Lets Step Away From Auto David Boardman

Lets Step Away From Auto (LSAFA)

The basics in photography

There are three essential functions for photography, Shutter, ISO and Aperture (f).

If you move any one of these parameters in one direction, you must move one of the others in the opposite direction to maintain equivalent exposure, because all three parameters are reciprocally related.

Which settings affect your images?


When everyone was using film, different types of films had different sensitivities to light as measured by their ISO rating. The higher the ISO rating, the more sensitive the film is to light. Because it is more sensitive, a film with a higher ISO rating will not need as long of an exposure to make an image.

Consequently, films with high ISO ratings are often referred to as “faster” films, because faster films need less light to make an image, they enable shooting in low-light situations and offer the capability to shoot in bright daylight with faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures. The downside to a faster film is that it produces images with far more grain (noise). If you want to enlarge your image this could be a problem, depending on the final result you want.

The digital camera image sensor sensitivity is also measured and rated using the ISO system. The image sensor with a higher ISO rating is more sensitive to light, and so can capture an image in less time, however higher ISO will produce images with more noise.


The camera shutter is a curtain in front of the image sensor that stays closed until the camera takes an image.When you press the shutter button, the shutter opens and fully exposes the camera sensor to the light that passes through the lens aperture. Once the sensor is done collecting the light, the shutter closes immediately, stopping any more light from hitting the sensor.

Shutter speed also known as “exposure time”, stands for the length of time a camera shutter is open to expose light into the camera sensor. If the shutter speed is fast, it can help to freeze action completely, as in this image of the horse leaving the water, freezing the action of the horse and rider and stopping the water.

Example of shutter speeds

1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8

The faster the shutter speed, the shorter the time the image sensor is exposed to light, the slower the shutter speed, the longer the time the image sensor is exposed to light.

Aperture (f/)

The main function of a camera lens is to collect light. The aperture of a lens is the diameter of the lens opening and is usually controlled by an iris. The larger the diameter of the aperture, the more light reaches the film/image sensor.

Aperture is measured in 'f-stops'.

Typical aperture numbers

f/1.4, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f32

Small numbers (f/1.4) = wide-open aperture (large opening)

Higher numbers (f/16) = small aperture (small opening)

Aperture also affects Depth of Field (DoF)

The depth of field does not suddenly change from sharp (in-focus) to un-sharp, (out of-focus) but occurs at gradual rate. Everything immediately in front of or in back of the focusing distance begins to lose sharpness. This may not be perceived by our eyes or by the resolution of the camera. There are a number of results of changing the aperture of your shots that you will want to keep in mind as you consider the settings, but the most noticeable one will be the depth of field that the shot will have. Depth of Field (DOF) is the amount of your shot that will be in focus, large depth of field means that most of your image will be in focus whether it’s close to the camera or far away.

Small (or shallow) depth of field means that only part of the image will be in focus and the rest will be blurred, as can be seen in the food table image. This is the amount of distance between the nearest and farthest objects that appear in acceptably sharp focus in a photograph. The bigger the f-stop number, the more the depth of field you will have.

The light triangle

The light triangle

f/1.4 f/2 f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22 1/2000 1/1000 1/500 1/250 1/125 1/60 1/30 1/15 1/8

All the above setting will produce the same brightness.


The word "Stop" is used a lot when talking about photography.

You may hear someone comment that an image is 1-stop over (overexposed) or that the image needs to be 2-stops less (underexposed).

exposure value 16, 11, 8, 5.6,.....

One full-stop means one full increase in exposure value as to how much light enters the camera.


Example of ISO numbers.

25 50 100 200 400 800 1600 3200 6400

Each step is a doubling/halving of the film or sensor's sensitivity to light.

  • ISO 100 to 200 is + 1 stop
  • ISO 200 to 400 is also +1 stop
  • ISO 100 to 400 would be +2 stops

Shutter Speeds

Both exposure controls (shutter & f/stop) go through a sequence of settings, which involve doubling and halving the amount of light reaching the sensor.

Shutter speeds are measured in seconds and fractions of a second.

Example of shutter speeds.

