Photography 101 – Question Time

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Photo 101 Questions

Photo: Rainer Ebert - CC license

The following post is from Australian photographer Neil Creek who is teaching classes in portrait photography in Melbourne Australia, and is developing his blog as a resource for the passionate photographer.

Over the past few months, I have been running this class to introduce readers to the fundamentals of the camera: the physics behind it all, how lenses and optics works, the mechanics of the camera and how to set and determine a photo’s exposure. I’ve tried to cover the basics of the camera, but I’m sure there are lots of questions that have gone unanswered.

For this lesson, I’m opening up the classroom to your questions. Leave your questions on the subject of “A basic course on the camera” in the comments below. Have a read of the previous lessons so far to see if your question has been answered and if there’s anything you don’t understand:

Here’s What We’ve Covered Previously in this Series:

Lesson 1: Light and the Pinhole Camera
Lesson 2: Lenses and Focus
Lesson 3: Lenses, Light and Magnification
Lesson 4: Exposure and Stops
Lesson 5: Aperture
Lesson 6: Shutter
Lesson 7: ISO
Lesson 8: Shutter

Selected Questions Will Be Answered

Leave your questions about the camera in the comments on this post below. I will choose a number of questions, approximately five to seven, and answer them as best I can. The answers to the selected questions will appear in the next, and final post in the Photography 101 series.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Neil Creek is a professional photographer from Melbourne, Australia. He has been shooting with a DSLR since 2004, and blogging about his experiences since 2006. Neil has authored five ebooks and a video training course, all designed to help others improve their photography. View Neil's folio at his home page. Learn about his publications here.

  • Suresh

    Is there any means that we will be able to control the amount of light entering the camera, when using a lesser shutter speed and aperture kept at maximum f value. The reason, why I asked is that, when I was taking a shot with shutter speed about 1 sec and f value at 22, I was trying to turn the zoom ring to get an effect. hence I needed a smaller shutter speed. But when I tooked at the picture, it was highly overexposed.

  • Peter

    Question:

    Neil,

    I am shooting my first wedding in two weeks with a beautiful looking couple. Both young in their early twenties, however the groom has blond hair, blue eyes… and the bearutiful bride is African American. Do you have any recommendations, words of caution with the formals, indoor/outdoor etc., that I should keep in mind? There will be plenty of lighting at the church… Your help, as well as any other photographer’s advice would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks DPS…

  • Neil,

    I am learning my DSLR since last year and feeling that I’m really fall in love in the world of photography. How exactly and amateur like me turning into a professional like you? Is it started by doing casual jobs helping other pro photographers, or accumulating portfolio and start looking for customers? And what aspects that indicate that you’re ready to become Pro Photographer… I believed thousands of other amateurs photographers are also confused how to turning into Pro photographer…

    Thx for the advice Neil…

  • Eric Carson

    This is in response to:
    “Is there any means that we will be able to control the amount of light entering the camera, when using a lesser shutter speed and aperture kept at maximum f value.” By – suresh

    Yes there is a way to reduce the amount of light entering the camera when you can not change the shutter speed or the aperture. What you seek is called a “Neutral Density Filter”. A neutral density filter is essentially a screw-on (or drop in on more expensive telephotos) grey filter. This way the filter does not change any colors, just reduces the amount of light entering the camera. Neutral density filters are quantified by their optical density or equivalently their f-Stop reduction. See the following Wikipedia article for more.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_density_filter

  • Hi folks, keep the questions coming!

    Just a reminder, the questions should be on the topic of the series of Photo 101, that is “A basic course on the camera”. We’re talking about the mechanics of the camera and the fundamentals of photography specifically. Look through the previous posts to see the kind of thing I’m talking about. I won’t be answering any questions about how to photograph a particular kind of subject. I’m looking for questions on mechanics, exposure, optics etc.

    If anyone is asking more general questions or questions about specific kind of shoots, they would probably best be asked in the DPS forum: https://digital-photography-school.com/forum/

    Thank you!

  • Can you give some tips on how to achieve high contrast, good saturation, sharp images and the like? Ignoring post-processing, what camera settings and other factors lead to those great looking, rich shots?

