The DSLR Survival Guide: A Beginner\'s Guide to Surviving Digital
SLR Photography - PDFDrive.comThe DSLR SURVIVAL GUIDE A Beginner’s
Guide to Surviving
Digital SLR Photography
By: Blake Rudis
All Rights Reserved
Trademarks All terms mentioned in this book that are known to be
trademarks or service marks have been appropriately capitalized.
-Adobe® Photoshop CS 6®, Adobe® Camera Raw 7®, and Adobe Photoshop
Lightroom® are registered trademarks of Adobe Systems, Inc.
-photoFXlab™ is a trademark of Topaz Labs LLC. -Gimp© is a
copyright of The Gimp Team. -Picasa™ is a trademark of Google, Inc.
-Photomatix Pro ® is a registered trademark of HDRSoft. -Olympus®
and Olympus Master 2® are registered trademarks of Olympus Imaging
America Inc. -Canon® is a registered trademark of Canon Inc.
-Nikon® is a registered trademark of Nikon Inc. -Altoids® is a
registered trademark of Callard and Bowser. -Curiously Strong™ is a
trademark of Callard and Bowser. -Macintosh® and Mac® are
registered trademarks of Apple Inc.
Disclaimer, Copyright, &Warning There are a lot of colorful
images in this book! It is best viewed on color
displays. If you own a device that is in black and white, I suggest
downloading a Kindle Program for your personal computer.
This book is designed to provide information for photographers
basics of Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Photography. Every
effort has been made to make this book as complete and accurate as
possible at the time it was written.
Keep in mind that every make and model of DSLR is different in
function, and configuration. Your best reference for your personal
DSLR will be your manufacturer’s guidance or Owner’s Manual. Refer
to it often as you may have questions about the elements of DSLR
photography being covered in this book.
All rights to this publication and the information contained herein
are that of
the author, Blake Rudis. All images, figures, and diagrams are
copyright of Blake Rudis. The written and visual contents may not
be reproduced or duplicated in any way shape or form whether print
or digital without exclusive permission from the author. You may
contact Blake via email: [email protected]
The information, views, and opinions contained within this book are
the author, Blake Rudis. Blake cannot be held legally liable for
any damages you may incur from the information provided
The DSLR Survival Guide is a product of Blake Rudis Photography
To my son,
Michael Benjamin Rudis
I wish you could see what I see when I look at you.
Watching you grow has been surreal, enlightening, and
Continue to be the great little man that you are & approach
an open mind.
Fill your heart and spirit with integrity, compassion, &
courage and you will overcome anything!
Table of Contents The DSLR SURVIVAL GUIDE A Beginner’s Guide to
Surviving Digital SLR Photography Trademarks Disclaimer, Copyright,
&Warning Table of Contents About The DSLR Survival Guide
Chapter 1. The Composition Triangle
Framing Angle Perspective Composition Wrap Up
Chapter 2. Breaking Down the DSLR Camera Terminology Viewfinder
Mode Live View Mode The Megapixel
Chapter 3. The Exposure Triangle Aperture Shutter Speed ISO
Chapter 4. Camera Capture Modes Auto Mode Scene Modes Art Modes
Aperture Priority Mode Shutter Priority Mode Program Shift
Manual Mode The Exposure Indicator
Exposure Compensation Auto Exposure Bracketing
Chapter 5. File Formats JPEG RAW JPEG, RAW and Teriyaki Bowls
Chapter 6. Focus & Metering Focusing Metering The Histogram
Metering Modes Exposure & Focus Lock
Chapter 7. White Balance Built-In Camera Presets Setting a Custom
Chapter 8. Types of Lighting Ambient Lighting
Natural Light Suggestions for Photographing Subjects in Outdoor
Indoor Light Suggestions for Photographing Subjects in Indoor
Flash Flash Shooting Modes
Lens Type Focal Length Characteristics
Fixed Lens Zoom Lens Macro Lenses
Maximum Aperture Image Stabilization Crop Factor
Chapter 10. Gear Essentials A Camera Bag A Tripod Shutter Release
Spare Batteries Flash Quality Lenses
Chapter 11. Post Processing Software What Should You Be Doing To
Image Straightening Noise Reduction Highlight and Shadow Adjustment
Curves Adjustment White Balance Adjustment Saturation Adjustment
Choosing Your Post Processing Software Beginner Level Intermediate
Level Advanced Level
The Bottom Line Chapter 12. File Organization
Blake’s File Organization System
File Organization in Summary Chapter 13. Blake’s Concentric Circles
of Importance in Photography
Composition File Format Aperture/Shutter Speed Metering Mode
ISO/Flash Exposure Compensation White Balance Focusing Mode
Chapter 14. Introduction to HDR Photography Capturing Multiple
Exposures for HDR Photography What to do With All of These
Closing Thoughts Bonus Chapter. Building a Personal Survival
What you will need Explanation of Items Building the Kit
About the Author More Instruction by Blake Rudis Black, White &
Beyond: The Digital Zone System
About The DSLR Survival Guide The Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR)
world is extremely intimidating to
the absolute beginner. It is a world that can be difficult to
venture into without the proper knowledge to survive.
Would you go into the wilderness alone without a survival guide or
at least some survival awareness? Probably not! Why would you want
to do the same with DSLR photography?
Let’s face it. There are a lot of elements to DSLR photography that
are confusing and difficult to put together on your own. Reading
your Owner’s Manual is very helpful, but the terms discussed within
it can leave your head spinning in the direction of the purchase of
a convenient, user friendly point and shoot camera.
Before you head down that road, I implore you to stick it out!
There is a reason why DSLR’s are bigger and more convoluted than
point and shoot cameras.
They produce amazing photographs that can have your friends gawking
with their tongues hanging out of their mouths. All you need is a
push in the right direction. All you need is The DSLR Survival
Contained within this guide is everything you need to know to
venture out into the world of DSLR photography. It is designed to
breakdown the communication barrier between you and the language of
your DSLR. Once that barrier has been breached surviving your
camera is a piece of cake!
There are four important things you should consider & keep in
mind throughout this book.
1. It is designed for the BEGINNER! This book is designed for
novice photographers. That is not to say an intermediate
photographer may not find a trick or two in here either. However,
you should keep in mind that it has been written for the DSLR
Furthermore, I suggest that you not only take this book for face
value, but that you expand your knowledge through other means.
There are a lot of eBooks,
written publications, blogs and websites that will also help you
through your DSLR adventure. It cannot and should not stop
2. Read your Owner’s Manual! After reading this book you will be
sick of hearing that phrase. I reiterate it several times
throughout each chapter. I do that for a reason.
There is a plethora of valuable information in your manual. I have
read mine front to back at least 150 times. I take it with me
wherever I take my camera to use as a quick reference guide.
On long plane rides I read my Owner’s Manual. It may sound strange,
but this practice has broadened my horizons to the operation of my
3. Practice yields perfection! You will not learn this DSLR stuff
overnight. You may start to click with it after reading the
information in this book or other DSLR resources. However, no
amount of reading can beat practical hands-on experimentation. As
you read through the chapters in this book, or any other
publication for that matter, be sure to stop and refer back to your
camera and Owner’s Manual. Experiment with the information you just
read before moving on from chapter to chapter. There is a reason
why practice is so critical.
The beauty of DSLR photography is that after the initial purchase
of the camera and lenses, the pictures are free! You can snap as
many as your heart desires without paying a dime for the pictures,
until you want to print them of course. Use this to your advantage
and practice, practice, practice!
4. I am not an Olympus or Canon guy! You may see many references to
two specific cameras in this book, the Olympus E-30 and the Canon
EOS 6D. I make reference to them often because I own them. I am not
a specific “Canon” or “Olympus” guy, nor do I have some hatred
The content shown in this guide will give you the knowledge you
need to operate any camera as long as you own the camera’s manual
to refer to as necessary.
Chapter 1. The Composition Triangle
I like to think of Composition as the most important element to the
art of photography. That is why it is Chapter 1! Before you know
anything about DSLR photography you should know how to compose a
Anyone can be a camera technician and know the camera inside and
out. However, knowing how to compose a photo will set you apart
from the camera technicians and have you excelling amongst the
Composition in photography is how you frame the photo, the angle
you take it from, and/or the perspective that is captured.
In cinema and theater there is a French phrase, “Mise En Scene”. It
refers to the placement of the objects within the scene. If you pay
attention to movies you may find certain objects strategically
placed within the scene to enhance your viewing experience by
conveying a certain mood.
While you may not be able to place the objects in the scene of a
landscape photo, it is your job as the photographer to frame the
photo in an interesting way that the objects within the frame
create an interesting photograph.
There are three main points that embody composition in photography.
They are Framing, Angle, and Perspective. These three points make
up the Composition Triangle!
