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I spend a lot of time surfing the net for photographic inspiration - and there's a lot of it out there. From the moment I discovered "Little Worlds" I was fascinated by them. These are truly stunning little works of photo-editing art.


For the purposes of this tutorial, I'm going to assume you already know how to shoot and stitch together a panorama - though if you'd like a tutorial on that topic, just let me know and I'll do one.


I've tried several of these now, but I'm still very much a beginner at this. I've found a lot of my panoramas just don't suit this editing style, or I haven't got the know-how to translate them well, yet. I've had to do a lot of trial-and-error - I'll get to the end stage of something and realize if I'd just done that at the beginning, it would have worked.


Let me take you through the editing process of my latest one. Here's the original panorama:

 little world original panorama





Things to keep in mind when selecting your panorama:


- the bottom quarter of your photo is going to form the center, and be most compressed. So the less detail it has, the better. The two examples I show here have sand and underexposed foreground, so they don't lose much in the process.


- the upper area of your photo should be sky. (I guess it could be something else, something uniform in color preferably).


- the edges of your photo need to match. Your horizon line is going to form the round edge of your little world. Make sure it is exactly horizontal.


I used Perspective Correction to adjust my photograph. This not only achieved a straight horizon line, but also adjusted the piece of blue sky so that when I crop my panorama the edges will have matching levels of blue sky. (I edited this in Paint Shop Pro, I can't find an equivalent for this in Photoshop, but I am sure there must be one, maybe someone can enlighten me? Most of the rest of what I do here is exactly the same options in Photoshop.)

 perspective correction 1

 perspective correction 2

(As you can see, the bit of blue sky is now roughly the same height at each end)


- If there are any objects on the edges of your panorama, they also need to match an object going off of the other side, as the ends are going to wrap around to meet. (You can of course clone things out afterwards).


As you might have noticed in editing photos, the sky changes shade across a photograph. for this reason, I think a 360 degree panorama would work best for this (because it would start and end on the same shade of sky), but most of my panoramas are not that long, so I just tried my best to select a piece out of the panorama that would best match.


Next I cropped my panorama to select the best spot where the edges would match:

 cropped panorama

<pre><code>(I probably could have cut off a little of the orange clouds on the left edge.)</code></pre>



Next, you want to resize your image to square. Select Image ---> Resize ---> and then in your options boxes uncheck the option that maintains the aspect ratio of your image. Make the image size the same on both sides. I chose 10 inches by 10 inches, just because I don't intend to print this particular image in a large size.

 little world squared


Then, flip your image (Image ----> flip)




Go to Effects---> Distortion Effects ---> Polar Co-ordinates.

There are several options to select from in this box. The photo below shows my selections, but you can experiment with what works for you.

 little world - options PC




As you can see, I didn't get the horizon line precisely level, so there's a little bit of a bump in the surface of my world. I just used my clone brush to clone it to a smooth edge.

 clone world surface


Then comes the blending of the line where the ends of your panorama meet. I used a combination of cloning both sides over each other at varying opacities to get a blend of the colors. Take your time, I had to backtrack and try different sections over again.


blending 3blending 4 
 I also used a Smudge brush to smudge the cloned parts in together.




Rotate your world so that your features are where you most want them on the edge of your 'world'. Your line of blending will also be less obvious if you rotate your world.


Keep blending the edges until you are satisfied with the result.

 little world sunset panorama in process

Choose a crop.

 choose crop

I did a close crop first, but settled in the end for one further out to show off more of the spectacular clouds that are featured in this shot!

 final image

Voila! I now have a new Little World!


[I did see a site online for another way to do this that leaves the center of the Little World more intact, but I'm not entirely sure on how they did it (though I suspect it's got more to do with how the photograph is taken in the first place). You can check it out here ]

Photos (32)
beginning of blending edge
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: Lori · 2/21/12 10:52 AM)

These photos are from Mills and Jewel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's about a five mile round trip hike of moderate difficulty.


I would definitely recommend that you do this hike at the end of September. I've done it at other times of the year and it's not nearly as spectacular without the gorgeous yellows and reds of the fall foliage.



