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How To: Camera Basics, by Mike Farley LRPS
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Modern cameras are the result of literally decades of development. They have changed out of all recognition from the purely manual devices used in Victorian times by the founding fathers of photography. Once where the photographer controlled everything to ensure a focussed and correctly exposed image, the electronic marvels of today merely require the shutter to be pressed and the camera does the rest. Such is the refinement of these modern machines, the latest ones can even detect faces and whether the person is smiling, and usually very good results ensue.

It is tempting to allow the camera to manage itself, freeing the photographer to concentrate on composition. Indeed, the majority of pictures now taken usually involve some form of automation. As an example, it is no coincidence that the quantity and quality of sports pictures have improved dramatically over the years first with the introduction of automatic exposure, then automatic focus and finally image stabilisation.

Yet is anything lost by handing complete control to the camera? That most new cameras come with scene modes suggests that the use of different settings can make a difference. To get the most from photography and move on from point and shoot record photography, an understanding of how it works is essential.

The principles of photography have not changed since the time when Fox Talbot and others were conducting their experiments in the first half of the 19th century. Light enters through a lens and is focussed on a light sensitive medium, which records the image. Be it film or digital sensor makes no difference, although the two work in completely different ways to make an image of course. To ensure that sufficient light falls on the film or sensor when making an exposure, there are three separate controls – aperture, shutter and ISO.

Photography has a number of terms that initially seem daunting, but are actually easy to comprehend. Later in this article, there are explanations of how aperture, shutter speed and ISO can affect an image. An understanding of how these work will greatly assist in getting the best from your equipment and achieving improved results.