While all three may not be necessary for every photograph, using
one or more will help to improve the composition of your
Figure 1 The Composition Triangle
Framing The first and most significant point of the Composition
framing. The quickest way to becoming a better photographer is to
pay particular attention to how you frame your subject.
There are 5 guidelines to follow when framing your subject in a
1. Use the Rule of Thirds.
2. Capture the geometry in the scene.
3. Be cognizant of the golden ratio.
4. Camera Orientation 5. Fill the Frame!
1. Use the Rule of Thirds. The first guideline for framing is the
Rule of Thirds. Confused yet, the first
guideline is a rule?
The rule of thirds is a compositional framing technique that
entails dividing the image into thirds horizontally and
Figure 2 The Rule of Thirds Based on the rule of thirds, you would
place the main focal point on one of the intersection points of the
You would also place the most prominent horizontal on or near one
of the horizontal division lines or the most prominent vertical on
or near one of the vertical division lines.
The idea is to keep the main focal point, strong horizon lines, or
strong vertical lines away from the center of the photo. When you
place the focal point or subject in the dead center of the
photograph it becomes too easily recognizable and does not allow
the viewer’s mind to concentrate on the photo for very long. To put
it harshly, centrally composed subjects typically make for a boring
Figure 3 The Rule of Thirds in use By following this simple
guideline you will be creating more interesting and dramatic
photographs. When the viewer sees a picture with a central focal
point their mind immediately responds to what it is
and subconsciously moves on.
If the subject is off center, the viewer will look at the negative
spaces around the focal point. This welcomes them to stay on the
same photo for a longer period of time.
Figure 4 Another example of the Rule of Thirds Many cameras allow
you to set the Rule of Thirds on your LCD screen to help you
compose a picture while in Live View
Figure 5 The Rule of Thirds grid on the LCD screen of a camera As
with all rules, there are exceptions. If the subject happens to be
an area with very strong symmetry, it is acceptable and many times
advantageous to have the focal point be the center of
the image. Sometimes the beauty is in the symmetry.
Figure 6 Symmetrical beauty, the exception to the Rule of
2. Capture the geometry in the scene. Math and Geometry is not
everyone’s favorite subject. Luckily for those,
finding the geometry in a photo does not require any math! All you
really have to do is look for obvious or implied shapes,
rectangles, circles, triangles…etc.
Strong geometric compositions can make for very successful
photographs. They can help the viewer’s eye travel around the photo
navigating from focal point to focal point by way of obvious or
Think about the Mona Lisa, by Leonardo da Vinci. Mona’s head and
body form a strong triangular composition. Her face, shoulders, and
hands encompass a diamond of main focal points.
Figure 7 The Mona Lisa sketch, I promise Blake is a good
While you may not be a painter with the ability to paint a
geometrical composition, you can still find shapes in any scene and
use them to compose a more interesting photograph. Remember, these
shapes can be obvious or implied!
Figure 8 Practical usage of implied geometry in a photograph
Figure 9 A strong triangular composition
3. Be cognizant of the golden spiral. The golden spiral, golden
ratio, or Fibonacci Spiral, is a great compositional
tool used to make a dynamic photograph. Using the golden ratio
requires you to compose the photo in such a way that some (or all)
of the elements contained within it direct the viewer to, or near,
the main focal point.
Figure 10 The Golden Ratio spiral
I suggest being cognizant of the golden spiral because it is not
always possible to make it happen in every photo. The elements
within the photo may not always lead to the main focal point in a
However, when used successfully the golden spiral can be the most
effective compositional tool to attract your viewer for a longer
period of time.
Figure 11 Practical usage of the Golden Ratio, obvious
Figure 12 Practical usage of the Golden Ratio, implied
4. Camera Orientation Camera Orientation is the way in which you
take the picture for presentation
purposes. There are two ways you can orient your camera when taking
Horizontal Orientation, also known as Landscape, is typically used
for photographing strong horizontal scenes. It has been
appropriately named “Landscape” as most landscape photographs are
presented in a horizontal orientation.
Figure 13 Horizontal Orientation (Landscape) Vertical Orientation,
also known as Portrait, is typically reserved for photographing
people. When I think of a
portrait I often think back to the traditional renaissance
paintings with the strong vertical orientation.
Figure 14 Vertical Orientation (Portrait) These two orientations
are suitably named for their ideal use. However, they are not set
Experiment and use the portrait orientation for a landscape. Also,
try using the landscape orientation for a portrait. You may be
quite satisfied with the results.
Figure 15 A portrait in landscape orientation
Figure 16 A landscape in portrait orientation
5. Fill the Frame
Filling the frame requires you to get in a little closer to your
subject. The idea is to fill the frame with your focal point. This
is especially important if your focal point is more interesting
than your background.
For instance, if you are photographing a portrait you may want to
fill the entire frame with that persons face, or bust. However, if
you are photographing a person in front of a skyline where the
skyline is your focal point, then by all means fill the frame with
There are two ways to fill the frame. You can either zoom the lens
in closer to your subject or you can move a little closer to your
subject. If your subject is far away zooming is probably the most
viable option. However, if your subject is within walking distance
I suggest moving closer to it.
They call this “zooming from the foot”. It means physically moving
closer to your subject to fill the frame. Zooming from the foot
will give you the sharpest image as your lens does not have to
magnify the details by zooming.
This technique may not be the best idea with a wide angle lens as
the lens at its lowest focal length when close up to people tends
to create un-attractive distortion. Experiment with your equipment
when zooming from the foot!
Figure 17 Not filling the frame with the focal point
Figure 18 Filling the frame with the focal point
Angle The second point of the Composition Triangle is Angle. The
angle of the
camera, or the position, of the camera at the time of the exposure
is an important contributing factor to a good composition.
As humans we see most everything from an average height of 5 to 6
feet. If you photograph everything from the average height you are
missing out on a world of compositional possibilities.
I find the most interesting photographs are taken from a clever
camera angle. Everyday ordinary objects can look incredible if
taken from a creative angle. You may recognize the subject but when
someone offers it to you from an obscure angle it can change the
mood and make it much more interesting.
There are several ways you can change the camera angle from the
normal eye height. Try taking a knee, laying on the ground, or
finding a higher vantage point to take the photo.
Figure 19 A photo of a tree taken from a standing position
Figure 20 The same tree photographed while lying under it In Figure
20 I was lying on the ground with my back to the grass and my
camera pointed straight up. The tree is only about 7 or 8 feet
tall, but from this vantage point it explodes in the frame
making it appear much more monolithic than it actually is.
This lower vantage point is particularly important when
photographing children and pets. As adults we always see children
from a higher vantage point and photographing them that way makes
for very boring child and pet pictures.
Imagine how intimidated they must feel with a giant lurking over
them with a box in front of their face pointed at them.
The most important tip for photographing children and pets, get on
their level! This may require kneeling or even laying on the ground
like you see in Figure 21.
Figure 21 Pet photos work best when you are on their level Low
angle photos can also be very powerful with landscape scenes.
Always think outside of the box and photograph multiple angles of
every scene you find yourself in front of.
Figure 22 A low angle shot can invoke power and intimidation
Perspective The final point on the Composition Triangle is
Perspective. Perspective in
photography is the spatial relationship between one object and
another to achieve a three dimensional appearance on a two
It sounds more confusing than it actually is! Breaking down the
planes of a photograph is the first step in exploiting the
perspective in any given scene.
The planes of a photograph can be broken down into three major
parts, the foreground, middle ground, and background. When an
object transcends two or more planes in a two dimensional
photograph a three dimensional appearance can be achieved.
Take a look at the railroad track in Figure 23. Notice how the
track starts in the foreground and extends beyond into the
Figure 23 A very basic example of perspective Another great example
can be found in Figure 24. Notice the stumps in the water. They
start in the foreground as the main focal point and extend into the
middle ground, progressing toward the
Figure 24 A more implied example of perspective
Composition Wrap Up Composition is the most critical component to
making a successful
photograph. As stated previously, anyone can be a camera
technician, but becoming a photographer requires knowledge of the
camera, a trained eye, and the ability to apply all of the
important compositional elements.
Using the three points of the Composition Triangle, (Framing,
Angle, and Perspective) you can begin to train yourself to make
better pictures. Practice makes perfect, there is a reason for that
Do not think that you lack “the eye” for photography. It can be
trained! Try experimenting with these three compositional elements
the next time you grab your camera.
Chapter 2. Breaking Down the DSLR
You may have opened the box to your DSLR, popped the battery into
the compartment, slapped the SD card in and fired away. There is
nothing wrong with that, I commend you for your bravery!
I commend you for taking such a beast of a piece of technology and
trying to tame it without an inkling of knowledge about it.
However, before you jump into the lion’s den of digital photography
it is important to know how a DSLR works.