Also interestingly I wouldn't recommend heading out too early on this hike. I've always done that before and never had this waterfall in great light. It's early on in the hike - we left the RMNP shuttle bus at the Glacier Gorge parking lot at about ten thirty, and the light was great on the falls!




If possible I'd also check out the weather patterns before coming up here. The ridge on the left is The Keyboard of the Winds, and the peak in the background is Meekers Peak, a 14-er that can be seen from my home. The thing is - last time I came here there was a high front over this area, which makes for great reflections usually with lake shots, but for some reason this lake has a lot of haze over it and a high pressure system just keeps the haze there. Even with a brisk breeze you can still see plenty of haze in this shot. This is the stream just below Mills Lake.




Jewel Lake is just above Mills Lake. I loved the pretty play of light in this shot.



A couple of shots of Mills Lake from the stream connecting the two lakes.





Finally - some aspen leaves swirling in a stream.


Photos (7)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 12 (Last: LittleOddMe · 10/9/11 6:58 AM)

Prosumer cameras (also known as "bridge" cameras or "superzoom" cameras) are just high end point-and-shoot cameras.


Wait. Let me backtrack. The problem with camera terminology is that it hasn't really kept up with the times. Back in the "old days" of film there were two main types of cameras that people used: the little point-and-shoot camera which decided most things for you. You would just zoom (if it had that advanced capability) and click!!


Then there were SLRs. SLR stands for "Single Lens Reflex". An SLR is simply a different way of letting the light into the camera. In non-SLR cameras (including most point-and-shoot cameras) the light goes straight through the lens and on to the film. Cool. However, it means that when you are looking through that little viewfinder window on top of the camera you are not seeing exactly what the lens sees - most of the time your picture would be slightly off center from what you saw in the viewfinder. SLRs had a tricky little mirror system that reflected the light from the lens up into the viewfinder so right until you took the photograph you were seeing what the lens saw. Then as you click the shutter the "reflex" mechanism whisked the mirror out of the way and exposed your shot onto the film.


Back then it was easy. If your camera was small and rectangular, it was a point and shoot (P&S). If it was big and had a hooly great lens sticking out from the front (which you could change out for other lenses) then it was an SLR. In fact, folks identified so much with the removable lens thing that most people think that an SLR is defined by removable lenses (and not the viewfinder/light system). P&S cameras were cheap and automatic. SLRs were expensive and had all the bells and whistles to adjust manually.


Enter the Digital Age. Digital photography has shaken everything up. Nearly every camera now has live view via the LCD screen, which takes its data directly from the digital sensor in the camera. As a result, cameras have come to being grouped into two broad groups according to whether you can remove/change out their lens or not. If you can change a lens it's (considered to be) an SLR, if you can't it's a P&S.


Other ways of naming camera systems have been suggested, but this is the one that's stuck, even if it is just plain incorrect. Some other suggestions are:

  • Fixed Lens (P&S) vs. Changeable Lens. This one works, but it can also be confusing, as a "fixed lens" also means a dSLR lens that is not a zoom lens.
  • System cameras (interchangeable parts) vs P&S.
  • Beginner vs. Advanced vs. Professional - this doesn't work for obvious reasons... everyone wants to be considered a pro and camera forums are full of folks boasting about how "my gear is better than thine". Also, the gradients between cameras are so blurred now, it would be hard to tell where to draw the line.

However, the Digital Age has brought about a range of advanced cameras that are not SLR or changeable lens cameras. These cameras are somewhere in the price range well above a simple P&S but below most dSLRs. They are designed for the "pro" consumer of camera gear - someone who wants to move up to a bit more of a professional level. Hence the "prosumer" label.