1/2000, 1/1000, 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8

  • 1/30 is one stop up from 1/60.
  • 1/60 is one stop up from 1/125.
  • 1/125 is 2 stops down from 1/30.


Example f/stops.

1.4, 2.0, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22

f/stops can be confusing because the numbers appear so illogical, the standard sequence of f/stops from f/1.4 to f/22.

f/1.4 lets in the most light while f/22 lets in the least light, each of these f/stops has the same halving/doubling relationship as the shutter speed sequence.

  • f/16 is one stop up from f/22
  • f/11 is two stops up from f/22
  • f/5.6 is 4 stops down from f/1.4

If you take a picture at ISO 200, 1/60, at f8 and the image needs to be + 2 stops (4 times brighter).

You have three options:
  1. 2 stops up from ISO 200 to ISO 800
  2. 2 stops up from 1/60 to 1/15
  3. 2 stops up from /f8 to /f4

Each of these settings will have a different creative effect but all the images will have one thing in common, allowing four times the light into the final image.

Holding the camera correctly

You can solve and correct a lot of image issues just by learning how to hold your camera.

Camera shake

To avoid camera shake is to use the shutter speed no lower than the focal length for example 50mm lens shoot 1/50 sec or faster, for 200mm shoot 1/200 or faster.

shutter speed is slow, it can create an effect called “motion blur”, where moving objects appear blurred along the direction of the motion.


The camera body is designed to be held with your right hand and your index finger over the shutter release. You should be able to press the button without having to reposition your hand.


Tuck your elbows into your body to keep your camera steady. The further out your elbows are, the more unstable you will be.

If you have a surface area in front of you, lean your elbows onto it to steady yourself. Look for level surfaces, such as a table or wall.

Shooting in portrait format

If you need to switch your camera to a portrait orientation then turn it over so the shutter release sits at the top.


Place your legs a little apart so you are balanced.


Breathe out when you take a shot. If you hold your breath or breathe in you will move around a lot more and be less stable.

Lean in

Leaning against a wall creates instant support for your camera. This can be useful when shooting at slow shutter speeds without a tripod.

Take a mat

When kneeling to take shots outdoors you might get a wet or dirty knee(s).

Useful modes and settings on your digital camera

The majority of your images will come out perfectly fine in the camera’s Auto mode. But there are times when you may want to take control over the camera’s auto settings, for example when taking a photo of a river to show the water effect, you may want to reduce the shutter speed to give a silky motion look to the water.

Slow Shutter Speed

Camera Mode Dial

Example of a mode dial (PSAM). This will vary from manufactures and models . Study the camera’s manual, use YouTube and on-line information to familiarise yourself with the camera controls.

Think about what type of pictures you are interested in, not all modes will apply to you.


The camera takes care of exposing the picture, so all you need to do is press the shutter.

No flash

On some cameras where the flash cannot be turned off in the ‘Auto’ mode, this setting is effectively the same as the ‘Auto’ mode but with the flash disabled.

Scene program

These are modes preprogrammed with settings for common shooting situations. For example, Portrait modes usually set the aperture as wide as possible (to throw the background out of focus), turn on face-detection autofocus and keep the ISO sensitivity as low as possible


In this mode the camera gives priority to close-up subjects with face detection enabled (if available) and sets the flash to Red-eye reduction.


This mode attempts to get as much of the scene in focus as possible, and will occasionally boost saturation on greens, blues, and reds t. To achieve this, the camera will generally set the focal length to a relatively wide angle, the aperture fairly narrow, and the focus to infinity.


This mode usually attempts to freeze fast-moving subjects. To do so, the camera will bump up the shutter speed as high as possible, which frequently requires raising the ISO sensitivity as well, so you may see increased image noise in this mode.


Can be a button or switch, when enabled, it unlocks extra focus range to allow the camera to focus on close-up items.


This mode is designed for shooting images in low light, preserving detail in the dark areas without blowing out bright objects, like streetlights, and to get as much of the scene in focus, as you would with a landscape shot. The camera generally sets itself to a medium-to-high ISO sensitivity, with a relatively slow shutter speed, and turns flash off. As such, there'll be increased image noise and the possibility of camera shake.