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. Basically speaking, a
digital camera that uses a single lens and a mirror system to
reflect the image that you see to ensure you capture exactly that
onto the sensor.
There are a couple of key pieces of terminology to know in order to
fully grasp the concept.
The Lens is the vehicle that allows light to enter into your
camera. There are several elements of glass contained within the
lens that assist the light as it passes through the lens.
The Aperture is an adjustable diaphragm inside the lens that allows
you to control the amount of light that enters your camera.
The Viewfinder is the part of the camera you look through to
compose a picture.
The Reflex Mirror reflects the light coming from the lens to the
viewfinder allowing you to see what you are about to photograph.
Once the light reflects off the mirror it bounces off a prism into
The Shutter is a set of blinds, so to speak, in front of the
sensor. When the shutter release is depressed the reflex mirror
flips up and the shutter opens allowing the sensor to record the
light entering the camera. The duration of time that the shutter is
open will dictate the amount of exposure the sensor has to the
light entering the camera through the aperture.
The Sensor is the object inside the camera that creates an image
from the amount of light passing through the aperture and
Figure 25 shows the essential parts of the camera discussed
Figure 25 The camera broken down to its simplest most important
parts There are several other mechanisms involved in the
photographing of an image. There are autofocus mechanisms, several
pieces of glass in the lens, and all kinds of gizmos and
gadget boards inside the camera.
However, the most basic elements you need to concern yourself with
to better understand your camera to take better pictures are listed
There are two modes you can utilize to compose a photograph. You
can compose a photo through the viewfinder or the live preview
screen on the back of your camera.
Viewfinder Mode Light enters the lens, travels through the
adjustable aperture, and reflects off
of the reflex mirror into a prism which allows the photographer to
compose the preliminary image through the viewfinder. This is shown
as the yellow path in Figure 26.
When the shutter release is depressed the mirror flips up allowing
the light to pass. Then, the shutter opens for a variable amount of
time allowing the sensor to record the image composed through the
viewfinder. This is shown as the red path in the figure
Figure 26 A visual representation of a photo being exposed in
Live View Mode While your camera is in Live View Mode the image is
visible on the LCD
screen on the back of your camera.
When you place your camera in Live View Mode, the mirror is flipped
up and the shutter opens allowing the sensor to see the light
coming from the lens. This is shown as the yellow path in the
Since the mirror is raised up, you will not be able to see the
image in the viewfinder on most cameras.
Figure 27 A visual representation of a photo being exposed in Live
The first thing you may have seen when you purchased your camera
was a large number on the box, something like 20.2 Megapixels! Of
course with a number that large it has to be an awesome camera
right? Not necessarily!
It is important to understand the megapixel and what it means for
your photos. A megapixel stands for 1 Million pixels. This
“megapixel” comes from the product of the resolution of your image
divided by one million.
For example if your camera takes pictures with a resolution of 4096
by 3084 you would take 4096 times 3084 and divide the product by
1,000,000. The resulting product is your megapixel count.
So what does that mean? Generally the higher the megapixel the
larger the image you can produce due to its larger resolution. So
it is not necessarily better that a camera have 20 megapixels as
opposed to 12.
You can produce very nice size prints from a 12 megapixel camera. I
have made some very nice 18 x 24 even venturing into 24 x 36 prints
from a 12 megapixel photo.
You really have to decide for yourself how important those extra
megapixels will be for you. Do not get hung up on the megapixel
count, instead consider the characteristics of the camera and how
they will benefit you. By the end of this book you will have an
idea of what characteristics you find more important than
Image Size The correct image size is critical for your final
photograph. Your camera
has the ability to take multiple sizes of photographs. You may have
seen these sizes listed as small, medium, large, large fine, large
regular, and etcetera. The list goes on and on. Regardless of the
name for it, I highly recommend that you use the setting with the
highest image resolution.
You may see a chart similar to the one below in your Owner’s
Be sure to set your camera to the mode with the highest resolution!
With higher image resolution comes a higher megapixel count. A
higher megapixel will produce better image detail and a larger
If you selected the “JPEG Small” option from the chart above your
effective megapixel count would be .3. You could expose for about
26,000+ pictures, but they would be 26,000, .3 megapixel pictures.
Those are very small and practically useless. Take advantage of
every megapixel in your camera!
With digital photography it is important to understand the concept
of quality over quantity. A higher megapixel count will yield a
higher quality image in the end. Be sure you are shooting in the
highest resolution possible with your camera!
Chapter 3. The Exposure Triangle
I like to tell all beginning photographers that they should not
learn to photograph their subject. They should learn to photograph
the light their subject reflects.
If you keep in mind that the camera is a light capturing device,
you will be more cognizant of the light around your subject and how
you should photograph them in it and troubleshoot
A digital photograph is nothing more than the capturing of a
measurement of light over a specific amount of time onto a variable
speed pixel recording sensor. The final result is referred to as an
exposure or, more commonly, a photograph.
There are three main variables that make an exposure. I like to
think of them as the Exposure Triangle! The three variables are
Aperture, Shutter Speed, & ISO.
Figure 28 The Exposure Triangle
Aperture A digital photograph is nothing more than the capturing of
a measurement of light over a specific amount of time onto a
variable speed pixel recording sensor. The final result is referred
to as an exposure or a photograph.
The aperture is contained inside the lens and is the measurement of
light used to create an exposure. The aperture is an adjustable
diaphragm that controls the amount of light entering the camera by
either expanding or contracting. You have the ability to allow or
restrict the amount of light entering the camera by adjusting the
size of the aperture.
Aperture sizes are referred to as f numbers or f stops. You may see
f/1.4, f/8.0 or even f/22 in reference to the aperture. It is
important to understand how the aperture will affect your
A large aperture, f/2.8-f/4.0, allows a lot of light to enter the
camera at once. Since a massive amount of light is flooding the
sensor, the camera can record the image very fast. Due to the fast
speed of the exposure, the object you are focused on will appear
sharp while everything around it appears out of focus since the
camera did not have a whole lot of time to focus on it.
A small aperture, f/18-f/32, allows a very small-concentrated
amount of light to enter the camera at one time. Since there is not
an abundance of light flooding the camera, the sensor takes more
time to expose the image. The slower amount of time allows the
camera to focus longer on the scene producing a much wider area in
This is called Depth of Field or DOF. It is the relative distance
between the nearest and farthest objects in any scene and how sharp
they appear in a photograph at a given aperture.
A large aperture (f/2.8, f/3.5, & f/4.0) will yield a
photograph with a narrow depth of field. A small aperture (f/18,
f/22, & f/32) will yield a photograph with a very wide depth of
Figure 29 Examples of various apertures from largest (f/3.5) to
smallest (f/22) For instance, a photo taken at f/2.8 will
exaggerate the focal point by blurring out the
background. The quality of the blur is known as “bokeh”, pronounced
Figure 30 An aperture setting of f/2.8 will produce a very narrow
DOF, notice how out of focus
everything around the icicle is Figure 31 An aperture setting of
f/11 will begin to broaden the DOF, notice how the objects around
the icicle are becoming more in focus A photo taken at an aperture
of f/22 will have a very wide depth of field. The background may
appear just as sharp or close to
that of the focal point in the foreground.
Figure 32 The DOF at f/22 is very wide making everything appear in
sharper focus You have a lot of control over the depth of field in
your image and it is very important to understand the apertures
effect on your subject or overall scene. Figure 33
shows a great example of the improper usage of aperture
I was taking some pictures of my wife and son after photographing a
landscape scene. In the landscape scene I had my aperture set to
f/2.8 to exaggerate the DOF on a log resting by a pond.
I then photographed my wife and son without adjusting the aperture
properly. I had focused on my son as the focal point which resulted
in my wife appearing out of focus. That one foot of distance from
my wife’s heads position to his resulted in her face being out of
Figure 33 What not to do! This was accidentally exposed with an
aperture of f/2.8
If I would have set my aperture to something like f/8.0 this would
not have been a problem. I would have had my wife and son in crisp
focus due to the broader depth of field.
It is important to understand how the depth of field will affect
your photographs. Be sure to experiment with multiple apertures for
every scene. While you can fix a lot of your photographs with post
processing, the one thing you cannot do is fix a poor aperture
setting like the one above.
If your lens cannot achieve an aperture size of f/2.8 it is because
your lens cannot reach that maximum aperture, this concept will be
discussed in Chapter
9, Lens Types.
Refer to Chapter 4 for “Aperture Priority Mode”.
Shutter Speed A digital photograph is nothing more than the
capturing of a measurement of light over a specific amount of time
onto a variable speed pixel recording sensor. The final result is
referred to as an exposure or a photograph.
The Shutter Speed is the specific amount of time that the shutter
remains open to allow the recording sensor to capture the light
entering through the aperture. This specific amount of time is
measured in seconds or fractions of seconds.