Most of them have a lot of zoom too - 14x zoom is standard these days. That's a heck of a lot of zoom - about equivalent to a 400mm lens on an SLR. Which is why they're known as "Superzooms". These superzoom lenses have a great advantage over an SLR. Most of them are fairly wide-angle (when they are not zoomed out they take in a wide slice of the scene in front of them) - so they are a wide angle lens plus a very long zoom lens, and usually with the touch of a button they are also a macro lens. If you bought these three lenses for an SLR instead, they could cost you thousands, or hundreds at the very least. The quality is nowhere near a good quality dSLR lens, but having used these prosumer cameras for years I can tell you they're good enough for most folks.


The "Bridge" label is pretty obvious - these cameras form a bridge between the cheap P&S cameras and dSLRs. The bridge is both in the technical expertise required to run them in manual (though as with even dSRS these days, bridge cameras can be run fully in automatic) and in the general skill level (or ambition) of the user.




Which camera is best for you? The answer is: whatever works. I started off with a $120 P&S with manual capability. It was an awesome little camera and I still sell photos I took with it five years ago. When my skill finally exceeded its capacity I moved up to prosumer cameras.


Personally I'm a big fan of Prosumer cameras (which is my preferred term for them). Yes, they have limitations, and I've finally outgrown them. If you're a beginner photographer who wants to learn photography and is just starting to learn all the photography techniques and terms - they're perfect. You can do far more with the single lens of a prosumer camera than you can with the couple of small cheap lenses that you might be willing to buy for an SLR. Also - with a prosumer camera you can so easily go from a landscape (wide angle) to a macro shot (macro lens) to a super close zoom of a bird in a tree (400mm zoom or fixed lens) without having to mess much with your camera at all. That's been the real advantage for me.


You'll know when it's time to move up to a dSLR when you reach the point where you are always feeling the limitations of your prosumer camera. By that stage you'll have a fair idea of what you want in a camera and the lenses that you choose.  Until that point, do consider a prosumer camera. They are (mostly) awesome!

Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: Lori · 7/25/11 3:02 PM)

I discovered What the Duck this week. LMAO at these cartoons.





What the Duck - Mind Over Matter

















Photos (6)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: LittleOddMe · 7/15/11 3:34 PM)

I don't mean this to reduce the regard that folks have for my photos. I generally use editing programs to tweak sharpness, and usually to bring up the exposure by about 1 EV - as that's the amount I habitually underexpose shots by.


However, I do have the skills to occasionally remove that annoying pimple from someone's nose when doing a portrait shoot, stuff like that.


And sometimes I just see someone else's extraordinary shot, and just HAVE to go in and clean it up. Whether my "improvements" actually improve is a moot point - I have fun doing them.


This is Pam's shot - or actually I think it might be credited to her other half Lee. The link has a great story that's worth going and reading.


Regardless, I just wanted to show what photoshop can do to a photo in just twelve minutes. 'Cos I'm like that: inspiring stories be damned, I just want to show off!!


eye in the sky

eye in the sky- edited

Photos (2)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 5 (Last: GOF · 6/26/11 2:39 PM)
My camera is broken. This could have been an occasion for much joy, as it would have forced me to buy the camera I really want - which is was this one:

The Canon 60D. Mmmmhmm.

The tilty-swivelly screen is something I definitely want in a dSLR. It has the added advantage of cutting down my choices from a zillion cameras to about six or seven.

This was THE choice for me until a couple of days ago. Mostly because I chose Canon for my film SLR and so I identify as a Canon girl. Also because the Nikon choice for a tilt screen (The D5000) is stoopidly hinged on the bottom of the LCD screen. Since most of my photos are taken with the camera less than a foot off of the ground, or even resting on the ground - this screen is useless to me. Dagnabit!

However there are a couple of things I wasn't happy with with the Canon. The biggest one was the fact that it's over 18 megapixels, whereas the Nikon is just over 12 megapixels.

If you are one of the folks who just scratched their head and said "Yes, but isn't 18 MP better?" then I'm afraid now is the time to let you know that you've been had. The Megapixel War is merely a clever ruse by marketing departments to convince you that their camera is biggerbetterfasterMORE! There was a time when this was somewhat true - but that time died for most of us when cameras reached around the 5MP mark.

