Photography basics: The Fuji x100 Part 2

So, last time I wrote about the x100, I talked about how in love with it I was already, but also how I had revealed a few little frustrations as I used it. Since then, I have been out with a few friends who are DSLR owners who also couldn’t get to grips with it. Is it a bad camera? Absolutely not. Put a DSLR on auto and usd a nice little 50mm lens to blur out your backgrounds and in the right light, anybody can take a decent picture. No really, anybody. The Fuji x100 however really doesn’t cater for the lover of the Auto function and honestly, I had been getting a little lazy. It’s really made me pull my finger out and remember what my camera functions are and how to use them.

Last week, I spent the afternoon with Laura and Peter Lawson (Remember Laura wrote this great piece on Digital camera’s for Florence Finds?) and tried to get to grips with the basic settings I needed to know to use the x100. So today, I thought I would share some of my new pearls of photography wisdom with you all in case you too are grappling with the settings on your camera. I did say that I was going to look at depth of field and exposure in my next post and hopefully you will see how all of these things come together.

There are three main settings you need to get to know to get started with your camera. Aperture, ISO and shutter speed.

1. Aperture
When you press the button on a camera, to take the photo, the camera opens up the shutters in it’s lens (you can see these through the lens if you look carefully on an SLR,) and captures the image. The amount the shutters open is what is called the aperture.

Using a big aperture to create depth of field and blur out the background in this shot showing off my glitter fizz nails (Chanel Orange Fizz and Deborah Lippmann Glitter in the Air)

Confusingly a large aperture actually has a smaller number, for example a 1.8 is much larger than a 5.6. You will also see the aperture referred to as ‘f-stops’ Each f-stop on a lens either halves or doubles the size of the aperture, depending on whether you are moving up or down.

The key thing to aperture is that what it does is let light in. Therefore, if you are in dark conditions you are always going to want to choose a big aperture, (a small f-stop,) to get the most light into your camera and prevent the shot being dark. It also impacts on the depth of field but I’ll leave that for now.

2. ISO
When cameras used film (and when I started playing with my Dads SLR,) ISO denoted how sensitive the film was to light. You therefore chose your film according to the conditions. However in digital photography, choosing your ISO changes how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light.

This shot was taken when I had some friends over for dinner. It was warm so we were eating outside and the light was low. The shutter speed was already as slow as I could get it without causing blurring from camera shake, so I put the ISO up. That made the first image too bright and I turned it down to 200 for the correct exposure.

What that means is that when it’s bright and light (outside on a bright day for example,) your sensor doesnt need to be as, well, sensitive to pick up the image. 1-200 would be fine here. On the other hand in a dark room you might have to bump up the ISO to capture the details.

3. Shutter speed
This one is exactly what it says on the tin. To capture the image as I said in point one, the shutters in your lens open and close in speed that equates to fractions of a second. The ‘shutter speed’ is how long the shutter remains open for. In turn, that controls how long your camera’s sensor is exposed to the image you are taking. The bigger the number 1/250, 1/1000 etc (or you might see these just as the larger number,) the faster the speed.

This shot was taken out one night with friends in low light outside, hence the high ISO. However initially I chose a slow shutter speed to let the most light in and it bleached the shot out with too much light. I could have turned the ISO down, but instead increased the shutter speed.

There are a few key points you need to grasp that relate to this.

  • Leave the shutter open for longer and you will capture movement. For example those street scenes with the car lights streaking across the picture have used a long shutter speed or when you see pictures of waterfalls with the water blurred. There are situations where you might want to see movement in your photograph.
  • For a long shutter speed you need a tripod. The human hand struggles to keep a camera still at a speed slower than 1/125 or 1/60 and that causes ‘camera shake’ or blurring to you and me.
  • On the whole and for blogging purposes you’re more than likely however to want to freeze the shot and capture everything crisply, so will want to choose a higher shutter speed.
  • Shutter speed interacts with ISO because of course when the shutter is open longer (for example) it lets more light in. So you might lower your ISO. On the other hand, speed up the shutter speed and you’ll have to increase your ISO to compensate.

Understanding the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture is the hardest part of photography for me and I guess it only comes with practice.

Just a pretty shot of my dressing table.

So what did I take away from my lesson with the Lawsons? For me personally and the way I use a camera or the situations I use it for, there is an easy way! Laura and Pete taught me that of the 3 factors above, really only one is negotiable. I like nice blurred out backgrounds, so 9 out of 10 times I’m going to choose a large aperture, on the Fuji x100, a 2 or 2.8. The ISO isn’t really negotiable, the lighting and situation again dictate what you need to use. Most days in good light it’s going to be a low ISO of 1-200 or I might bump it up in lower light situations. That just leaves me to play with the shutter speed and get the exposure right by increasing or decreasing it as I go. It’s not how a pro-photographer shoots of course, but I think it’s great advice to get started with!

So, have you learnt anything today? I’m no pro but these are just the tips that have been helping me get better shots so far. I’ll keep you posted!


~ With thanks to Talk PR for arranging my Press review of the Fujifilm FinePix X100

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