"P": Program

Program is the most general-purpose auto mode. It's better because you can set the ISO sensitivity (so you can control noise), use exposure compensation (to control overall scene brightness), and select metering (for difficult situations, such as a backlit subject).

"S": Shutter priority

This is like the programmed mode, but with the ability to specify the shutter speed. The camera will take care of the aperture and ISO (if auto) to correct the exposure. A low shutter speed allows the user to capture a motion effect in the picture, while a higher shutter speed allows the user to freeze action.

Capturing fast action, producing that silky effect for running water, or taking long exposures of the night sky.

"A": Aperture priority

Functions like the shutter priority mode, but with the ability to specify the aperture speed instead. The camera will take care of the shutter speed and ISO (if auto) to compensate.

Photographers usually set the aperture to control depth of field, where a larger aperture setting (lower F-stop number) reduces the depth of field. The lower the depth of field, the more the background and foreground will be out of focus, while keeping the subject in sharp focus. The larger the sensor in the camera, the more effect the aperture has on depth of field, so this is an important setting for DSLR users.

"M": Manual

This mode gives the user full control over the shutter and aperture. If the ISO setting is set to auto, the camera will adjust this to control exposure.

Note: On some cameras such as certain Fuji models, the manufacturer uses ‘M’ instead of ‘P’ to mean some manual functionality. In this case, the ‘M’ mode is little different to the ‘P’ mode of other cameras.

They also will frequently have features like face detection, to improve autofocus accuracy, and automatic exposure adjustment algorithms.


A version of Manual mode in which the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the button, for very long exposures.

You may find depending on make, model etc. that you have many more symbols.

"Lets Step Away From Auto"

Understanding Program Mode on your camera

Program mode “P” is the thinking photographer's auto.

The camera will decide the shutter speed and aperture, but gives you the option of overriding any of the other defaults. It is called "Program" because it chooses from a list of predetermined settings based on the amount of light (EV exposure value) that the camera measures.

When you select your camera to ‘P’ mode you will notice that things look very similar to ‘Full Auto’; the camera still sets the aperture and shutter speed in order to get a correct exposure, the benefit you might not notice is that you can set the ISO, which will then remain unchanged by the camera.

This can be quite useful in certain situations where you want to use a lower or higher ISO, e.g. outdoors or in bright light, when things are a bit darker and you prefer to not to use the flash.

Use the ‘P” Program as an ISO Priority mode, you set the ISO and the camera works out the shutter speed and the aperture.


The "normal" range of ISO is about 200 to 1600. With today's digital cameras you can sometimes go as low as 50 or as high as 204,800.

The ISO number chosen has two important qualities associated with it.It sets the amount of light needed for a good exposure. The lower the number, the more light required. The more light that is required, the more likely a slow shutter speed will have to be used.

That means low ISOs, like 100 or 200, are most often used in bright situations or when the camera is mounted on a tripod. If you don't have a lot of light, or need a fast shutter speed, you would probably raise the ISO.

Each time you double the ISO (for example, from 200 to 400), the camera needs only half as much light for the same exposure. So if you had a shutter speed of 1/250 at 200 ISO, going to 400 ISO would let you get the same exposure at 1/500 second (providing the aperture remains unchanged). This is why high ISOs are so often used indoors, especially at sporting events. Needing a fast shutter speed to stop action, photographers regularly choose ISO 1600 or above.

The other important quality linked to ISO is the amount of noise in the image. In the film era, as you used film with higher ISO values (also referred to as ASA), your images had more visible grain.

In digital cameras, raising the ISO means a similar decrease in quality, with an increase in what's called "noise."

Using Exposure Value (EV)

Exposure compensation allows you to increase or decrease the exposure of an image. Effectively you are telling the camera, that you want it to be brighter or darker.

Exposure compensation is generally adjustable in 1/3 or 1/2 EV or “stops.” Each full “stop” adjustment either doubles or halves the amount of light reaching the image sensor depending on whether it is a +1 or -1 adjustment.