See - those thousands of pixels have to fit somewhere - on your camera sensor. Fitting more pixels in doesn't make the sensor bigger in most cases. Instead they are fitting more and more pixels onto the same sensor. On your sensor, the pixels are each little light sensitive sensors that measure the light coming in and pass on those measurements to the camera or card to record as an image. Each of those sensor pixels needs to be able to record light separately from the next pixel. This is done by keeping them a distance apart from each other, and also building a little wall between each one of them. As you cram more pixels onto a sensor, it can become harder to keep the data from one pixel from spilling over to another pixel. This makes for worse photo quality. This is what I feared with the Canon. Besides, it pisses me off that Canon is trying to fool novice users that their 18 MP camera is better than the Nikon 12MP, when the reverse is probably true.

But that bottom-hinged tilt screen.... ugh.

However I found this photo the other day!! It's supposed to be of the D5000, but the screen swivels sideways! EEEEEEEEE!!!! It's rumored that it is the D5100, and that it will be released sometime this year.

However, my camera is broken NOW. I've got this wonderful Birds of Prey sanctuary shoot coming up in two weeks, and only a dodgy old camera to shoot with. I'm bummed. However I will wait to see if the D5100 is released this year. I'll be so excited if it is!

In the meantime, does anyone have an old/spare dSLR they can loan me?
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 15 (Last: Lori · 3/23/11 11:41 AM)
"If you can shoot well, all you need is a disposable, toy camera or a camera phone to create great work. If you're not talented, it doesn't matter if you buy a Nikon D3X or Leica; your work will still be uninspired."

Ken Rockwell
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 3 (Last: AnJuli · 3/19/11 2:09 PM)

One of the things I definitely want in a dSLR is a left-hinging articulated screen (or a  "tilty-swivewwy scween", if you follow these Canon 60D reviews):

I was talking cameras last night in the photography group. People are fairly passionate about the Nikon vs Canon debate. I told them the choice was easy for me - Canon is the only brand that has a left-hinging articulated screen (the bottom-articulation of the Nikon D5000 is useless to me).

One of the photographers said she'd seen an attachable tilt-screen that can be used with most cameras. Enter the Zigview S into my camera accessory considerations. Ooooooo!

My guy hates it (he thinks it's disgustingly bulky) but .... I think it would do the job, and it opens up the whole world of dSLRs to me again for my consideration. I'm actually not sure I'm happy about that. So many features to consider, so many cameras. Sigh.


... and it can even be hand held (with the purchase of an attachment). Which would be cool in some circumstances, such as bird-watching in a blind with the screen in one hand and a shutter release cable in the other. 

Though for $465 it better be able to make me breakfast in the morning!

Blog Entry CommentsComments: 4 (Last: Lori · 3/9/11 7:50 AM)
Always save your originals. Always always.

This means that when you go to edit a photograph in any way, save a copy of it and edit that copy.

Well, actually I thought I was doing that in my early days, but about half the time I'd open the photo and get so excited about editing it that I'd forget to save a copy. Since part of my editing was to re-size the photo to put it online, now all those early photos are tiny little photos, too sharp, too small.... and usually the color is all off because I was editing them on a laptop.

Ah well. I've still kept most of them because it's wonderful seeing my learning curve, and I had some great ideas back then that are always great to revisit.
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 5 (Last: LittleOddMe · 3/1/11 7:31 PM)
I hope you have internet up at the lake.... sorry for taking so long to get this posted.

Things you will need:
  • A camera with a Manual mode and a timer or shutter release cable.
  • A tripod or a level surface you can place your camera on.
night barn at crane hollow - etsy thumbnailThe first thing you need to do a long exposure is to put your camera into Manual setting so that you can control the settings.

Set your camera to a middle-range F number (also known as aperture). Most cameras go up to F8 or F11 - somewhere in the F5.6 - F8 range is good. This isn't essential for long exposures, but it means that more objects (closer and further away) will be in focus, and it can be harder for the camera to focus well at night.