You may see shutter speeds displayed as numbers with an apostrophe
or quotation mark denoting whole seconds. I.E. 1’ or 1” , 20’ or
Fractions of seconds may appear as whole numbers or fractions. I.E.
1/10 or 10 , 1/200 or 200.
Shutter speed annotation varies from camera to camera. Refer to
your camera manufacturer’s manual to determine how to read your
camera’s shutter speed.
It is important to understand how the speed of the shutter affects
the resulting photograph. The slower the shutter speed the harder
it will be to achieve a crisp exposure without the help of a tripod
or support system. All of the movement in the scene or your hand
will be recorded which could yield a blurry photo. However, it
could create some interesting effects as well.
Have you ever seen a picture of a waterfall that looks like a misty
wall of magical water action? After seeing it, did you try to
accomplish the same effect with your own camera with little luck? I
know I did after seeing my first “magical” waterfall picture.
With a little experimentation I was able to deduce that the speed
of the shutter was the contributing factor to capturing a “magical”
Look at the following pictures and pay close attention to the
shutter speeds displayed in the upper right corner. Keep in mind
that the shutter speeds annotated by “1/xxxx” are fractions of
Figure 34 A waterfall captured with a shutter speed of 1/1000th of
a second At 1/1000th of a second the waterfall’s motion is frozen
in time. You can see individual droplets falling to the lower
surface. The shutter is matching or moving faster than the
speed of the waterfall.
Figure 35 A waterfall captured with a shutter speed of 1/125th of a
second At 1/125th of a second the droplets start to blur a bit. The
water is moving faster than the speed
of the shutter, therefore the sensor is capturing the waters
Figure 36 A waterfall captured with a shutter speed of 1/10th of a
second At 1/10th of a second the water is almost a complete blur as
it is moving very rapidly compared to the
speed of the shutter.
Figure 37 A waterfall captured with a shutter speed of 1/2 of a
second At half of a second the water starts to create that
misty-“magical” wall effect. The water is rushing
incredibly fast, so fast that a half of a second shutter speed
seems like the speed of a turtle. Half of a second may not seem
like a long time, but in terms of
shutter speed it is!
Understanding shutter speed can be tricky at first. Just remember,
the faster the shutter speed the more action will be frozen in
time. The longer the shutter speed the more movement will be
present in the final photo.
It may not be possible to always freeze the action, a shutter of
1/1000th or greater is very fast. Such a fast shutter speed
requires a great deal of light to be present in the scene. If you
selected a shutter speed of 1/1000th or greater in a dimly lit room
your resulting exposure would be nearly black, or
There are 2 common terms you may hear in reference to exposure,
over and underexposed.
An overexposed picture will appear bright. Overexposed pictures
result from longer shutter speeds than were required to achieve a
A longer shutter speed will force the camera to capture more light.
If it lets too much light in the picture will be blown out, or very
Figure 38 An example of an overexposed picture compared to a
properly exposed picture An
Underexposed picture will appear dark. Underexposed pictures are
the result of a faster shutter speed than the required speed to
achieve a properly exposed
A fast shutter speed tells the camera not to record as much light
information. If the camera does not record enough light the
resulting photograph will be very dark.
Figure 39 An example of an underexposed picture compared to a
properly exposed picture Experiment with various shutter speed
settings in the same scene to see how the
shutter speed affects the final photograph.
The beauty of digital photography is that you never have to pay for
film! If the picture turns out black, bright, or blurry after
experimenting with the shutter
speed, trash it and move on!
Refer to Chapter 4 for “Shutter Priority Mode.
ISO A digital photograph is nothing more than the capturing of a
measurement of light over a specific amount of time onto a variable
speed pixel recording sensor. The final result is referred to as an
exposure or a photograph.
ISO is the term given to the variable speed of the pixel recording
sensor in your digital camera. In film photography it referred to
the speed of the film that you were using to record the
ISO 100 film was used for outdoor conditions, while ISO 800 was
best for indoor low lighting conditions. Typically, ISO 400 was
your go-to film speed as it was right in the middle and the most
convenient for most situations.
Figure 40 The good old days! ISO 400 film There was one major
limitation with film cameras and the different speeds of film. You
had to change your film if you wanted to go from one lighting
condition to the next as ISO 100 film was too slow for poorly lit
indoor scenes. I can recall changing my film half way
through a roll many times.
All of that changed with the invention of the DSLR camera. Now you
have the ability to change the ISO within seconds. Going from a
film speed of 100 to 1600, 3200, or even 12,600 can be done with
the push of a couple of buttons!
Changing the ISO allows you to modify the speed that the sensor
records the light entering the camera. Do not confuse this with
Shutter Speed! Shutter speed is the speed of the shutter movement
while ISO is the speed at which the sensor records the photo.
If you are about to take a picture in a poorly lit environment and
notice the shutter speed is very slow you can increase the ISO to
increase the speed of the shutter. This makes it easier to hand
hold the camera while taking a picture and will also reduce the
amount of movement picked up in the exposure.
Increasing the ISO may come with a price though, it could yield
noisy photos. Venturing past ISO 1600 may present you with a high
volume of noise or “film grain” on the resulting photo.
Figure 41 ISO 100 and its lack of noise
Figure 42 ISO 400, subtle noise
Figure 43 ISO 1600, near unacceptable noise
Figure 44 ISO 3200, horrible image noise In the above examples you
can see a drastic change in the shutter speed from ISO 100 to ISO
3200. You will also notice a drastic change in the quality of the
image due to the introduction of film grain
from the higher ISO options.
Newer cameras have much better sensors which show little or no
image noise at higher ISO’s. The examples in Figure 41 – 44 were
photographed with an Olympus E-30 which is nearly 5 years old at
the time of this publication. The Canon EOS 6D, about 8 months old
at the time of this publication, can handle much higher ISO’s with
much less image noise.
Refer to your camera’s manual to find out how to change the ISO
setting in your camera.
Reciprocity Reciprocity in photography is the inverse relationship
between the three
points on the Exposure Triangle: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.
Did you notice in the image of the squash and apple in the ISO
section that as the ISO increased so did the shutter speed? Did you
happen to pick up on the pattern?
The aperture (f/4.0) remained constant to maintain the depth of
field, but at ISO 400 the shutter speed was 1/20th of a second. At
ISO 1600 the shutter speed was 1/80th of a second.
Figure 45 Side by side examples of how ISO will affect shutter
speed The ISO increased by 4 times, as did the shutter speed. That
is reciprocity! At ISO 1600 the camera would be much easier to hand
hold with a shutter speed of 1/80th than that of a
shutter speed at 1/20th of a second at ISO 400.
Look at the reciprocity chart below, it makes it much easier to
understand. What you will see is the constant aperture selected
(orange), the shutter speed and the ISO (green and blue) and all of
the increments that could be in between.
Figure 46 Reciprocity chart, orange is the control, green is the
starting variable, and blue is the result of the change As the ISO
increased from 400 to 1600 it took 6 steps to the right on the
chart. The aperture remained the same and the shutter speed took 6
Had we kept the ISO at 400 and changed the aperture, a similar
change would have taken place.
Figure 47 Reciprocity chart, orange is the control, green is the
starting variable, and blue is the result of the change In the
example above, the ISO remained at 400. However, the
aperture size increased from f/4.0 to f/2.8. This change produced
an increase in the shutter speed from 1/20th to 1/40th of a
What you are witnessing is the camera’s ability to make reciprocal
changes to the Stops. A Stop is an incremental change in the ISO,
Aperture, or Shutter Speed.
As you stop up you are doubling the amount of light entering the
camera. As you stop down you are decreasing the amount of light
entering the camera by 1/2. In Figure 47, a decrease in the
aperture by 1 whole stop from f/4.0 to f/2.8 doubled the amount of
light entering the camera. Therefore, the shutter speed increased
from 1/20th to 1/40th.
The f/3.2 and f/3.5 apertures in between f/2.8 & f/4.0 are 1/3
of stops. You may see these increments in your camera as
Figure 48 Reciprocity chart with EVs explained You have the ability
to change the stop of any of the three exposure triangle points to
achieve a proper exposure. At first wrapping your head around
reciprocity can be difficult, but the sooner you
understand it, the sooner you will be able to apply it
One way to keep the exposure triangle variables constant is to
understand your camera’s capture modes. This leads us seamlessly
into Chapter 4: Camera Capture Modes!
Chapter 4. Camera Capture Modes
There are several ways to help the camera decide how you would like
to take a picture. These decisions are called Camera Capture modes.
Most people get hung up on all the acronyms and symbols and fail to
venture away from full Auto due to fear and intimidation.