Therefore, an exposure compensation adjustment of +1 EV will result in an image that is twice as bright as the base exposure. Equally, an exposure compensation adjustment of -1 EV will result in an image that is half as bright as the base exposure.

Left Image 0 EV Centre Image +1EV (+ 1 stop) Right Image -1EV (-1 stop)

Using EV in "P" Program mode

In "P" mode, the camera will adjust either the aperture setting, the shutter speed setting, or both to lighten or darken the image. The ISO will remain the same, but you can manually change this.

What are the weaknesses of Program mode?

The camera may not change the ISO sensitivity setting (in Auto) once it's taken the initial meter reading for a scene, which effectively limits the range of shutter speed and aperture values you can choose from to preserve the exposure.

If you want to have consistent settings across exposures, Program mode will not work. Every time you half-press the shutter the camera re-values the settings, even if the camera has not moved and the metering settings have not changed, the camera will not necessarily choose the same shutter speed.

Understanding Aperture Priority Mode ('A' or 'Av')

The main reason to use aperture priority mode is to have control over the depth of field in an image. For example, if you are shooting a landscape, and want a wide or large depth of field to keep everything in focus, this would require an aperture of around f/11- f/16.

aperture f/11

Shooting a small object such as a flower, you would want a narrow or small depth of field to blur out the background and remove distracting details. This would require an aperture between f/1.2, f/2.8 and f4/5.6, depending on how small the object was.

Understanding depth of field will improve your images. Using a narrow depth of field, can help to pull a single figure or object out of a crowd.

Aperture f/4

When choosing an Aperture keep in mind that the camera will be choosing faster or longer shutter speeds and that there comes a point where shutter speeds get too long to continue to hand hold your camera, usually around 1/60.

Once you get much slower than this level you will need to consider using a tripod.

If you are photographing a moving subject the shutter speed will impact how it is captured and a slow shutter speed will mean your subject will be blurred.

Aperture mode can help you to freeze motion as well as blur it. When you open up the aperture to let more light in, you also increase the ability of your camera to speed up when taking the image.

To let more light in with a small aperture, keep the shutter open longer, if you change from f/5.6 at 1/125th second to f/16 (-3 stops) instead of 1/125th second, you end up with 1/15th second (+3 stops) shutter speed.

So the same quantity of light will reach the sensor inside the camera.

Imagine filling a glass of water (light) a tap, with the tap (aperture f/) wide open the glass fills quickly, with the tap (aperture f/) only a little, it takes longer for the same amount of water (light) fill the glass.

Using EV in Aperture mode

Aperture Priority mode, the lens aperture will remain at the setting chosen by the photographer and the camera will change the shutter speed to lighten or darken the image. The ISO setting will not change unless you change it.

Understanding Shutter Priority Mode ('S' or 'Tv')

For example if you want to photograph a racing car but want to completely freeze it so there is no motion blur you would choose a fast shutter speed at 1/2000 and the camera would take into consideration how much light there was available and set an appropriate aperture.

shutter speed 1/1000 the wire wheels show no MOVEMENT

If you wanted to photograph the car and have some motion blur to illustrate how fast it is moving, you might like to choose a slower shutter speed, shown in the image, the camera in "S" mode would choose a smaller aperture (bigger f/ number).

shutter speed 1/160 with panning, lots of movement in the wheels

Get creative when using slow shutter speed

Slow your shutter speed down to 1/15th or lower, Tilt or Pan or zoom when taking your shot to get something different
shutter at 1/8 sec
Shutter at 6 secs

Using EV in Shutter mode

Shutter Priority Mode, the shutter speed that the photographer has set will remain constant. The camera will adjust the lens aperture setting to lighten or darken the image. Once again, the ISO will not be changed unless you change it.

Understanding Manual Mode 'M'

Manual mode will give you much more control over the look of your images.

Manual mode is one of the main settings on your camera, and it lets you manually control shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These three settings work together to control how bright or dark your photo.

If you are shooting in manual mode, then your shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings won’t change from shot to shot unless you change them. You can be certain that you will get consistent exposures.