Night Fishing - 5 x 7 thumbnailSet your shutter speed down to as low as you want. If it is completely dark, you might want to try it at the longest time possible - fifteen seconds in your case, Lori. It's usually expressed as 15" on the camera. If it hasn't got the " behind the number, you might be shooting at 1/15 of a second - see if you can make it lower.

Set up your tripod or set your camera on a stable surface facing the thing you want to photograph. It's easier to start with something bright - like a house with lights on, or people sitting around a fire (or the fire itself).

The Dark Night of the SoulFind the camera timer (if you don't have a shutter release cable). The timer is essential because if you move the camera at all during the shot, it will come out blurry. Even pressing your shutter button can shake the camera enough to blur your image. Most cameras have a 2 second timer, that should be enough. Set the timer, press the shutter, and let the camera do its magic.

shaman 5 x 7 thumbnailIf you can't get your camera to focus, you can always try shining a flashlight on  the object you are trying to photograph to make it easier for the camera to photograph it. Another fun thing to do can be to take the long exposure photograph, and while the camera is shooting take your flashlight and "paint" the light all over your subject.

Into the SunsetAnother fun thing to do can be to get someone with a flashlight or a sparkler to write words or draw patterns in the air while you take the photograph.

If you are photographing subjects that can move, such as people, they must sit very very still for the photograph to not be blurred.

You will probably need to experiment to get the photo that you want. If it's too bright - just put the camera shutter speed on to less seconds. Try 8" or 5" until you get the results you want.

A Dark and Stormy NightIf the photo is too dark, check your ISO. A smaller ISO like 100 will make for a clear and less grainy photograph and is always preferable. You can put it up to 200 or 400 to let more light in if you need to. If the photo is still too dark, go back to your F-number and take it down to a lower number - this will let more light in. Only do either of these if you have already got your camera working at the longest shutter speed possible.

Don't delete photos you have that don't seem to work - you might find you have something that surprises you once you see it on the computer. I can also give you some tips on editing that might help you find the magic in some of the photos you've taken.
Have fun!
Photos (8)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 7 (Last: LittleOddMe · 4/5/11 3:40 PM)
One reason I look forward to getting my first dSLR is to do some long exposure photography.

I picked my current camera on the basis of its B (Bulb) setting. In B mode you're supposed to be able to leave the shutter open as long as the shutter release is pressed. Which is true... up to thirty seconds. I was so annoyed when I discovered I'd bought yet another camera only capable of taking thirty second photographs. That's ok though - thirty seconds is still capable of capturing eerie photos like this one:

world on fire

This is a thirty second long exposure of a tree in my Colorado front yard in the middle of the night. The tree is lit solely by an amber street light - I've not messed with the coloring of the tree at all.

However I'd love to do some really long exposures, such as the ones I found in this online article tonight. Amazing!!!

(And yes, I'm aware that there are programs that can stack my long exposures into longer ones, I just haven't tried one out yet).
Photos (1)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 11 (Last: Lori · 2/2/11 9:47 AM)

It was a lovely blustery rainy day yesterday. Contrary to popular opinion, which has that only sunny days are good for photography - all kinds of weather is great for photographs. Grey days are like a huge light diffusing box, so that objects that might be in shadow (such as the front of this barn) are nice and evenly lit. Yes, this shot would be better with nice syrupy early morning or late afternoon light and some lovely shadows to give it depth and texture, but this light isn't so terribly bad.


I loved watching the chickens run in and out of the barn. Everything was very random until the cry of the rooster... suddenly all the hens were in a flurry, flocking to the door of the barn, waiting for his grand entrance into the outdoor world. A group of them lined up to strut beside him as he surveyed his domain. It was quite the little parade.

Photos (1)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 8 (Last: LittleOddMe · 10/30/10 5:23 PM)

DSCF54955x7thFine art photography is my small business. I don't really think of it that way, though. It's framed in my head as "the thing I promised I'd do so that my very expensive hobby will pay for itself". That was the purpose of selling my photography.

Call me a Prima Donna if you will, but I know my photography is good. People love my photographs, and I love being able to watch someone soaking in the beauty I've managed to capture. Blogging is great for that, so are real life shows.