It is not as scary as you think. Thus far you have learned how to
compose a picture, how the camera functions, and what constitutes
an exposure. Now it is time to learn how to control the camera so
you get the exposure you want without using Auto Mode.
Figure 49 Olympus E-30 Mode Selection Dial Every camera has
multiple modes that are found on the Mode Selection Dial. These
camera modes grant you the ability to
tell the camera how to do its job. I like to think of these as
You can command the camera to do a lot of things like; Auto, “Hey,
do everything for me!”
or Aperture Priority Mode, “Hey, mind the Shutter Speed. I will
take the Aperture with me on the flank!”
or Manual Mode, “Hey, I got this, just sit there and look
I guess it makes me feel more important when I think of myself as a
commander of the camera.
Refer to your camera manual for the correct annotation of the
described in this chapter. Be aware that your camera may not
present you with the same symbols or modes discussed herein.
Figure 50 Auto Mode highlighted Auto Mode is usually annotated by
the word Auto or A+. You may have heard the phrase “Full Auto”.
While that term is partially
correct the camera is not quite doing everything for you.
In Auto Mode the camera is selecting the Aperture, Shutter Speed,
and ISO. Your job is to compose, focus and meter for the photo.
Refer to Chapter 5 for Focusing & Metering.
Though the intent of this book is to get you thinking outside the
auto box, there really is nothing wrong with shooting in Auto
If you plan on shooting casual photos Auto Mode may work just fine.
However, if you want to get the most out of your camera and exploit
the capabilities of the Aperture and Shutter Speed settings, you
will need to get a better understanding of the rest of the camera
PROS of Auto Mode - The decision making is up to the camera, you
are free to snap away.
- Great for quick-candid “just capture the moment” times.
CONS of Auto Mode - No control over Depth of Field due to the
automatic nature of the Aperture.
- Many cameras operate in safe zones while in Auto mode. The camera
may not select the lowest or highest apertures, slow shutter speeds
or low ISO’s which limits the full capabilities of your
Figure 51 Scene Modes highlighted Depending on the make and model
of your DSLR you may be presented with a series of Scene Modes.
These are pre-programmed modes that have been added to your camera
by the manufacture. They may be found on the dial itself or they
may be hidden somewhere in the camera menu. As usual, consult with
your manual for more information about your specific
These Modes are intended to be used for the scene or subject you
are about to photograph, i.e. Sports, Night Time, Portrait, Macro,
or Landscape. When you switch the Mode Selection Dial to one of the
Scene Modes your camera will attempt to optimize the Aperture,
Shutter Speed, and ISO for the mode you selected.
For instance, if you select the Action Mode, the camera will
optimize the ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed for action shots. It
may select a large aperture to increase the shutter speed, select a
fast shutter speed, or select a higher ISO to increase the shutter
speed as well. It may also override the camera’s rate of fire to
capture more photos per second to keep up with high speed
While scene modes can be helpful, you are leaving a lot of critical
decisions up to the camera.
PROS of Scene Modes - They are like a smart Auto Mode as they
operate in more narrow conditions tailored to the specific shooting
condition you may find yourself in.
- They work relatively well for the environments you have modes
CONS of Scene Modes - Changing from one scene to the next quickly
to accommodate changing conditions may be difficult, especially if
the scene modes are hidden in the camera menu.
- Some scene modes do not allow you to override the aperture or
shutter speed limiting your ability to make creative depth of field
Figure 52 Art Modes highlighted Some DSLR cameras come with Art
Modes or Art Filters. These produce some really interesting
effects. For instance, the
Olympus E-30 can be set to Pop Art for an over-saturated artistic
effect. It can also set to Pin Hole or Soft Focus to achieve a
vignetted vintage photo or an out
of focus high key effect.
Figure 53 Art Modes from top left moving clockwise: Grain &
Film, Pop Art, Pin Hole, and Soft Focus These Art Modes are
entertaining to experiment with, however they have very limited
capabilities. I would not recommend shooting a whole day of
photos in Art Mode. There is a time and a place for them.
Instead of using scene modes, I would apply these effects to a
photo during post processing to ensure I had an effect-free
original photograph. Once you take the picture in an Art Mode, it
stays in an Art Mode.
PROS of Art Modes - They make for some pretty creative looking
without the use of expensive after-market post processing
- May inspire you to make creative decisions based on the desired
art mode effect.
CONS of Art Modes - Many of these modes place your camera in an
Auto setting limiting your ability to make creative decisions with
the elements in the Exposure Triangle.
- They are not ideal for every photograph, therefore switching
between modes during the heat of the photographic moment could mean
missing the shot.
Aperture Priority Mode
Figure 54 Aperture Priority highlighted Aperture Priority Mode is
my shooting mode of choice. In Aperture Priority Mode you select an
aperture and the camera will select the correct shutter speed
relevant to the lighting in the present scene to
create a proper exposure.
I refer to this mode as the Professional Photographers Auto Mode.
While shooting in Aperture Priority Mode, you have the ability to
control the depth of field in the photograph without worrying about
the shutter speed as the camera will select an appropriate one for
you based on your aperture and ISO.
I would venture to say that I shoot in Aperture Priority Mode 95%
of the time.
PROS of Aperture Priority Mode - Gives you the ability to make
creative decisions with the Aperture resulting in unlimited depth
of field possibilities.
- The camera automatically selects a shutter speed ideal for the
aperture you have selected.
CONS of Aperture Priority Mode - When switching from one shooting
condition to the next (outdoors to indoors) you may forget which
aperture setting you were in. It is imperative to be cognizant of
the aperture you have selected.
Shutter Priority Mode
Figure 55 Shutter Priority Mode highlighted Shutter Priority Mode
is very effective when the speed at which the camera captures the
moment is of utmost importance. When you select the Shutter
Priority Setting on the mode selection dial you are telling your
camera that you will choose the speed of the shutter. The
will then select an aperture that is reciprocal to create the best
Ideal uses for varying shutter speeds: 1/8000th to 1/4000th:
Stopping extremely fast movie objects in their tracks (Cars or
Airplanes, water droplets).
1/2000th to 1-1000th: Stopping fast moving objects in their tracks
(Cars, Athletes) 1/500th to 1/250th: Used for everyday objects in
normal lighting conditions.
1/125th: Not the best for panning and capturing objects in motion,
but great for landscapes and scenes with little movement.
1/60th: Useful for taking photographs indoors in less than ideal
conditions, consider using a tripod until you learn to control
breathing while shooting.
1/30th: A tripod may be necessary as slower shutter speeds may
record camera shake.
1/15th to 1 second: Great for creating images with intentional blur
from moving objects.
Anything less than 1 second: Ideal for creating special effects in
your photos (Light Painting, waterfalls).
Bulb: You may see the Bulb setting in your shutter priority or
manual mode options when you go below the longest shutter speed. It
will be annotated with a “B” or listed as “Bulb”. Bulb setting may
also be on the mode selection dial.
The bulb setting allows the shutter to stay open for as long as the
shutter is depressed. Many cameras only allow for a maximum shutter
speed of 30-60 seconds. However, in Bulb Mode you can use a shutter
release (discussed in Chapter 10) to leave the shutter open for
timed intervals beyond 30-60 seconds.
PROS of Shutter Priority Mode - Great for photographing fast moving
objects such as kids, waterfalls, and other moving objects.
- The camera automatically selects an aperture ideal for the
shutter speed you have selected.
CONS of Shutter Priority Mode - Since the camera selects the
aperture for you, making creative depth of field decisions may be
Program Shift Mode
Figure 56 Program Shift Mode highlighted
Program Shift Mode is like a hybrid Auto Mode. When you depress the
shutter button halfway the camera will focus lock and meter for the
given shooting condition giving you the most optimal shutter speed
and aperture for a properly exposed picture.
After the camera has given you its automatic shutter and aperture
analysis for the scene, you may select a new shutter speed or
aperture. An increase or decrease in aperture size will render a
reciprocal shutter speed to maintain the proper exposure.
Likewise, you may increase or decrease the shutter speed. The
camera will automatically select an aperture reciprocal to the
chosen shutter speed to create a properly exposed picture.
Figure 57 An example of how you can change the aperture or shutter
"on the fly" with Priority Shift Mode
In Figure 57 the center photo is the “key image” or the initial
analysis the camera gave when the shutter was depressed halfway. As
I moved the aperture size down 1/3 stop (f/3.5) the shutter speed
automatically decreased 1/3 stop reciprocally (1/60). As I moved
the shutter speed up 1/3 stop (1/100) the
aperture size increased 1/3 stop (f/2.8) reciprocally.
Consult with your camera manual for a better understanding of how
you can control your camera while in Program Shift Mode.
