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Basics of Photography – Introduction to How a Camera Works

Photography doesn’t have to be a hard thing. I really believe anyone should be able to pick up a camera and make beautiful photos. I was just like you when I first began. I was lost in a sea of technical jargon and little experience. What is Aperture? What is ISO? What is Bokeh? These terms all seem like something from a foreign dictionary. In time, through much trial and error, I eventually understood the principles and applied them to improve my photography. I took the long road to get there. Hopefully, through these following articles you can venture forward and use the knowledge to allow you to visualize your photographic dreams.For a lot of new people to photography, going beyond the AUTOMATIC modes seems very scary. That around the other side of the function ring is actually a great place to be. Cameras are actually really dumb tools. They have no idea what is really going. They use complex algorithms to calculate values and estimate what the light is required for the photo. However, they still do not know what your subject is, what the conditions are, etc. Although there are SCENE modes in a camera, they can never replace get it just quite right. Have you ever had a time when you tried to take a photo, but what your eye saw and what the camera recorded were different? It happens very frequently. In time I hope to wean you off automatic modes and go full manual.

To start my articles, the first thing I want to talk about is how a modern digital camera works. In the front is a lens that focuses incoming light. In between are usually are aperture blades and a shutter. Finally the light hits the sensor that records the image. There are more components, but I won’t go into details for now as I do not want to detract from the main point.

The main role of a lens is to capture and focus light. Your eyes can focus near and far when you glance around. Your eyes can also help you see during all times of the day. Photo lenses relatively do the same thing but mechanically. In later articles I will talk about lens selection and optical characteristics so stay tuned for that.

Aperture blades help to control how much light comes in by creating a smaller image circle. Our eyes have something equivalent which is the iris. Ever noticed that if you squint, you see more details? This is the exact same idea! At night you iris opens up to let as much light in as possible while during the day they close as to not let in too much light. The camera aperture is roughly the same.After the aperture, light must pass through the shutter. The idea of the shutter is to control how long the light is able to enter the camera for. By controlling the time light enters the camera, we can freeze time or slow down time.The last piece of the puzzle is the sensor. This is equivalent to the retina in our eyes. The sensor captures light signals and turns them into electrical signals that can be read by a computer.

All these pieces together basically are how a camera can take images. In following articles I will explain how the user can individually control each aspect of the camera and manipulate them to see what happens. We will leave it at that and continue next week with more

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