  • People often say they don’t want to put a cheap UV filter on an expensive lens, because it would ruin the quality. Is that true?

  • Reznor

    Personally, I would really appreciate a 101 on flash photography, especially the camera’s behaviour in the various modes. In some, the flash is used as a fill light, in some it’s used as light source. I always have a hard time figuring out which settings to use when using my (integrated) camera flash. Most of the time, the pictures are over- or underexposed and I have to figure it all out by trial and error which can be really annoying, especially if you have a person posing for a shot and they have to endure several shots till I finally have a decent setting. Any advice? Maybe a flash 101 coming? That would be great, all your other 101s were really good.

  • Peter

    I second reznor on this… good suggestion…

  • Phil

    Neil,

    One question I have is with regard to lens elements and their grouping. Here is a description of a lens.
    (16–35mm, f/2.8, 16 elements in 12 groups) Just what does it mean?? With this particular one, there are 16 glass elements, I think I understand that but how are these put into 12 groups? This is just an example but other lens descriptions are similar…So many elements in so many groups…I have always scratched my head about this but never really addressed it to anyone.

    (16–35mm, f/2.8, 16 elements in 12 groups)

  • Neil,

    this is a strobist information by a photographer.
    Single AB800 in stripbox over camera.

    AB800 refers to a flash unit, seen in http://www.alienbees.com
    however, I do not understand what is meant by in a stripbox.

    thanks alot if you could explain that.
    (:

  • Udi

    MODERATOR: NOT FOR PUBLICATION-
    Last lesson (8) is meter and not shutter as written.
    Other than that a great series.

  • Martin Barabe

    I go with Reznor about flash photography it is my next step for learning. I do not own a flash yet so i would like to know how to properly use the flash but also how to choose a good flash to better suite my style. also another topic about flash is all the gizmos that may be needed to use a flash in any situations like off camera.

  • Eric Carson

    @ Phil

    “One question I have is with regard to lens elements and their grouping. Here is a description of a lens.
    (16–35mm, f/2.8, 16 elements in 12 groups) Just what does it mean??” -phil

    Phil,

    The construction of a telephoto lens can be very complex in terms of optics and mechanics. Usually the lens is composed of elements and groups. When you rotate the zoom control on the barrel of the lens a series of cams move the groups closer together or farther apart to change the focal length of the system. An element is one lens, of which there are many in a telephoto.

    So why tell us? Remember that there is no such thing as a “perfect” lens, meaning that every lens can introduce tiny errors into the transmitted light, for example distortions. The less lenses light has to travel through to get to the camera sensor, the less the image is changed from the original. Lens manufacturers overcome this by using very high quality glass, special coatings, and even stacking lenses in a special manner that combats any errors.

  • Krystle

    Hello.

    I tried taking photos of a basketball game last weekend, but the results weren’t that great- either it was too dark and/or blurry. I use Canon 450d with 18-200mm lens, ISO of 1600 and shutter speed of either 1/125 or 1/100. That was the highest shutter speed I could take photos with, since the pictures resulted in a darker quality. What is it that I can do? 🙂

    Thank you!

  • Peter

    @ Eric

    thank you very much Eric! it wasn’t my question, but your short, and simple anwer was very helpful…

  • Eric Carson

    @ Krystle

    “I tried taking photos of a basketball game last weekend, but the results weren’t that great- either it was too dark and/or blurry. I use Canon 450d with 18-200mm lens, ISO of 1600 and shutter speed of either 1/125 or 1/100. That was the highest shutter speed I could take photos with, since the pictures resulted in a darker quality. What is it that I can do?” -Krystle

    From what you wrote it would seem that you attacked the problem from 2 angles. First you increased the ISO to 1600 which will make the camera more sensitive, but also add noise, then you used the lowest shutter speed possible to get a correct exposure. Great work! There is very little left you can do, read on!

    Your first option would be to open the aperture as much as possible. This will let in more light to increase the shutter speed.

    Your second option would be to zoom out with your lens and zoom in with your legs! Keep in mind the shorter the focal length (towards the 18mm end) the wider the angle the camera uses to gather light.

    I hope this helps!