PROS of Program Shift Mode
- The camera will automatically select the aperture and shutter
speed for the given scene. However, you maintain full control over
the aperture and shutter speed until the shutter is fully
- You have the advantages of Auto Mode with the creative freedom of
manual changes before committing to the shot.
CONS of Program Shift Mode
- It takes a lot of practice to get the hang of manipulating the
aperture and shutter speed interchangeably. You may find yourself
increasing the shutter speed when you meant to increase the
aperture and vice versa.
- May not be useable with the off-camera or pop-up flash equipped.
Consult with your camera manual for confirmation.
Figure 58 Manual Mode highlighted Manual Mode requires a great deal
of expertise to shoot in. You are the camera controller from the
aperture, to the shutter speed,
to the ISO and back again.
When you place your camera mode selection dial in Manual Mode you
are telling your camera, “Just sit there and look pretty, I will
take care of everything!” The camera will not make any reciprocal
adjustments to the aperture or shutter speed based on your
With Aperture Priority Mode the shutter would automatically change
to obtain an optimal picture. In Shutter Priority Mode the aperture
would change to obtain an optimal picture.
That is not the case in Manual Mode. The camera will not make any
reciprocal changes to the aperture or shutter as you modify
It may sound like an Exposure Triangle guessing game. However,
there is a built in feature in your digital camera that makes
shooting in Manual Mode a bit easier than you think.
The Exposure Indicator
Figure 59 The Exposure Indicator The Exposure Indicator may rest on
top of the camera in an LCD screen, inside the viewfinder, or
somewhere on the display
during Live View Mode. This indicator tells you how far off your
exposure is in
increments of 1/3 Exposure Values (EV).
This indicator is valuable in any shooting mode, but it is worth
its weight in gold when shooting in Manual Mode. Let’s say for
instance you switch to Manual Mode and you look at your Exposure
Indicator and it looks like the yellow boxes in Figure 60.
The boxes have been shaded yellow for demonstration purposes only.
They will appear black on your camera.
Figure 60 The Exposure Indicator in use, the yellow dots will be
black on your device The Exposure Indicator above displays a
photograph that will be 1 and 2/3 Exposure
Values (EV) overexposed if the shutter button were depressed fully.
The exposure must be modified using the Aperture, Shutter Speed,
and/or the ISO
by 1 & 2/3 EV to ensure only one box appears below the 0.
Figure 61 The Exposure Indicator in use, the yellow dots will be
black on your device The result of an Exposure Indicator seen in
Figure 61 will be a properly exposed
Figure 62 The practical application of the Exposure Indicator and
its effect on a photograph Consult with your manual if you do not
see an Exposure Indicator similar to the one displayed in the
examples above. You may not see an Indicator, you may
see a number value preceded by a + or – symbol.
If you see something like -2.3, then your numerical indicator is
telling you that your exposure is 2 & 1/3 EVs underexposed. You
need to increase your Aperture size, decrease your Shutter Speed,
increase your ISO, or do a combination of all three.
PROS of Manual Mode - 100% control over the exposure by adjusting
the aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO.
- The camera does not make any decisions for you. The final product
is all up to you.
CONS of Manual Mode - It may take some time to get used to the
reciprocal nature of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. It is a good
idea to experiment with other camera modes first to get a solid
understanding of how the Exposure Triangle works
- Understanding how to use the Exposure Indicator takes some
practice. Manual Mode is not something you can simply pick up right
away and understand. While it is intimidating, it can be bested
with proper practice, experimentation, and patience.
Exposure Compensation Exposure Compensation is not necessarily a
Camera Mode as it does not
have a place on the Mode Selection Dial. However, it is important
to discuss when on the topic of camera modes.
Exposure Compensation is a technique used to alter the exposure by
a set EV after the camera has automatically metered for the
For instance, let’s say you are in Aperture Priority Mode and you
meter, focus, and expose the photo by depressing the shutter
button. After the exposure has been taken, you look at the playback
of the previous shot and it appears a little too dark.
You can select Exposure Compensation (refer to your owner’s manual)
and decrease the shutter speed by 1 EV to allow double the amount
of light in. There will be a +1 next to either the shutter speed or
aperture to display the 1EV exposure compensation.
Look at the examples of the lion pictures below. The 0 EV picture,
Figure 63, was a tad bit underexposed.
Figure 63 A slightly underexposed image, it appears a tad bit too
dark With the addition of 2/3 EV or .7 as depicted in Figure 64,
the shutter speed slowed down just a hair to
let a bit more light in yielding a properly exposed
Figure 64 Using Exposure Compensation to quickly brighten the
exposure Every camera operates in different EV increments. Common
exposure compensation stops are
1/3, 1/2, 2/3, and 1 EV. You have a great deal of exposure control
when modifying your exposure in 1/3 increments.
Some cameras have a +/- button on the camera body. When it is
depressed simultaneously with the movement of the Sub Dial the
exposure will be compensated depending on the direction it is
Figure 65 The Exposure Compensation Button and the Sub Dial on the
The Canon EOS 6D exposure compensation can be found in the menu
selection. It does not possess an exposure compensation button.
Consult with your Owner’s Manual to learn about your camera’s
Exposure Compensation and how to control it.
Auto Exposure Bracketing A very useful tool in your camera’s tool
box is the Auto Exposure
Bracketing (AEB) function. It is very similar to Exposure
Compensation. However, it allows you to set several increments of
exposure values to be recorded in succession.
You can set the camera to AEB in several increments. Some cameras
allow for 1 EV at a time while many allow for 1/3 or 2/3. Once you
set the increment you may also set the amount of brackets to be
taken, usually ranging from 3, 5, or 7.
After setting the AEB, press and hold the shutter button and the
camera will make one exposure for each bracket selected for as long
as the shutter is depressed. Refer to the figure below for an
example of an AEB range of 5 exposures at 1 EV increments.
Figure 66 Auto Exposure bracketing, +/-1 EV over 5 exposures
AEB is very useful if you want to capture multiple photos with
varying exposures without the hassle of adjusting the settings
manually. It is also an
essential setting when shooting for High Dynamic Range Images
(HDR), discussed in Chapter 14.
Exposure Bracketing may be listed as AEB or AB in your camera
settings. Refer to your manual for further guidance.
Chapter 5. File Formats
File formats are extremely important in digital photography. There
are 2 main file formats available in your digital camera, RAW and
For years I shot in JPEG mode, because it is what I knew. I saw the
RAW format on my camera but could not wrap my head around how it
worked and I could not open the file with my PC. Instead of trying
to figure it out, I continued to take pictures in JPEG format just
to find out much later how important the RAW format was.
I will break them down for you and let you decide for
JPEG You may be familiar with JPEG. You will find it all over the
web, in your
email, and on social media sites. It is the universal file format
for the convenience of its small size while being able to render
beautiful colors and detail.
The JPEG was created to take a large image file and compress it to
make it less cumbersome on storage devices. It has become the
universal method for transferring and storing many photo files. Its
compressed nature makes it great for uploading pictures to the
internet and social media sites.
Many cameras have JPEG filters that process during the recording of
an image. These filters consist of, but are not limited to Color
Correction, Noise Reduction, Exposure Correction, Contrast
Correction, Sharpening, and Saturation Adjustments.
Camera manufactures have these filters applied to the photo being
captured as the JPEG compresses. They are designed to make the
images appear as good as possible straight out of the camera.
The problem with these adjustments is that you are limited to how
much more you can get out of the image in post processing. Due to
the JPEG’s compressed nature, it is very difficult to successfully
extract any more information after the compression takes
If you are the kind of person who will not be doing much post
processing work with your photographs after they have been taken,
the JPEG format is just fine for you. If you find yourself mainly
posting your pictures to social media sites, JPEG will be perfect
due to its universal convenience.
By default your camera may have been automatically set to JPEG mode
when you took it out of the box. If not, refer to your Owner’s
Manual to learn how to change it.
Many cameras have the ability to capture multiple sizes of JPEGS.
These sizes are dictated by the amount of image compression they
undergo. The more the image is compressed the more pixelated it
Figure 67 The image on the left is uncompressed the image on the
right is severely compressed, notice the poor rendering of the
water droplets and lack of sharp detail
Be sure you have a low image compression rate set to ensure you are
getting the best quality JPEG out of your camera. Refer back to
Chapter 2, Image Size for a refresher.
PROS of shooting in JPEG Mode
- Images are relatively small and light on memory cards. You may be
able to take 2-3 times as many JPEG photographs as RAW files. The
file size will be dictated by the Megapixel count of your camera
and the image size you have selected.
- The photographs produced from the camera’s JPEG filters can be
rather good straight out of the camera.
CONS of shooting in JPEG Mode
- The JPEG filters may be producing results on your images that you
may not like. Fixing these issues in post processing software may
render unwanted results due to its compressed nature.