All DSLRs have metering and an exposure level indicator. This will be represented both in the viewfinder, and either on the camera's LCD screen or the external information screen (depending on what make and model of DSLR you have).

You will see it as a line with the numbers -2 , or -3, to +2 , or +3.

The numbers represent /f-stops, and there are indentations on the line set in thirds of a stop. When you have set your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to what you require, press the shutter button halfway and look at this line.

If it's reading a negative number, it means your shot will be under-exposed, and a positive number means over-exposure. The aim is to achieve a "zero" measurement.

You can use the cameras Histogram graph to help you get the correct exposure.

Example; if your shot is going to be greatly under-exposed, you will need to let more light into your camera sensor.

Depending on the subject of your image, you can then decide whether to adjust your aperture or shutter speed or, the ISO.

Image captured using full manual settings


What is a histogram?

Definition: This is a bar graph of a frequency distribution in which the widths of the bars are proportional to the classes into which the variable has been divided and the heights of the bars are proportional to the class frequencies.

The histogram graph is a useful tool that your camera provides to help you get the correct exposure.

How to read the histogram

A histogram is a graphical representation of the pixels exposed in your image.

  • The left side of the graph represents the blacks or shadows.
  • The right side represents the highlights or bright areas.
  • The middle section is mid-tones (middle or 18% grey).
0 = Black and 255 = White

The high the peaks represents the number of pixels in that particular tone.

Each tone is from 0-255.

You can tell if an image is correctly exposed if it reaches fully from edge to edge without a space on one side of the graph, and is not heavily going up one side or the other.

Histogram graphs

Almost evenly distributed, edge-to-edge, correctly exposed
Shifted to the right telling you that the image will over-exposed
Shifted to the left telling you that the image will under-exposed

Translating the histogram so what you see when displayed on the back of your camera

Almost evenly distributed, edge-to-edge, correctly exposed
Shifted to the right, the image over-exposed
Shifted to the left, the image is under-exposed

What do the spikes up the sides mean?

Spikes up the left or right edge indicate “clipping” of that tone and loss of detail. Clipped areas are often unrecoverable, especially in the highlight areas. It is advised to expose so your graph just touches the right edge.

It is usually easier to recover some shadow detail and retain a good image, rather than try and create highlight detail that is not there.

In some scenes it may not be possible to keep the graph within an acceptable range.

Example, if you are photographing a scene with extreme contrasts like a sunset, the bright sunlight and deep shadows, in these types of images you will not be able to keep it from clipping your blacks, or whites.

The “Blinkies” (highlights)

To help you establish how far to go in the image brightening direction, most DSLR's cameras have a setting called “highlight warning”.

It will make any overexposed highlights “flash” or blink when you preview your images on your camera screen. Many people affectionately call this, “the blinkies”.

AF mode and AF Area mode

What's the difference between AF mode and AF Area mode?

While the choice of AF mode dictates how the lens will be focused, the AF Area mode determines where the camera will focus. The way in which you access AF Area mode varies between camera models, but the options available are largely the same.

The area of the frame that the camera will use for autofocus is shown by focus points in the viewfinder. You can choose where the camera will focus by choosing a focus point. The selection can be made by you or left up to the camera. The setting that determines how the focus point is selected is called AF-area mode.

You can choose from auto-area AF, single-point AF, dynamic-area AF, and 3D-tracking.

Single point

You select the focus point manually, the camera focuses on the subject in the selected focus point. Use for stationary subjects such as the eyes in a portrait, will be sharply focused.


You select the focus point manually as above, but if the subject briefly leaves the selected focus point, the camera will focus based on information on the subject from surrounding focus points. (depending on model) you can select from several focusing options 9, 11, 21, 39 or all 51-points AF.

Select the 9-point option when you want to focus on moving subjects. When dealing with low light conditions for fast focus detection select 21 or 51 points.

Auto area

The camera detects the focus point containing the subject and focuses automatically. Poor light situations it can struggle to focus.