  • Krystle

    @Eric

    Thanks for the help 🙂

  • CJ Mann

    I am having a hard time taking the pictures in broad daylight with my Canon 400d (XTi), I tried using few of different options but never had a luck, all the pictures I take comes out way too bright (washed out).

    Please sujjest?

  • Reznor

    @cj mann

    Remember the exposure triangle? You gotta work with that. Decrease ISO, Aperture or shutter speed to limit the amount of light coming in. You can also use exposure compensation. If you’re using AV mode for example and the images come out too bright, try an exposure compensation of -1 and see where that takes you. The camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed for you. Too bright pictures are a rather uncommon problem. Most people have problems with too little light, your problem should be easy to fix.

  • Suresh

    Dear Eric,
    Well answered my question and many thanks. Also you have given a good description about the so called new term for me, the ” ND filter” .

    Regards
    suresh

  • nalin

    Please let me know how many pictures will a new battery take, using flash 50% of the time, on a Canon D50 DSLR plus 17-85 Canon Zoom

  • i have been trying to capture lightning and it is proving hard
    what settings are required for it
    camera i am using is not a DSLR its sony f-828

  • Joseph Spoto

    For Eric Carson’s question, Even with an f/2.8 lens, most high school gymnasiums are too dark. I wind up using an SB-800 or SB-900 speedlite for shooting basketball.

  • Renj

    This is probably not for the photography 101 post but i will ask it anyway. I’m editing some outdoor pictures taken on an overcast day by the apprentice of a professional photographer. Some photos have a foggy effect on the top part of the frame, even when it wasn’t foggy that day. (I was there.) It appears that the top part of the photos are overexposed (too bright), while the middle and lower parts are properly exposed. There was even a group shot and one tall guy there looked liked his face was glowing and had a halo on his head, but the rest of the people in the picture were properly lit. Is the camera lens curtain the problem here? I had a hard time fixing it at post. How could this be prevented?

  • ROBERT

    I need to know how to photography the moon. Thank you Robert.

  • Carrie Alfaro

    I have some pics in my flashdrive and comp. that were taken w/low resolution. I tried getting them printed and they came out like crap. How can I change the resolution to get a clear printout?

  • dr p santhosh kumar

    whether the following action be performed withcano ef-s 55-250mm is lens? i hav a 450d body

    Easier over-riding of AF with full-time manual focus
    More than half of Canon’s lenses have a neat feature called full-time manual focus*. Even if the lens’s AF/MF switch is in the AF position, these lenses allow the shooter to instantly adjust focus manually by simply turning the focus ring on the lens. There’s no need to first move the switch to MF.

    With back-button AF, this becomes a nearly foolproof feature. Use the autofocus whenever you like by pressing the rear button with your right thumb. Shoot whenever you like by pressing the shutter button. And if you want to touch-up focus, or totally over-ride what the AF is doing, just pull your thumb off the rear button and turn the ring. No matter how many pictures you shoot, pressing the shutter button will not cause the AF to try to kick-in and re-set the focus you just adjusted manually

  • Karese

    Could you please explain to me the best way to take pictures of curio cabinet displays? Mirrors are usually involved. Also, along that line, what is the best way to take pictures of museum pieces through glass, plexiglass, etc. Mine tend to be blurry or distorted. Most museums that allow pictures do not allow flashes which also adds to the dilema while trying to take a picture under a protected case.
    Thank You.
    Karese Osborne

  • Dave Williams

    I would like some advice on flash sync speed. I have a Nikon D300 with auto FP sync up to 1/320. I tend to leave the sync speed at that setting as it seems desirable to be able to use faster shutter speeds whenever possible. Is there a downside to using auto FP? Is there a time when I should definitely not use it and use a slower sync speed?

    Thanks,
    Dave Williams

  • ajith

    Hello,Neil,
    I”m a budding photographer I have a doubt regarding lens aperture.In my lenses it is written f4;5.6. It means(best of my knowledge) the lens has a maximum aperture of f4 and minimum of f5.6. In AV mode if I change the aperture f11 how the lens can get it ?
    kindly clear my doubt……..

  • Suresh

    Ajith,
    Please read the lesson: Lens light and magnification which will definitely clear your doubts. They are not the aperture values but called the f ratios.
    suresh

  • One of my friend is studying the photography course. I would recommend this article to her, can be very useful. Thanks.

