Rule of Thirds

In my last post, I talked about the importance of framing your photos to draw your attention in. Today I’ll address one of the most recognizable photography rules, the Rule of Thirds. While I’m more likely to bend (err… break) the rules, this one I do try to use. Alright, I also frame my photos. Perhaps I’m not quite the rule-breaker I envision myself to be!

Imagine a grid overlaying your photos with two horizontal lines, and two vertical lines, thus creating a total of nine equal areas. If I’ve lost you, think of a tic-tack-toe board on top of your photo. In the photo below, notice how the grass at the edge of the pond is roughly where the lower horizontal line would be. In general, try to line up the most prominent horizontal area with either the top, or bottom, horizontal line. In this case, I went with the what was in the foreground. (A mountain range would be a good idea to use as a horizontal top line.) Now, you need to do the same for vertical lines. In the case, I used the right edge of the large rock, and the right edge of the tree above it as a guide.

Rule of Thirds

With that in mind, your subject should line up within one of the four intersecting lines. In this case, I used a clump of lily pads, and the clouds above it, for two of the four intersecting lines. While I could have focused on any number of things within the photo, I chose to use the Rule of Thirds as a guide to highlight the entire scene.

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

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Frame Your Photos

No, I’m not referring to when you hang them on your wall. I’m talking about how you want your photo to look. I was at Kitsap Memorial State Park last July, and noticed the haze on the mountains across the water. There was just enough to make the mountains appear more like a painting than a photo. However, had I only taken a photo of the mountains, there wouldn’t be any visual interest to the photo. Instead, I framed the photo with the foreground.

Take a look at the photos below, your eye naturally wants to look for something within a photo. Without framing the second photo, it falls flat.

Example 1 Example 2

When you set out to photograph something, try to envision what you want the end result to look like. As in the photos above, I wanted to capture the mountains. While both photos contain the mountains, the second one is downright boring. Framing adds a reference point, which is needed for a photo like this. Now, go out and try it yourself!

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

 

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Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed… Oh My!

Now that you have a brief overview of Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed, let’s bring it all together. The first thing I do is either adjust the Aperture, or the Shutter Speed, depending on what my subject is. Once you decide what you’re going to be photographing, you can then decide if the Aperture, or the Shutter Speed, needs to take priority. Due to how a higher ISO can degrade an image, I adjust this last, and keep it to the lowest setting I can.

For an image where your subject is moving, it’s best to determine the needed Shutter Speed first. Once you’ve decided that, go ahead and adjust the Aperture accordingly. Noting that for faster speeds, you’ll need a wider aperture to allow more light into the image. This is due to the fact that your shutter won’t be open for long. If your image is too dark, open up the aperture further. If you skip this, and go straight to raising the ISO, you have a greater likelihood of a grainy image. Keep in mind that the lower you set the aperture you’re decreasing the depth of field, thus keeping your subject in focus while blurring the background.

Alternatively, if you’re photographing a sweeping view of the mountains on a sunny day, you’ll want your aperture on a smaller setting. Not only will this allow less light into the camera, helping to avoid an over-exposed image, it will also allow for the entire image to be in focus. Since your aperture would be smaller, you’ll want to decrease the shutter speed to allow more time for the light to enter the camera. Again, if you skip lowering the shutter speed in favor of raising the ISO, you’ll probably have a grainy image.

Now, get your camera, and try it out! Look for my next post on where I’ll dive into another camera tip.

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

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Shutter Speed: Every Second Counts

I’ve tackled Aperture, and ISO. Today we’re moving onto Shutter Speed. What is it? Shutter Speed is the amount of time the shutter on your camera is open when you press the shutter release (the button that takes the photograph).

When I’m on a shoot, one of the first things I do is decide how I want the end result to look. For example, if I’m photographing a waterfall, I’ll need to decide if I want the water to be in focus (so you can see individual drops of water), or if I want to create the illusion of movement (blurring the water so it appears to be moving). In order to do that, I need to set the speed on my shutter accordingly. The speed settings are in seconds, and range from fast (like 1/500, as in 500th of a second), to slow (like 10, as in ten seconds). If you choose a fast shutter speed, the shutter won’t be open for very long, and you’ll freeze movement. If you choose a slow shutter speed, the shutter will be open for a much longer length of time (keep in mind, you’ll need a tripod for this), and you’ll be able to blur movement. Most cameras (always consult your manual for your specific camera) have a maximum shutter speed of 30. While keeping the shutter open for 30 seconds is a long time, you may also have an additional setting called “Bulb” or “B”. If selected, the shutter on your camera will stay open for as long as the shutter release is held down.

Look for my next post where I’ll tell you how Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed work together when you’re in Manual Mode.

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

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ISO: In Search Of The Meaning

In my last post I addressed Aperture, the first of three main settings on your camera. Today we’re looking at ISO, or International Standards Organization. ISO is the standard for which light is measured. I know, nice and vague!

