History of Photograpgy | History of Camera | Introduction to Exposure | Operating Modes |
Flash Settings | Aperture & Shutter | Photo Film Speed | Golden Guides

Brief History Of Photography

First, the name. We owe the name "Photography" to Sir John Herschel , who first used the term in 1839, the year the photographic process became public. The word is derived from the Greek words for light and writing.
Before mentioning the stages that led to the development of photography, there is one amazing, quite uncanny prediction made by a man called de la Roche (1729- 1774) in a work called Giphantie. In this imaginary tale, it was possible to capture images from nature, on a canvas which had been coated with a sticky substance. This surface, so the tale goes, would not only provide a mirror image on the sticky canvas, but would remain on it. After it had been dried in the dark the image would remain permanent. The author would not have known how prophetic this tale would be, only a few decades after his death.
The first successful picture was produced in June/July 1827 by Niépce, using material that hardened on exposure to light. This picture required an exposure of eight hours.


History Of Camera

Diagram of the camera obscura In ancient times, Greek and Chinese philosophers discovered a curious optical effect. The effect came to be known as the "camera obscura" which is Latin for "dark room". This was the first camera. The hole acted like a lens, focusing and projecting light onto the wall of the dark chamber.

Lenses and Optics - 17th century
Issac Newton (left) and Christian Huygens(right) In the 17th century, the modern camera came one step closer when Isaac Newton and Christian Huygens perfected the understanding of optics and the process of making high quality glass lenses.

Film - 19th century
A glass lens, a dark box, and film Soon there were small, portable camera obscuras, but an important piece was missing.. Then in 1827 Joseph Nicéphore Niépce added the final touch. He added *film* to create the first successful photograph, and the modern camera was born.

This is considered to be the world's first photograph and took over 8 hours to expose !! 1827.

Modern film and digital cameras
New cameras are very easy to use, just point and shoot. The camera's built-in computer handles focus and exposure so you don't have to. A camera is still a camera. It's comforting to know that even the latest digital cameras work the same way as their ancestors. Light passes through the lens, into the camera, and exposes the film. And guess what? The end result is still a photograph.

Digital Film
So what has changed? The most recent revolution in photography is the invention of digital film. Replacing old-fashioned plastic film, digital cameras capture the images with an electronic sensor called a CCD. Photographs are stored on reusable computer memory devices. The result is that modern photography is cheaper (and more environmentally friendly) than it has ever been before. A digital camera is still composed of a lens, a dark box, and film.


Introduction To Exposure

The moment of exposure:
Most of the time, the inside of the camera is totally dark. When a photograph is taken, the camera opens and light from outside floods in through the lens. Light is projected onto film to make the exposure. Exposure is the measuring and balancing of light. Too much light and the picture will be washed out. Not enough light and the picture will be too dark. A good photograph depends on calculating the exposure settings that will give the film the "right" amount of exposure.
The photographer can control how much natural light reaches film by adjusting the camera's shutter, aperture, or film speed.

Measuring light (technical exposure)
A good technical exposure will produce a final image that accurately represents the original scene.. Film is light sensitive, and if the exposure is too dark or too bright, the result will not look like "real life".

Balancing light (artistic exposure)
Just to make things interesting, in any situtation there are several camera setting that give exactly the brightness but with very different outcomes. Which to choose is up to you, the photographer.


Oprating Modes

Turning on the camera
Operating modes are the most basic, and essentially tell the camera whether to take pictures or display them. Some cameras only have "on" and "off". Operating modes can usually be found on buttons or dials on the camera body.

Basic Camera Operating Modes
On/Record Picture taking mode - record. After the camera is in record mode, you can select a shooting mode (sometimes a button labelled "power") Playback takes a digital camera OUT of shooting mode and allows the user to view and edit stored images. (sometimes found on shooting mode dial) Off Completly switches off the camera, usually a button labelled "off" (sometimes a button labelled "power")

Camera Modes
Old fashioned cameras have one mode.. manual. Camera settings would have to be figured out by the photographer, along with focus. Typical camera mode dial Modern cameras can do all this automatically, but sometimes they need help. By choosing a shooting mode you give the camera hints about what you want, and it will try to deliver.

Know your modes!
Like riding a bicycle, operating your camera should become second nature. You should know AT LEAST ONE camera mode well enough to take a picture without hesitation.

Point and Shoot - Auto/Program Mode
Of all the shooting modes, Auto/Program is probably the most useful. Most people don't really want to learn about how a camera works, and point and shoot photography is the perfect solution. The fully automatic (A)uto or (P)rogram mode is the default for most modern cameras. The photographer can simply aim, press the button, and almost be guaranteed a great image. Point and shoot photography is not second class! Even professionals will happily switch to program mode so they can concentrate on getting the shot instead of exposure calculations.

Auto/Program Camera Modes
The camera will completely control flash and exposure. On most cameras this is labelled "auto", on others simply "A". Some cameras only have (P)rogram. Program automatic-assist, just point and shoot. Unlike full auto mode, you can usually control flash and a few other camera settings.

More Common Shooting Modes
While (P)rogram is the most important for everyday use, most cameras have dozens more.. it's like having an assistant photographer inside your camera who tries to figure out what you need.