  • Dale

    For macro photography, can I get the same basic results by using my 2X converter as if I were using extension tubes?

Some Older Comments

  • Dale May 29, 2013 03:38 am

    For macro photography, can I get the same basic results by using my 2X converter as if I were using extension tubes?

  • horse riding lessons melbourne April 21, 2011 03:31 pm

    One of my friend is studying the photography course. I would recommend this article to her, can be very useful. Thanks.

  • Suresh August 10, 2009 10:26 pm

    Ajith,
    Please read the lesson: Lens light and magnification which will definitely clear your doubts. They are not the aperture values but called the f ratios.
    suresh

  • ajith August 10, 2009 08:51 pm

    Hello,Neil,
    I"m a budding photographer I have a doubt regarding lens aperture.In my lenses it is written f4;5.6. It means(best of my knowledge) the lens has a maximum aperture of f4 and minimum of f5.6. In AV mode if I change the aperture f11 how the lens can get it ?
    kindly clear my doubt........

  • Dave Williams August 9, 2009 10:29 am

    I would like some advice on flash sync speed. I have a Nikon D300 with auto FP sync up to 1/320. I tend to leave the sync speed at that setting as it seems desirable to be able to use faster shutter speeds whenever possible. Is there a downside to using auto FP? Is there a time when I should definitely not use it and use a slower sync speed?

    Thanks,
    Dave Williams

  • Karese August 8, 2009 11:29 am

    Could you please explain to me the best way to take pictures of curio cabinet displays? Mirrors are usually involved. Also, along that line, what is the best way to take pictures of museum pieces through glass, plexiglass, etc. Mine tend to be blurry or distorted. Most museums that allow pictures do not allow flashes which also adds to the dilema while trying to take a picture under a protected case.
    Thank You.
    Karese Osborne

  • dr p santhosh kumar August 7, 2009 09:21 pm

    whether the following action be performed withcano ef-s 55-250mm is lens? i hav a 450d body

    Easier over-riding of AF with full-time manual focus
    More than half of Canon’s lenses have a neat feature called full-time manual focus*. Even if the lens’s AF/MF switch is in the AF position, these lenses allow the shooter to instantly adjust focus manually by simply turning the focus ring on the lens. There’s no need to first move the switch to MF.

    With back-button AF, this becomes a nearly foolproof feature. Use the autofocus whenever you like by pressing the rear button with your right thumb. Shoot whenever you like by pressing the shutter button. And if you want to touch-up focus, or totally over-ride what the AF is doing, just pull your thumb off the rear button and turn the ring. No matter how many pictures you shoot, pressing the shutter button will not cause the AF to try to kick-in and re-set the focus you just adjusted manually

  • Carrie Alfaro August 7, 2009 02:57 pm

    I have some pics in my flashdrive and comp. that were taken w/low resolution. I tried getting them printed and they came out like crap. How can I change the resolution to get a clear printout?

  • ROBERT August 7, 2009 02:49 pm

    I need to know how to photography the moon. Thank you Robert.

  • Renj August 7, 2009 01:10 pm

    This is probably not for the photography 101 post but i will ask it anyway. I'm editing some outdoor pictures taken on an overcast day by the apprentice of a professional photographer. Some photos have a foggy effect on the top part of the frame, even when it wasn't foggy that day. (I was there.) It appears that the top part of the photos are overexposed (too bright), while the middle and lower parts are properly exposed. There was even a group shot and one tall guy there looked liked his face was glowing and had a halo on his head, but the rest of the people in the picture were properly lit. Is the camera lens curtain the problem here? I had a hard time fixing it at post. How could this be prevented?

  • Joseph Spoto August 7, 2009 05:08 am

    For Eric Carson's question, Even with an f/2.8 lens, most high school gymnasiums are too dark. I wind up using an SB-800 or SB-900 speedlite for shooting basketball.

  • Raheel August 7, 2009 03:19 am

    i have been trying to capture lightning and it is proving hard
    what settings are required for it
    camera i am using is not a DSLR its sony f-828

  • nalin August 7, 2009 02:28 am

    Please let me know how many pictures will a new battery take, using flash 50% of the time, on a Canon D50 DSLR plus 17-85 Canon Zoom

  • Suresh August 5, 2009 07:37 am

    Dear Eric,
    Well answered my question and many thanks. Also you have given a good description about the so called new term for me, the " ND filter" .