3D Tracking

You select the focus point manually, if the shutter-release button is kept pressed halfway after the camera has focused, the photographer can change the composition and the camera will automatically choose a new focus point as necessary to maintain focus on the selected subject. But the focus tracking system is a predictive system and does not always get it right.

Different AF Area Modes

Nikon has three AF Area Modes Single Point AF, Dynamic Area AF and Auto Area AF these are designed to handle any shooting situation if you have good light control and a static subject.

Single Point AF ensures that the most important element in the composition, such as the eyes in a portrait, will be sharply focused.

Dynamic Area AF, (depending on model) you can select from several focusing options 9, 11, 21, 39 or all 51-points AF.

Select the 9-point option when you want to focus on moving subjects.

When dealing with low light conditions for fast focus detection, choosing 21 or 51 points.

51-point option also allows for 3D Focus Tracking, which uses colour information from the RGB sensor to automatically follow moving subjects across the AF points. Break it down to small chunks and try each setting, depending on what you shoot you will only use some of the AF modes. Set your cameras centre button to the centre the focus point.

AF-Area Mode

The area of the frame that your camera will use for autofocus is shown by focus points in the viewfinder.

You can choose where the camera will focus by choosing a focus point. The selection can be made by you or left up to the camera. The setting that determines how the focus point is selected is called AF-area mode. You can choose from auto-area AF, single-point AF, dynamic-area AF, and 3D-tracking.

Single point: you select the focus point manually, the camera focuses on the subject in the selected focus point. Use for stationary subjects such as the eyes in a portrait, will be sharply focused.

Dynamic area: You select the focus point manually as above, but if the subject briefly leaves the selected focus point, the camera will focus based on information on the subject from surrounding focus points (depending on model). You can select from several focusing options 9, 11, 21, 39 or all 51-points AF.

Select the 9-point option when you want to focus on moving subjects.

When dealing with low light conditions for fast focus detection, choosing 21 or 51 points.

Auto area: The camera detects the focus point containing the subject and focuses automatically. Poor light situations it can struggle to focus.

3D tracking: you select the focus point manually, if the shutter-release button is kept pressed halfway after the camera has focused, the photographer can change the composition and the camera will automatically choose a new focus point as necessary to maintain focus on the selected subject. But the focus tracking system is a predictive system and does not always get it right.


What is Composition?

Composition is a way of directing the viewer eye towards the most important part of your image.

It is composing an image by arranging the rudiments (nuts and bolts) in such a way that gives the viewer the idea of what you want you want to see in the final image.

This can be can be done by moving the objects or subjects and moving yourself to a better position.

A good composition can help make the dullest image stand out in the simple basics of the environments, but a bad composition can ruin an image completely, even when the subject it outstanding.

The focal length and aperture using depth of field with you choosing the position for you and the camera in relative to your subject will greatly affects composition.

There are no fixed rules in photography, but there are recommendations. If you know the basic composition rules you then can break them to create a great image.

Photography Composition Basic Rules

Rule of Thirds

Break your image into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your image along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.


Using natural frames in your image like trees, rocks archways and buildings.

Leading Lines

When you look at an image your eye is naturally drawn along lines. Think on how you will place these leading lines in your composition pulling you into the image towards the subject, or on a journey into the scene.

Symmetry and Patterns

You are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, in natural and man-made. The symmetrical composition does not have to exist in the entire image, sometimes getting close can create a great image.

The f/16 Sunny Rule

Shown Image Settings ISO 100, 1/100, f/16

The f/16 Sunny Rule is a method of estimating correct daylight exposures without a light meter.


ISO 100, 1/100, f/16

ISO 200, 1/200, f/16

ISO 800, 1/800, f/16

ISO 1000, 1/1000, f/16

Exposures for the Sunny f/16 Rule at ISO 100

ISO 100, 1/50, f/22

ISO 100, 1/100, f/16

ISO 100, 1/200, f/11

ISO 100, 1/400, f/8

ISO 100, 1/800, f/5.6

ISO 100, 1/1600, f/4

ISO 100, 1/3200, f/2.8

If you need more shutter speed than the settings of ISO 100, 1/100, f/16. You can use the equivalent exposure which will be ISO 100, 1/400, f/8

