, Adjusting Your Camera’s Sensitivity To Light

The ISO setting affects how sensitive the camera’s sensor is to the light that falls on it. It is the third element in the triangle that determines the overall exposure of the image, alongside aperture and shutter speed. ISO stands for the International Standards Organisation, and harks back to the days when photographs were captured only on film, rather than a digital sensor. The ISO ratings created an industry standard for the sensitivity of different film types. ISO 100 film …

Foundations: Shutter Speed, Your Camera’s Eyelid

If the aperture is like the pupil in a human eye, then the camera’s shutter is like an eyelid – light can only enter while it is open. The ‘shutter speed’ refers to the length of time that this shutter is open for, allowing light to fall on to the camera’s sensor in order to create an exposure. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, with a ‘fast’ shutter speed including settings such as 1/250th of a second …

Foundations: Aperture, The Pupil Of Your Camera’s Eye

The aperture is like the pupil in a human eye – it’s the hole in the lens which permits light to enter through to reach the camera’s sensor. The size of the aperture can be changed – just as a pupil shrinks in harsh sunlight and expands in the dark. A wider aperture lets more light in (causing a brighter exposure), while a narrower one restricts the amount of light that enters (for a darker exposure). Increasing the size of …

Foundations: Technical Skills

There are hundreds of choices to make when taking a portrait, even once you’ve selected a model and a location. Although this may seem daunting, it provides a creative difference between images taken by two photographers, even if they are shooting the same person in the same place, with the same kit. For example, cameras can’t process the full range of light and dark tones in a high contrast scene, so you’ll need to decide which tones you want to …