    Regards
    suresh

  • Reznor August 4, 2009 12:02 pm

    @cj mann

    Remember the exposure triangle? You gotta work with that. Decrease ISO, Aperture or shutter speed to limit the amount of light coming in. You can also use exposure compensation. If you're using AV mode for example and the images come out too bright, try an exposure compensation of -1 and see where that takes you. The camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed for you. Too bright pictures are a rather uncommon problem. Most people have problems with too little light, your problem should be easy to fix.

  • CJ Mann August 4, 2009 02:47 am

    I am having a hard time taking the pictures in broad daylight with my Canon 400d (XTi), I tried using few of different options but never had a luck, all the pictures I take comes out way too bright (washed out).

    Please sujjest?

  • Krystle August 4, 2009 01:26 am

    @Eric

    Thanks for the help :)

  • Eric Carson August 3, 2009 11:53 am

    @ Krystle

    "I tried taking photos of a basketball game last weekend, but the results weren’t that great- either it was too dark and/or blurry. I use Canon 450d with 18-200mm lens, ISO of 1600 and shutter speed of either 1/125 or 1/100. That was the highest shutter speed I could take photos with, since the pictures resulted in a darker quality. What is it that I can do?" -Krystle

    From what you wrote it would seem that you attacked the problem from 2 angles. First you increased the ISO to 1600 which will make the camera more sensitive, but also add noise, then you used the lowest shutter speed possible to get a correct exposure. Great work! There is very little left you can do, read on!

    Your first option would be to open the aperture as much as possible. This will let in more light to increase the shutter speed.

    Your second option would be to zoom out with your lens and zoom in with your legs! Keep in mind the shorter the focal length (towards the 18mm end) the wider the angle the camera uses to gather light.

    I hope this helps!

  • Peter August 3, 2009 12:46 am

    @ Eric

    thank you very much Eric! it wasn't my question, but your short, and simple anwer was very helpful...

  • Krystle August 3, 2009 12:26 am

    Hello.

    I tried taking photos of a basketball game last weekend, but the results weren't that great- either it was too dark and/or blurry. I use Canon 450d with 18-200mm lens, ISO of 1600 and shutter speed of either 1/125 or 1/100. That was the highest shutter speed I could take photos with, since the pictures resulted in a darker quality. What is it that I can do? :)

    Thank you!

  • Eric Carson August 2, 2009 11:56 pm

    @ Phil

    "One question I have is with regard to lens elements and their grouping. Here is a description of a lens.
    (16–35mm, f/2.8, 16 elements in 12 groups) Just what does it mean??" -phil

    Phil,

    The construction of a telephoto lens can be very complex in terms of optics and mechanics. Usually the lens is composed of elements and groups. When you rotate the zoom control on the barrel of the lens a series of cams move the groups closer together or farther apart to change the focal length of the system. An element is one lens, of which there are many in a telephoto.

    So why tell us? Remember that there is no such thing as a "perfect" lens, meaning that every lens can introduce tiny errors into the transmitted light, for example distortions. The less lenses light has to travel through to get to the camera sensor, the less the image is changed from the original. Lens manufacturers overcome this by using very high quality glass, special coatings, and even stacking lenses in a special manner that combats any errors.

  • Martin Barabe August 2, 2009 11:04 pm

    I go with Reznor about flash photography it is my next step for learning. I do not own a flash yet so i would like to know how to properly use the flash but also how to choose a good flash to better suite my style. also another topic about flash is all the gizmos that may be needed to use a flash in any situations like off camera.

  • Udi August 2, 2009 09:16 pm

    MODERATOR: NOT FOR PUBLICATION-
    Last lesson (8) is meter and not shutter as written.
    Other than that a great series.

  • Shaun August 2, 2009 12:52 pm

    Neil,

    this is a strobist information by a photographer.
    Single AB800 in stripbox over camera.