- Can produce JPEG artifacts, a horrible byproduct of high rates of
RAW The RAW file is the digital negative, as I like to refer to it.
It is untouched,
unfiltered raw data! The camera does not apply the filters it
normally would to a JPEG file.
The RAW file is not compressed, therefore, in post processing you
have the ability to extract a lot of information and make some very
bold moves without losing much image quality.
I have been able to recover 3-4 stops of light from an underexposed
RAW file and still have a great picture! If you tried that with a
JPEG you may see areas of color distortion or unattractive
Figure 68 RAW and JPEG comparison the RAW image possesses much more
dynamic range in the sky while the JPEG cannot render the extent of
the highlights present in the RAW file I prefer
RAW over JPEG for its seemingly unlimited capabilities, but one
thing you must know is that a RAW file requires some type of post
processing before you can
view it properly.
Your camera should have come with software that allows you to
manipulate the RAW file or you can use some more powerful software
like Adobe Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw or Adobe Photoshop
The best way to think about a RAW file is that it is a digital
negative. In the 35mm film world you would get a negative which
could then be used to make multiple positives. Now we have the RAW
file (the negative) which must be processed and converted into a
JPEG, TIFF, PNG, etcetera (the positive).
You should consider doing the same things your camera does to a
JPEG to your RAW file, however, you get to use your artistic eye to
make the appropriate adjustments. For example, Color Correction,
Noise Reduction, Sharpening,
Exposure Correction, Contrast Correction, and Saturation
Unlike the JPEG, there is typically only one size for RAW image
files. Consult with your Owner’s Manual to obtain a better
understanding of the RAW file and your specific camera.
PROS of shooting in RAW
- Seemingly unlimited possibilities with the photograph in post
processing. You are not subject to the camera’s filtering decisions
and you have access to much higher levels of dynamic range.
- We have not discussed White Balance yet we will do that in
Chapter 7, however, it is not an issue with a RAW file. White
Balance becomes one less thing to worry about when photographing
CONS of shooting in RAW
- The file sizes are very large. The size will be determined by the
megapixel count of your camera. These files can get very cumbersome
on your memory cards and hard drives very quickly.
- They must be post processed in order to be viewed universally.
The file must be converted into a viewable file format in order to
be shared universally (JPEG, TIF, GIF, PNG, ect…).
- They are not universal. Every camera has its own proprietary RAW
JPEG, RAW and Teriyaki Bowls Cooking analogies help out a ton when
comparing and contrasting two
concepts, so here is my favorite RAW versus JPEG cooking
Think of the JPEG as a microwaveable teriyaki bowl. Pop it in the
microwave, watch it cook, and it tastes decent. It is better than a
bowl of ramen noodles and it gets the job done, it satisfies your
hunger. When it is done cooking you can always rip away the
protective plastic and add some pepper or salt to spice it
This is very similar to a JPEG. You take the shot (place the
Teriyaki bowl in the microwave) and the camera does a lot of post
processing for you (the microwave cooking). When you upload your
JPEGs you can add some other post processing work but not a whole
lot to make it better (the salt and pepper).
Now think of going to the grocery store and purchasing all of the
ingredients separately to create your own homemade teriyaki bowl.
You cut up the chicken, marinate it, cut up the vegetables, and
then get the rice going.
You meticulously add spices and yummy goodness to the batch you are
cooking up. While throwing it all together you have endless
possibilities. Once you have it all cooked up, you indulge!
This is exactly like a RAW file out of the camera. You frame up the
shot and get your settings just right (buying the ingredients). You
then take the file into Adobe Camera Raw and get the white balance,
exposure, saturation, contrast, and noise reduction just right
(preparing the ingredients).
Prior to saving the file as a JPEG or 16 bit TIF you have endless
editing possibilities with limited restrictions (adding all the
spices and cooking). When you are finished you sit back and look at
all your hard work (indulging on your meticulously prepared
The Bottom Line There are pros and cons on both sides of the file
format spectrum. In
general, the JPEG will suffice for novice photographers until they
want to progress further into the realm of post processing.
The RAW format will tickle the fancy of the hobbyist to the
photographer who really want to get the most out of their photo
experience. Either way, there is no right or wrong file format,
just different strokes for different folks!
Some of the best pictures I have ever taken came from JPEG files
before I understood the importance of RAW. You will figure out
which file format fits your workflow the best.
You do have the ability to tell your camera to take JPEG and RAW
files simultaneously. Consult with your Owner’s Manual to discover
how you can start shooting both!
Figure 69 JPEGs can produce great images despite their compression
Chapter 6. Focus & Metering
There are several ways to focus and meter within your DSLR camera.
Focusing can be accomplished either automatically or manually.
There are several metering settings as well. The two go hand in
hand as they accomplish a similar task when the shutter button is
Focusing is the camera’s ability to judge the relative distance
between the camera and the focal point to produce a picture that is
in focus. “In focus” refers to a crisp-sharp photo, free of hazy
distortion in the finer details. An out of focus picture will
appear blurry and sometimes unrecognizable.
Metering is the camera’s ability to determine the proper exposure
based on the light reflected by the scene, subject, or focal point.
There are several ways to meter for the light present in a given
scene or reflected by a certain subject. Whether you are cognizant
of it or not your camera is constantly metering for the light that
is entering the lens.
Focusing There are two ways the camera can be set to focus, either
Autofocus With the camera set to autofocus (AF) you will find
different points of AF within the viewfinder. Every camera model
will vary as to how many may be available to you. As usual refer to
that Owner’s Manual, I have seen anywhere from 3 to 62 points of
Figure 70 An example of autofocus points The AF points allow you to
designate which area of the viewfinder will be used for focusing.
You may be able to select a
single point or multiple points for the focusing reference.
There are two primary modes for Autofocusing, Single Point
Autofocus and Continuous Autofocus. Canon cameras refer to
continuous autofocus as “AI Servo”.
Single Point AF is the simplest form of autofocusing. You select
the object you would like to focus on, depress the shutter button
halfway, and the camera will lock on to that specific target.
Continuous AF is a bit more complex and has proven to be invaluable
when photographing moving objects. You select the object you would
like to focus on, depress the shutter halfway, and as the object
moves the focusing motors will attempt to keep it in focus as you
Continuous AF is great for kids and pets as they tend to move
when they are being photographed. However, it is not very practical
when photographing landscapes or still objects.
My personal autofocus preference is to select single point AF with
my center focus point selected. Set the focus point on the subject
and depress the shutter button halfway. This action will lock the
focus on your target.
With your target focus locked, you are free to compose the photo as
long as the shutter button remains halfway depressed. Once the
exposure has been captured you will have to repeat the
Pros of using Autofocus - It is one less thing you have to worry
about when composing a photo. It is point-and-shoot simple!
- The AF mechanisms in digital cameras have become very smart and
can yield great sharp results.
Cons of using Autofocus - May have problems focusing in poor
lighting conditions. AF works fastest in well-lit environments, but
may not work at all in near dark lighting scenarios.
- You must ensure that the camera is autofocusing on the correct
object or part of the scene. This may require a great deal of
practice with the multiple AF shooting modes.
Manual Focus With Manual Focus selected you are in control of the
focus of the camera.
You can manipulate the focus manually by turning the focus ring on
the camera lens. While turning the focus ring, the lens elements
contained inside will shift allowing the focus to vary based on
their distance apart.
Figure 71 The autofocus ring of the Zuiko 14-54mm lens Manual
focusing can be obtained by looking through the viewfinder or live
view screen and turning the focus ring simultaneously. As you turn
the focusing ring, be cognizant of the subjects within the scene
and how the rotation affects the focus on the subject.
It may sound simple at first, but tack sharp manual focus may be
difficult to achieve without practice.
Many lenses have a very helpful built-in distance indicator tool.
The distance indicator is a window with numbers listed inside.
These numbers represent the relative distance from you to the
Figure 72 Example of the distance indicator built into a lens These
numbers will be annotated in Feet and/or Meters. You can set the
numbers by judging the
distance from your lens to the object you would like to
Once you have assessed the distance you would rotate the focusing
you reached the distance indicated. Always double check the focus
within the viewfinder prior to taking the photo.
All lenses will operate at different relative distances. If you
have rotated the focusing ring so far that you observe an infinite
(∞) symbol then you have achieved that lenses infinite focus.
You may hear someone say “Focus to Infinite” they are not talking
about your long-term goals! They are simply telling you to focus
your camera lens to its maximum extent.
I have a great example of the use of infinite focus while in manual
focus mode. I was in a cave, a very dark cave. The object I wanted
to focus on was well over 50 feet away from me.