However, it takes more than just being good to sell. It takes being noticed by people who buy photography. There are things one can do to put oneself out there. I do it already with moderate success. There's even more to it than that, though.

Part of selling is seeing what sells. My photographs don't make good stock photos, for example. There are a zillion great nature photographers out there selling stock. I'd be better off finding a handsome feller and sitting him on a stone wall under a nice oak tree with a blackberry phone in his hand. If I did that with half of the finesse that I do my nature photographs, I'd have a better chance of making money. I don't want to do that, though. That steals away all the stuff about photography that makes it my passion in the first place.

There is one thing I can do to my photography to make it sell more from where it is at. I've noticed that textured layers over photographs sell really well on many sites. So far, I've been a critic of textures, because I see them as the resort of photographers who often wouldn't sell a thing if their photo was presented naked to the world. Put a funky artistic texture over it, and presto! The photo sells. I get it - the texture adds a sense of age and mystery to the photograph. It makes it more "arty" in a way. When someone does textures well, I love them. I am just a bit more of a purist than that.

However, I am considering caving to the trend, at least with some of my photographs. A good example is a photograph I took a couple of weeks ago (see above). I love this photo, and I will be putting it up in my shop. It's unlikely to sell, though - maybe once or twice at most. However, if I put textures over it, I bet I sell more of them. So here are some examples of possible textures that can be added to this photo:

DSCF54955x7 text2thDSCF54955x7 text3thDSCF54955x7 text4thDSCF54955x7 text5thDSCF54955x7 textth

Now all I have to decide is which one I like best. Well .... and I have to decide if I want a completely different online store for my textured stuff, or if I should just mix it in with my regular (untextured) stuff.

[UPDATE: Lori asked me about textures that I used. Photos used for textures are usually fairly plain random backgrounds such as stained or peeling walls, crumpled paper etc. It's the difference in the texture of the photograph that is used to change the other photo. The texture is added as a new layer, and then the opacity is lowered so that you can see right through the texture to the photograph below. Some of the color as well as the pattern of the texture will be given to the original photograph.

texture sample 1This texture features in the photos labelled One and Two in the attachments below. These two photographs have a slightly different opacity to the layer, and in one of them I took the yellow out of the photograph a bit as I didn't like the tint on the photo.

texture sample 2 This texture was on photo Three. Not that you could tell it by the time I'd finished messing with changing the color and part of the texture I was using you wouldn't know it was the same photograph.

texture sample 3 This is the texture from photo Four. I don't like how much it washed out the photograph. If I was going to use this texture again, I would probably change the color of it, make it a warmer color.

texture sample 4 This was definitely my favorite of the four textures I used. It features in Five. I love the way the brush strokes and the olive color of this one show through. ]
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 15 (Last: Lori · 10/10/10 2:25 PM)


This is part one of a three part series on manual camera use. The other two parts are: Cameras and Light, and The Side Effects.

overunderexposedExposure is concerned with the amount of light allowed to fall on a digital camera sensor.

The light has to pass through three parts of the camera to be recorded. Each part helps to control the light to make sure the right amount of light gets in so that the photograph has the right amount of light in every area (“correctly” exposed). If too much light is let in, the lighter areas of the photo will be overexposed. If not enough light is let in - the darker areas of the photo will be underexposed.

You can see from the photos to the right that when a photo is under or over-exposed, a lot of detail is lost in the too-light or too-dark areas:

These are just some flowers on my back lawn. Obviously the images are fairly extreme examples of over- and under-exposure.

The first photo is overexposed. It is too light, and details are lost in the too-light areas of the photo.

The second photo is underexposed. Details are lost in the darkest area.


~ Over- or under-exposing a photograph can make for some really interesting effects sometimes. I'm not saying it's always wrong - but it is a good idea to be able to do it deliberately rather than accidentally.

~ I have found that it's easier to recover an underexposed photograph later in editing, than it is to "fix" an overexposed one.

You can see that in this next photo, with a more "correct" exposure, you can see all the details of the yellow flower that is the subject of this shot.