The ISO setting controls the sensitivity of available light your camera will register. The lower the number (say, 200) translates into less light sensitivity (or a darker image). The higher the number (say 1600) translates into more light sensitivity (or a brighter image). However, when you raise the ISO you also increase the noise (the grainy appearance some images have). ISO is typically the last of the three settings you will adjust. Depending on what you’re photographing, you will either set your Aperture or Shutter Speed first, the other of those two second, and ISO last. Generally, if you’re outside on a sunny day you don’t need more light added to the image. An ISO setting of 100 or 200 should be fine. However, if you’re inside without an abundance of light you may need to raise your ISO to 800 or 1600. Remember, when you raise your ISO two things happen: more light, and more noise. It’s best to only raise your ISO when you can’t achieve the desired image without adjusting your Aperture and Shutter Speed.

In my next post I’ll address Shutter Speed, which is the last of the three main settings to understand when you’re ready to move into manual mode.

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

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Aperture and Anatomy

I know, you’re probably wondering what anatomy could possibly have in common with Aperture. Before I open your eyes to another aspect of photography, there are three settings on your camera you need to have a working knowledge of when you decide to move out of manual mode. Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed. Not only do you need to understand what each of these are, you also need to understand how they work together. Today, it’s all about Aperture.

What is it exactly? Aperture is defined as being the opening in your lens which admits light to your camera’s sensor. Think of the aperture as the pupil of your eye. When you’re in a bright, well-lit area your pupils are small. There’s enough light around you, and you’re able to see without any issues. Now, when you walk into a dark room your pupils will expand. This is so your pupils can admit more light, allowing you to see as much as possible. Your camera works in a similar fashion, and utilizes measurements know as f-stop’s. The lower the f-stop, the wider the aperture, and ultimately more light will reach the sensor. The higher the f-stop, the smaller the opening, and ultimately less light will reach the sensor. However, the maximum aperture (measured as the lowest f-stop number) is ultimately decided by your camera’s lens. You should see a range on your lens (say, f/3.5 – f/5.6), but you may only see one number listed. This number will tell you the lowest f-stop you can set your camera to while using that lens.

Aperture has a second function: depth of field. A low f-stop (more light) also focuses the lens on a subject within your image. A high f-stop (less light) allows everything in the image to be clear. Here are two examples. First: You’re at an indoor event and you take a photo of someone. You set the aperture to the lowest f-stop you can (say, f/3.5), thus allowing more light in while focusing on your subject, and blurring the people in the background. Second: You’re outside and have an incredible view of the mountains on a sunny day. You set your aperture to the highest f-stop you can (say, f/22), knowing the surrounding is bright, and you will be able to have a clear image of the everything.

Confused? Don’t be, all you need is practice. Remember: a low f-stop means a brighter image while focusing on something specific in your image, a high f-stop means a darker image while the entire image is in focus. Now, grab your camera and try it out!

Watch for my next post where I’ll tackle ISO. Oh yes, there’s even more to know about light!

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

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A Mode For Every Mood

This post will give you a brief overview of the different mode settings on your camera. There are four basic camera mode settings, though your specific camera may have a few more (each manufacturer, and model per manufacturer, can vary slightly). You will need to consult your cameras’ user manual to find the location of where to change the mode, and the exact abbreviation for the modes. Here are the most common modes, what they mean, and when to use them.

Programmed Automatic Mode; also called “Auto Mode”, and typically signified by a “P” on your camera (this shouldn’t be confused by the “A” setting, which I will address below). This is what your camera is usually set on when you first take it out of the box. Make no mistake, your camera will perform wonderfully in this setting. In this mode your camera will make every adjustment for you. For the occasional photographer, this is the way to go.

Aperture Priority Mode; this is typically signified by an “A” on your camera. Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority (the mode outlined below), are also referred to as semi-automatic modes. In this mode you control the aperture while leaving the camera to make the other adjustments. This is a good mode to use while photographing moving subjects as you don’t need to adjust for the speed of your subject. Think sporting events, festivals, etc. This mode, and the one below, are great when venturing out of auto mode.

Shutter Priority Mode; this is typically signified by an “S” on your camera. This is the other semi-automatic mode. Unlike shooting in Aperture Priority Mode, in Shutter Priority Mode you control the speed of the shutter while letting your camera make the other adjustments. This is a good mode to choose when your subject has little to no movement. Think architectural shots, nature, etc. As stated above, this mode is good when you want to move away from auto mode.

Manual Mode; this is typically signified by an “M” on your camera. Shooting in this mode allows you full control over all aspects of your camera. In addition to understanding all the settings on your camera, a working knowledge of three elements (Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed) relate to one another is key when shooting in this mode. I’ll address how these three aspects relate to one another at a later date.

Hopefully that gives you a basic understanding of what each mode on your camera signifies. Look for my next post where I’ll talk about Aperture.

Terri Johnson, Owner, Plumb Pixel Photography
The Right Angle Matters

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