Common Camera Modes
Movie/Video In movie mode, Digital cameras can capture live streaming video. Macro/Close-Up this mode used for taking close-up pictures. Party/Night longer exposures to capture darker scenes. Usually used with flash, and some nice motion effects can be created.
Portrait To attempt to blur out the background, camera will try to use the fastest available lens setting (aperture).
Landscape camera will attempt capture detail in foreground and background by using high f-stop (aperture) settings.
Sports To freeze motion, camera will use the highest shutter speed possible.
Stitch For creating multi-shot panoramas, this mode will help to combine several shots into one wide scene. Good fun.
Aperture Priority Photographer sets the aperture (f-stop) and the camera will attempt to deliver a good exposure. Some cameras use an "A" icon instead of "Av" Shutter Priority Photographer sets the shutter, and the camera will attempt to deliver a good exposure. Some cameras use an "S" icon instead of "Tv"
Manual Full manual mode, the photographer must set both the shutter and the aperture. mode.


Flash Settings

Harness Lighting
In some situations you may want to turn OFF the flash, or at least change its behavior.You are probably familiar with the crisp but somewhat uniform look of these pictures. So what if you want to try something different?

The Flash Mode Button
When in program mode, the camera will fire the flash if the light level is low. (which is more often than not). You can easily take back control of the flash - look for a small button or icon with the "lightning" symbol.. Pressing the "lightning" button will cycle through available flash modes.

Common Flash Modes
In most camera modes, Auto-flash is enabled by default and will automatically fire if the camera thinks it needs more light.

Disabled Flash
No flash. There are many cases where you may not want flash at all. The mood of the photograph can sometimes be more dramatic when the natural light is used.

Forced Flash
When forced, the camera will always fire the flash regardless of necessity.

Slow Flash
In this flash mode, the shutter is kept open longer to expose the background. (Essentially the same as the Party/Indoor shooting mode)


Aperture & Shutter

Controlling Exposure In order for an image to be captured on film, it must be exposed to light. The camera has two settings that control light, and they work very similar to the human eye.

The Shutter
The shutter blocks all light from exposing the film UNTIL you press the button. Then it quickly opens and closes, giving the film a brief flash of light.You can control the length of time the shutter remains open by setting the SHUTTER SPEED.
Longer shutter speeds = more light , Shorter shutter speeds = less light

The Aperture
Before light reaches film, it must pass through an opening called an "Aperture". The aperture is like a pupil. You can control the aperture by setting the "Aperture Opening", also known as an F-Stop.
Smaller F-stops numbers = larger openings
Larger openings = more light
Brightness is reduced as light passes through an aperture.

Shutter Speed
Determines HOW LONG the shutter stays open. The longer exposures ( like 1 second ) give much more light to the film than a 1/1000 of a second exposure. So even though the number may look bigger, don't be deceived!

A half second exposure is ONE STOP darker than a one second exposure.
A 1/125 exposure is TWO STOPS brighter than a 1/500 exposure.
A 1/1000 exposure is THREE STOPS darker than a 1/125 exposure.

Aperture Settings (F-Stops)
Like the pupil in a human eye, the aperture on a camera controls light. It does so by closing up to restrict light, and opening up to let it through.

Moving from f16 to f8 is: TWO STOPS brighter
Moving from f5.6 to f8 is: ONE STOP darker
Moving from f4 to f2.8 is: ONE STOP brighter

Balancing Shutter and Aperture
Exposure is about different combinations of shutter and f-stop settings. These combinations can drastically affect the finished picture. For example, the following three pictures have been given an equal amount of light, but the f-stop and shutter combinations make each one unique.


Photo Film Speed

Film Speed Rating - ISO / ASA
All film has a speed rating, whether digital or traditional. You may see this number called ASA or ISO (both indicate the film's rated speed). The ISO / ASA rating describes how quickly the film reacts to light. Film speed uses stops, just like shutter and aperture For example, going from ISO50 to ISO200 buys you 2 stops more light. Slower films are less sensitive and generally require longer exposures / more light. Faster films react rapidly, and can be used in low light situations.
Speed rating sensitivity contrast grain
50 ISO/ASA low low low
100 ISO/ASA medium medium medium
200 ISO/ASA medium medium medium
400 ISO/ASA high high high
800 ISO/ASA very high very high very high
Lower numbers = slower films = need more light = longer exposures
higher numbers = faster films = need less light = shorter exposures
*Digital cameras also have a film speed rating, usually around 50ASA. Instead of buying different film for a digital camera, you can adjust the ISO/ASA, just like "real" film.

Film Speed vs. Contrast and Grain

The trade-off between slow and fast films is quality. Slow films generally produce sharper, more detailed images, while faster films often have higher contrast and grain.


Golden Guides

If you only read one page on this site, then this is the one. Here are some tips to help you on your way to growing and developing your photography skills:
Always bring your camera
The number one reason why people miss good pictures is because they don't have a camera. Make it a habit to always carry a camera with you, because you never know what you could miss.

Shoot more
If you think you shoot enough - you don't. Especially if you have a digital camera, because there is no added cost to taking more photographs. Why take just one picture if you can take several? Are you in a place you may never visit again? Take a picture, because even the most boring day to day scenes can become historical in just a few years of time.

Trust your eye
Studying laws of composition is fine, but when it comes down to you must trust your eye. When you frame the shot, move the camera and explore the scene. When you find an angle or composition that FEELS good to you, take the picture immediately. You can (and should) get several more shots.

Train your eyes
Look at the pictures you have taken and critique your own work. Did the image turn out like you planned? Do you like the composition? This self-review stage is essential for you to improve your photographic "spider-sense".

Know your camera
You don't need to memorize every feature right away, but over time you should be comfortable enough so that operating your camera becomes second nature. It's like learning to shift gears or ride a bicycle - only when the machine becomes transparent are you really driving.

Always work on a copy
This essential guide is new for the era of digital photography. Remember that until you make a backup copy your digital photo is a one of a kind original. Make it a habit to make copies immediately after loading them from your camera, even before looking at them! Back up your images onto removable media as often as you can.