In part two, we’ll move on to examining how a camera lets in light, and how you can control exposure.

Photos (3)
Blog Entry CommentsComments: 2 (Last: LittleOddMe · 9/21/10 3:06 PM)

This is part two of a three part series on manual camera use. The other two parts are: Understanding Exposure, and The Side-Effects.

A digital camera works by letting light into the camera and recording it on a sensor in the camera to produce an image of the things in front of the camera lens. The camera only allows the light to get into the camera through the front of the camera – the lens: the rest of the camera is a light-proof box.

When you use your camera in automatic, the camera measures the overall light in the scene you point it at, and it chooses to control how much light is let into the camera to make the right shot.

However, a camera has three ways of letting in light. Each of these ways has a “side effect” in the image you produce. If you use a camera in automatic, you are letting the camera choose the side-effects in your photograph.

We’ll get back to side-effects in Part Three. First, let me explain how a camera lets in light:

A digital camera uses a sensor to capture light and turn it into a digital image. If it lets in too much or too little light, that results in the over- or under-exposure (see part one) There are three different ways that a camera controls the amount of light that is recorded by the sensor:

1. How big the opening is that is letting in the light (aperture),

2. How long the shutter stays open for (shutter speed),

3. The sensitivity of the sensor itself (ISO).

Here is a diagram of a digital camera with the three parts that affect how much light is recorded:


1. Aperture:

The aperture is inside the lens of the camera. It is a circular opening that gets bigger (lets in more light) or smaller (lets in less light).

The aperture is represented by a series of numbers known as f-numbers or f-stops (If you want to understand more about why they are called this, here’s a good site explaining it.) The bigger the f-number, the smaller the hole (aperture) and less light will be coming into the camera.

2. Shutter:

The shutter controls when the light comes into the camera, and for how long. The shutter opens up when you press the shutter button (the button that takes the photograph). The shutter speed is how long it stays open for. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light it will let in.

Shutter speeds all relate back to fractions of a second. So if you see a shutter speed of 3 – it means the shutter is staying open for 1/3 of a second. That’s a pretty long time in photography – a slow shutter speed. A shutter speed of 250 would mean that the shutter is staying open for 1/250th of a second – that’s a fast shutter speed. (A shutter speed of 5” would mean that the shutter is staying open for a whopping five seconds – this would only be used in very low light situations, and you would definitely need a tripod!)

3. Sensor ISO sensitivity/film speed.

In film cameras, the film has different speeds, or sensitivity to light. The “faster” the film (the higher the ISO rating), the more sensitive it is to light. Digital cameras mimic this by making the sensor more sensitive to light when you make the “film speed” greater. It can be confusing to hear the term “film speed” when you are using a digital camera. Just remember it just means “sensor speed or sensitivity.”

These three settings all work together to determine how much light is let into the camera. So – if you make your aperture smaller (your f-number higher) it will make the photograph darker. If you want to keep your exposure the same, you will need to make the shutter speed longer,

Tip: The more contrast there is in the scene you are shooting (the greater the difference between the dark and light spots in the photo), the more chance your camera will “guess” wrong if it is set in auto and have poorly exposed areas in the shot. If I have a shot with really high contrast, I’ll often deliberately underexpose the shot, and then fix it later on my computer.

Here’s a simple table to help you remember each setting and how they impact the amount of light let into the camera:

 exposure simple table

In part three we’ll move on to looking at the different side-effects that aperture, shutter speed and ISO have on a photograph, and how you can control them.

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squirrel_cam_displayThis is part three of a three part series on manual camera use. The other two parts are: Cameras and Light, and Understanding Exposure

Let's go back for a moment to talking about how a camera works in auto.

In “Auto” mode, the camera guesses what the best settings for the Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO will be by using a light meter to measure the amount of light coming into the camera. The camera then does its best guess which settings it needs to take the shot at a reasonable exposure.

vase shallow dofThe camera will choose from these settings to let the right amount of light into the camera. Obviously it can choose from a variety of settings. For example, here is a photo I just took on Auto settings, focusing on the blue vase. The camera chose a shutter speed of 220 and an aperture of F2.9:

Because the camera chose a low f-number (F2.9), this shot has a shallow depth of field. Depth of field is a side effect of Aperture.