    AB800 refers to a flash unit, seen in http://www.alienbees.com
    however, I do not understand what is meant by in a stripbox.

    thanks alot if you could explain that.
    (:

  • Phil August 2, 2009 04:33 am

    Neil,

    One question I have is with regard to lens elements and their grouping. Here is a description of a lens.
    (16–35mm, f/2.8, 16 elements in 12 groups) Just what does it mean?? With this particular one, there are 16 glass elements, I think I understand that but how are these put into 12 groups? This is just an example but other lens descriptions are similar...So many elements in so many groups...I have always scratched my head about this but never really addressed it to anyone.

    (16–35mm, f/2.8, 16 elements in 12 groups)

  • Peter August 1, 2009 10:11 pm

    I second reznor on this... good suggestion...

  • Reznor August 1, 2009 09:24 pm

    Personally, I would really appreciate a 101 on flash photography, especially the camera's behaviour in the various modes. In some, the flash is used as a fill light, in some it's used as light source. I always have a hard time figuring out which settings to use when using my (integrated) camera flash. Most of the time, the pictures are over- or underexposed and I have to figure it all out by trial and error which can be really annoying, especially if you have a person posing for a shot and they have to endure several shots till I finally have a decent setting. Any advice? Maybe a flash 101 coming? That would be great, all your other 101s were really good.

  • Danferno August 1, 2009 06:48 pm

    People often say they don't want to put a cheap UV filter on an expensive lens, because it would ruin the quality. Is that true?

  • Jason Rosenberg August 1, 2009 11:33 am

    Can you give some tips on how to achieve high contrast, good saturation, sharp images and the like? Ignoring post-processing, what camera settings and other factors lead to those great looking, rich shots?

  • Neil Creek August 1, 2009 10:59 am

    Hi folks, keep the questions coming!

    Just a reminder, the questions should be on the topic of the series of Photo 101, that is "A basic course on the camera". We're talking about the mechanics of the camera and the fundamentals of photography specifically. Look through the previous posts to see the kind of thing I'm talking about. I won't be answering any questions about how to photograph a particular kind of subject. I'm looking for questions on mechanics, exposure, optics etc.

    If anyone is asking more general questions or questions about specific kind of shoots, they would probably best be asked in the DPS forum: https://digital-photography-school.com/forum/

    Thank you!

  • Eric Carson August 1, 2009 09:55 am

    This is in response to:
    "Is there any means that we will be able to control the amount of light entering the camera, when using a lesser shutter speed and aperture kept at maximum f value." By - suresh

    Yes there is a way to reduce the amount of light entering the camera when you can not change the shutter speed or the aperture. What you seek is called a "Neutral Density Filter". A neutral density filter is essentially a screw-on (or drop in on more expensive telephotos) grey filter. This way the filter does not change any colors, just reduces the amount of light entering the camera. Neutral density filters are quantified by their optical density or equivalently their f-Stop reduction. See the following Wikipedia article for more.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_density_filter

  • Radityo Pradipto August 1, 2009 09:46 am

    Neil,

    I am learning my DSLR since last year and feeling that I'm really fall in love in the world of photography. How exactly and amateur like me turning into a professional like you? Is it started by doing casual jobs helping other pro photographers, or accumulating portfolio and start looking for customers? And what aspects that indicate that you're ready to become Pro Photographer... I believed thousands of other amateurs photographers are also confused how to turning into Pro photographer...

    Thx for the advice Neil...

  • Peter August 1, 2009 09:13 am

    Question:

    Neil,

    I am shooting my first wedding in two weeks with a beautiful looking couple. Both young in their early twenties, however the groom has blond hair, blue eyes... and the bearutiful bride is African American. Do you have any recommendations, words of caution with the formals, indoor/outdoor etc., that I should keep in mind? There will be plenty of lighting at the church... Your help, as well as any other photographer's advice would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks DPS...

  • Suresh August 1, 2009 08:19 am

    Is there any means that we will be able to control the amount of light entering the camera, when using a lesser shutter speed and aperture kept at maximum f value. The reason, why I asked is that, when I was taking a shot with shutter speed about 1 sec and f value at 22, I was trying to turn the zoom ring to get an effect. hence I needed a smaller shutter speed. But when I tooked at the picture, it was highly overexposed.

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