Monday, June 27, 2016

Basic Photography: Aperture Mode

Aperture mode is exactly what the doctor calls for in portrait photography. The reason is that one can get excellent bokeh with a wide aperture setting on a prime lens. This brings all the focus to the subject. If you are doing manual focus, you can make sure that the eyes are in sharp focus with other parts of the portrait being softer focus moving back to a smooth, delicious bokeh. Set your camera on A priority and make sure that the lens is set to its fastest setting. For example, if it is a f/2.8 set it there, if a f/2 set it there, and if it is a f/1.8 or f/1.4 set it there. You will end up with a professional looking photo that will make you proud.

Above is a photo that was taken with my Sigma 60mm f/2.8 lens. It was on aperture priority setting the camera used a 1/3200 sec exposure with an ISO of 200. If you click on the image it will be enlarged so you can see the way it focuses sharply on the subject, grandma and grandson and blurs the background so that you are not distracted.

Using aperture priority mode when there is a lot of ambient light available works very well. That is the circumstance of the above portrait. With aperture priority mode, the closer you are to the subject and the farther back the background, the more blurred the background and the more bokeh that is present. Below is an example of being close to the subject with a completely blurred background.

This image again was shot with my Sigma 60mm f/2.8 lens wide open.

Now then, if you move away from the closest subjects/objects with a fast lens wide open, you can get all of the background in fairly sharp focus. I use prime lenses wide open in night street photography and have a great amount of success with the results. My Sony A3000 has a native ISO up to 6400 and I find that the results are pretty acceptable all the way to ISO 3200. It is very good at ISO 1600. I have done a lot of hand-held street photography at night and my results are quite acceptable with very little noise.

Both of the above images were shot at night, hand-held with the aperture wide open. This type of photography will become easier to do with much better results as camera sensors continue to improve. Sony has a full frame mirrorless, an A7RII, that has a native ISO that goes over 100,000. It will make unbelievable hand-held low light photos without any noise.

As you can see, aperture priority has a variety of uses that enhance you ability to make photos that you are proud to showcase. I will leave you with additional examples of images shot in aperture priority. Click on all photos to see them enlarged in a slide show format that will allow you to click through them. Also, feel free to comment in the comment section.

Photography Basics: Moving from Auto Mode

All digital cameras, whether point and shoot, mirrorless, or DSLR have an auto function where the camera makes all the decisions for you. It meters the conditions and decides what aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to use. This does not insure however that you get the best image or even the one you want. Equally true is that most all digital cameras, including very inexpensive point and shoot cameras have mode dials that allow you to take more control. Most all cameras, at the very least have the following mode settings: (M) manual, (A) aperture, (S) shutter speed, and (P) programmable. You will find that these more manual modes will give you creative control that you do not otherwise have. Additionally, most digital cameras, especially entry level, whether point and shoot, mirrorless, or DSLR have various scene modes that are set for specific types of photography, such as landscape, portrait, low light, etc.
 Some of these work quite well and some not so much. Quite frankly, when you are out shooting you should try several of these things with a particular point of view so that you can understand what is best for you. To the right is a typical camera mode dial. This one is Nikon I believe, but all are similar, however Canon cameras have Av & Tv in place of A & S.

I shoot a lot of landscapes/cityscapes so I like to use the (A) aperture priority for many of my shots. It allows me to set the aperture opening and ISO and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed. I also like to under-expose my images so I usually set it for either -.30 or -.70EV. However, I have a friend who shoots mostly street photography and he likes to use (S) shutter speed so that he can make sure he controls whether there is blurring with motion or not. If you are photographing anything moving such as bicycles or motor vehicles you will want to control the shutter speed value.

I also shoot a large number of night or low light images and that can often require (M) manual mode. In this case, you choose the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to get the exact results you want. A lot of night/low light photography requires the use of a tripod. The reason is that many times you want to slow the shutter speed down to having it open for several seconds and if you use a hand-held method you will blur your image beyond recognition. In this way, you can set the aperture to a higher f value that restricts the amount of light coming into the camera. Slow the shutter down to several seconds (4-30) depending on available light, and keep the ISO low (100-200). This gives very crisp images with the lights starred.

Here is an example:

You can see the starring on the lights in this one. If I remember, this is at f/14 with an ISO of 200 and a shutter speed of 8 seconds.

However, with the newer mirrorless, and DSLR cameras, that are capable of higher ISO you can take nice night shots hand held. You must use a prime lens that has a wider aperture and crank the ISO up to 1600 or 3200. This will make hand held shots that are acceptable with little noticeable noise. Your camera should be capable of at least 6400 native ISO and it is better if it is even higher like ISO 12800 and above. The key is having a lens with a fast aperture, at least f/2.8 - f/2 or f/1.8.

Below is an example of a hand-held night shot with a f/2.8 prime lens.

And here is another at even lower light conditions.

I will blog about the other dial settings in more detail in further posts.