APERTURE: Side effects

Depth of field is how much of the photograph is in sharp focus. A shallow depth of field like this one means that only the thing I focused on is truly in focus, and things a little in front and a little behind it. A large or high depth of field would mean that both things close and far away are in focus.

In this photo a "shallow depth of field" means that only the thing I focused on (the vase) and things near to it are in focus. Notice that the trees in the background and the tin whistle in the foreground are out of focus. Again, this is because I used a low f-number (a wide open or large aperture).

However, if I also want the trees and the tin whistle to be in sharp focus, then I need to have a high f-number (small aperture) to have a high depth of field in the photograph.

As we saw in the first half of this entry -

Exposure = Aperture (f-number) x Shutter Speed x ISO (sensor or film speed).

The shutter speed and aperture are arranged in your camera in a series of “stops” (or clicks on the dial that controls these functions on your camera). These “stops” move in relation to each other.

With the above photo, I want to move my f-stop/f-number up as high as possible to get a high depth of field. The highest my camera will go is f-11. I turn my camera to manual and set my starting point the same as the auto setting (f2.9, shutter speed 250 (the closest I can get to 220), and the same ISO that my camera uses in Auto (ISO 400)). I count the number of stops to move from f-2.8 to f-11. There are 12 stops – 12 clicks upwards. Now I am at f-11.vase_-_manual_high_dof

This will make the picture a LOT darker. If I want the same exposure as I already had, I need to move my shutter speed 12 stops lower to compensate. I click it down 12 stops (to a shutter speed of 13) and take the photo again (using a tripod, because it's extremely difficult to hold a camera steady at such a slow shutter speed):

As you can see, the photo has the exact same exposure, but now I can read the writing on the tin whistle, and the trees in the background are in focus as well!


SHUTTER SPEED: Side effects

Shutter speed has an effect on photos with motion in them. A slow shutter speed (low number) means that the shutter stays open for longer. If something in the photo is moving (or if your hand/camera shakes) then the motion can blur the subject.


This is actually a ferret. Not that you'd know it. Even though the shutter speed was 1/200 (moderately "fast") he was shaking his head so fast that all I got was a blur.

To get a clear crisp shot, I needed to have a faster shutter speed. Just putting the shutter speed up would have made this photo WAY too dark. The aperture was already as low as it could go. The only alternatives left might be to also add more light (use the camera flash or wait for brighter sunlight or add an artificial light) or to increase the ISO/film speed.

Fast shutter speed is good for freezing action (not having blur in areas that are moving), such as in this shot.

The shutter speed for this shot was 315. It was just enough in the early morning light to almost freeze the wings of these geese in mid-flight:


Of course, there are times when you might want to have motion blur in a photograph. Motion blur, especially when it's mild, can give the impression of movement in a subject.

~ Motion blur also affects photos at slow shutter speeds (especially 1/30 or less) - when the person holding the camera shakes slightly when taking the photo. This can lead to the whole photo being motion blurred due to the camera movement. If you can, use a tripod at slower shutter speeds!

ISO: Side Effects

In film cameras, "ISO" used to refer to the sensitivity of the film to light. In digital cameras, we still use the term ISO to refer to the sensitivity of the camera's sensor to light. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive to light the sensor is, and the more light your photograph will be. Increasing ISO/film speed can make your photos more grainy and less clear and sharp.


The fourth way that you can make the picture lighter is simply to add or take away light. This isn’t always possible when using natural light (sunlight) – but if you can, you can move your subject into the shade to make it darker or into direct sunlight to make it brighter. Using the flash or reflectors (to reflect light from a light source onto the subject) is another way of adding light.

Here is an updated table for you, including the effects of aperture and shutter speed on a photo (the table is a little hard to read here, so I've also put a copy in the picture files of this blog entry):

 exposure advanced table

Thanks for reading, and I hope this series was useful to you!

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