I attempted to use autofocus, but the room was too dimly lit to
focus on anything. I switched to manual focus and focused my lens
to infinite. I was unable to check the focus due to the lack of
available light. Since the lens I had equipped maxed out at just
above 15 feet, I knew that I would be safe with infinite
After focusing the camera, I depressed the shutter and began to
paint the areas in that I wanted to show in the picture with a
Figure 73 This image was composed using Manual Focus with the focus
ring set to infinity the subjects were painted in with flashlights
during a long exposure To see some tips on how you
can create images in pure darkness like the one above, follow this
link to Everyday HDR.
Pros of using Manual Focus - With practice you can obtain very
sharp focus rather quickly. You may find yourself focusing faster
with Manual Focus than autofocus in dimly lit environments.
- By manually focusing your photo you are ensuring that what is in
focus is what you want to be in focus and not what the camera
-You do not have to wait for the camera to lock on before taking
the picture. If the camera cannot focus in autofocus mode it will
not take the picture. That is not the case in manual focus
Cons of using Manual Focus - It is very easy to forget you are in
manual focus mode when switching between focusing modes often. Be
sure you are aware of your focusing settings before you get too
- Without practice you may find yourself very frustrated with how
long it takes you to get an accurately focused photo.
Hybrid Focusing Many cameras offer what I like to call “Hybrid
Focusing”. Hybrid Focusing is Auto and Manual Focus combined. You
may see it listed as “S-AF+MF” in your camera. This mode would be
Single Autofocus plus Manual Focus.
When you depress your shutter button half way the camera will run
through its autofocusing, but allow you to use the manual focusing
ring until you depress the shutter button fully.
Raising your finger from the shutter button will reset the AF
mechanism. Depressing the shutter button half way again will yield
another run of the AF mechanism.
Pros of using Hybrid Focus - You get the best of both worlds. The
camera will do the initial autofocusing analysis. However, you get
to fine tune it with the focusing ring.
Cons of using Hybrid Focus - It can be easy to forget you are in
hybrid focus mode. If you bump or accidentally rotate the focusing
ring prior to taking the exposure, you may end up with an
unintentionally blurry photo.
Metering Whether you know it or not, metering happens continuously
camera. Try this quick exercise, remove your lens cap, place your
camera in Aperture Priority Mode, and pan your camera around the
room. Notice that as you pan around the room the shutter speed
changes while the aperture stays the same, this is metering.
Metering is the process that the camera goes through to analyze the
proper exposure for the light it is reading at any given time. The
meter reading is dictated by the light that is being reflected from
the object or scene to the image recording sensor.
Once the camera has the reflected light reading, it will make its
exposure judgment dependent upon the Camera Capture Mode you are
There are several ways to tell the camera how to meter for the
subject or scene you are photographing. However, you must
understand first that every object you are photographing is merely
Too often we get hung up on taking photos, but what we are really
doing is capturing the light reflected off of an object. Every
object reflects light differently based on its color, texture, or
Once you begin to grasp that a photograph is the result of
reflected light you can better understand what metering mode you
should be shooting in for any photographic situation. One very
helpful tool to understand reflected light is the histogram.
The Histogram The histogram is a snapshot of the light present in
your photo and where it
would lay on a bell curve. You may have seen it on your camera’s
display as you cycle through your playback modes.
Like any other chart or graph, the histogram can be very
intimidating to look at without a bit of knowledge before going
-The far left of the histogram contains all of the Dark information
in the photograph.
-The middle contains Midtone information.
-The far right displays the Highlights present in your
Figure 74 The histogram explained, the dark gradient has been added
to help you visualize the areas of the histogram Every photograph
has its own unique histogram that can help you dissect the light
reading of a given area in relation to the entire photograph.
Your camera will make metering decisions based on these
Figure 75 A visual representation of a histogram and where certain
areas in the photo reside on it A high key image is a photograph
that is predominantly focused on the highlights. Notice the heavy
weighted lights on the far right of the histogram. There is very
little dark information in the photograph based on the far left of
Figure 76 An example of a high key image and its corresponding
Figure 77 An example of a low key image and its corresponding
histogram A low key photograph is one that is highly concentrated
on the shadows present. There is very little light information on
the far right of the histogram in comparison to the
To achieve a high key photo you can meter for the highlights in the
scene. Likewise, you can meter for the shadows to achieve a low key
image. The metering mode you select could be crucial to the outcome
of your final photograph depending on the area you are metering
Metering Modes The names and functions of the various Metering
Modes may vary from
manufacturer to manufacturer. As usual, refer to your Owner’s
Manual to brush up on your specific camera’s metering modes.
Multi-Zone Metering Multi-Zone Metering may have many names
depending on the camera manufacturer. I have heard it referred to
by many names to include: Digital ESP, Evaluative, Matrix,
Multi-Segment, and Honeycomb Metering.
Regardless of what the manufacturers call it, it works the same
across the DSLR world. With Multi-Zone Metering selected your
camera will take a light reading from several areas within the
scene. Once it has metered for these areas it will make its best
metering judgment for an overall properly exposed photo.
I would recommend this metering mode for general purposes. This
mode is relatively forgiving in most cases.
Center Weighted Metering While set to Center Weighted Metering,
your camera will place a high value of “weight” on the center of
the viewfinder (about 70%) when formulating the exposure for the
Figure 78 A visual representation of Center Weighted Metering As
you can see in Figure 78,
the camera will place a lot of metering weight on the center of the
viewfinder and less in the surrounding areas.
Spot Metering In Spot Metering Mode, the camera will take a light
reading of the exact spot
you have selected, about 1-5% of the total viewfinder. With Spot
Metering active the camera will typically take its light reading
from the centrally located point of the viewfinder. Some cameras
offer the ability to change the spot metering location.
Figure 79 A visual representation of Spot Metering Spot Metering is
very effective when your subject is against a bright background.
The camera will meter for the light reflected off of your subject
rather than the overall scene. This could be the result of a
properly exposed picture rather than an under or overexposed
Figure 80 shows a photo that was spot metered for the sky. The spot
metering point is indicated by the yellow circle. Notice how the
sky is properly exposed while the building is underexposed.
The camera was more worried about getting the proper exposure for
the sky than it was the building since the spot metering selection
was the sky.
Figure 80 A photograph spot metered for the sky Figure 81 shows a
photo that was spot metered for the building. The spot metering
point is indicated by the yellow
circle. Notice how the building is properly exposed while the sky
The camera was more worried about getting the proper exposure for
the building than it was the sky since the spot metering selection
was the building.
Figure 81 A photograph spot metered for the building In Figure 80
the shutter speed was 1/1000th to expose for the sky while Figure
81 it was 1/125th to expose for the
This is because the light reflected from the clouds was very
bright. The camera could take the picture very quickly to expose
for the sky. The result was
a very dark building.
However, when spot metered for the building the camera had to use a
much longer shutter speed to obtain an accurate exposure to
compensate for the dark shingles. The result was an overexposed
Average Metering While set to Average Metering your camera will
make its exposure decision based on the average light reading from
the whole scene. This mode will not give any weight to any one
specific area, unlike the previous metering modes.
Figure 82 A visual representation of Average Metering
Exposure & Focus Lock You have the ability to lock the exposure
reading and focus while taking
your pictures. This is a very useful tool when you want to focus
and meter for an object in the foreground but recompose the
photograph to include more of the background without receiving an
exposure reading for the background.
Many cameras have a lock button located on the camera body. In
Figure 83 you will see the Olympus E-30 lock button is indicated by
AEL/AFL near the LCD screen. The Canon EOS 6D has the lock button
toward the top of the camera near the shutter button indicated by a
Figure 83 Exposure lock buttons and their location on two different
cameras To operate the exposure and focus lock, simply press and
hold the lock button after you have focused and metered for the
area you would like to lock in place. Once they are locked you are
free to compose your photo with the locked settings for your
initial focal point.
I use this technique very frequently when I want to spot meter for
a specific part of the scene but would like to recompose the photo
after I have metered for it. By locking the exposure and focus down
I can recompose the photo and ensure that my settings for the
subject will not change.
You should consult with your camera manual to learn more about how
you can control the exposure and focus lock.
Chapter 7. White Balance
Until now we have discussed many characteristics that affect the
outcome of the final exposure. These characteristics include the
amount of light captured (Aperture), the speed at which the light
was captured (Shutter Speed), and the sensitivity of the sensor
accepting the light (ISO).
There is another major characteristic that can affect the outcome
of the final exposure, White Balance. White balance is a built in
camera feature that allows you to balance the temperature of the
light entering the camera.
Figure 84 Two different white balance settings used on the same
photo To get technical, every form of light, whether natural or
man-made, gives off a certain temperature, also
referred to as Color Temperature. The temperature is recorded in
degrees Kelvin. Cooler images score higher on the Kelvin (K) scale
than warmer ones.
Figure 85 Common light sources and their respective Kelvin
Temperatures There are several ways to capture the color
temperature of the light present in