Coping with different light using the f/16 Rule

Very Sunny

ISO100, 1/100, f/22

ISO 200, 1/200, f/22

ISO 400, 1/400, f/22

ISO 800, 1/800, f/22


ISO100, 1/100, f/16

ISO 200, 1/200, f/16

ISO 400, 1/400, f/16

ISO 800, 1/800, f/16


ISO100, 1/100, f/11

ISO 200, 1/200, f/11

ISO 400, 1/400, f/11

ISO 800, 1/800, f/11


ISO100, 1/100, f/8

ISO 200, 1/200, f/8

ISO 400, 1/400, f/8

ISO 800, 1/800, f/8


ISO100, 1/100, f/4

ISO 200, 1/200, f/4

ISO 400, 1/400, f/4

ISO 800, 1/800, f/4

Looney 11 rule for Moon shots

Looney 11 rule is also known as Looney f/11 rule.

When photographing the moon this rule helps us to capture the correct amount of light to the sensor and result is perfectly balanced image (not too over exposed or under exposed ).

There are different types of lighting conditions like during full moon we can use aperture f/11 similarly in case of half moon we are using the aperture f/8. So we are using different aperture in different lighting condition to get a perfect shot. Take a look at the table below and try to remember it when you capture your next Moon image.

The Loony (Moony) Rule

Setting for a full moon, f11@ 1/ISO , same shutter speed at f8 for a half moon and the same shutter speed at f5.6 for a quarter moon.

Set your Camera to Manual Mode

After setting your aperture to f/11, you'll simply need to set your shutter speed with a value matching your desired ISO.

Set aperture to f/11 and shutter speed to the reciprocal ISO

Reciprocity is the relationship between the shutter speed (length of time light is let in) and the aperture setting (the diameter of the lens opening).


f/11 at ISO 200 and 1/200th secs shutter speed.

f/11 at ISO 400 and 1/400th secs shutter speed.


Painting with light using handheld lights to paint or draw and create movement in an image while the shutter of a camera is left open during a long exposure

Use a Tripod

Shutter Release or Remote or use Self Timer. If you don’t have either of these, use your camera’s timer function.

Turn off any Image Stabilisation

Switch off Long Exposure Noise Reduction

Focus: Turn off Auto Focus. Set to manual using a torch to focus and then lock the focus

Camera Settings

Manual Mode

ISO 100-200

Aperture: f/4 –f/8 depending on depth of field

Shutter speed: Bulb Mode or start around 5 -25 seconds and work from that, don't be frighting to keep the shutter open until you have completed your light-painting shot

Stop watch –most mobile phone have this facility. Timing your exposures is helpful.

File format: Shoot RAW if possible strange colours can be an issue

You could light-paint a steam train

Northern Lights

Use a Tripod

Manual mode

Remote or Self-timer

Turn off any Image Stabilisation

Switch off Long Exposure Noise Reduction

Turn off Auto Focus


Set focus to infinity, (tape the focus ring to stop it moving).

Do all of the above in daylight if possible

ISO setting:

ISO 800-4000 (do not be afraid of pushing it higher)


f/2.8 (or the widest your lens will go to)

Shutter speed:

5-20 sec (on 28mm lens) depending how bright and quick the lights are moving

Live view will see the lights before your eyes.

My base settings would be ISO 1600, 10 sec, f/2.8, and work from that

This image was hand held, ISO 4000, f/2.8, 1/4 sec, 14mm

Night Sky

Use a Tripod

Manual mode

Remote or Self-timer

Turn off any Image Stabilisation

Switch off Long Exposure Noise Reduction

Turn off Auto Focus

Use RAW if possible

Set focus to infinity, (tape the focus ring to stop it moving)

Do all of the above in daylight if possible

ISO setting:

ISO 800-32000 (do not be afraid of pushing it higher)


f/2.8 or lower

Shutter speed:

The 500 Rule

500 divided by the focal length of the lens = The longest exposure (in seconds) before stars start to blur

A shot with a 14mm lens on a full frame camera. 500 / 14 = 35.7 seconds, round to 35 seconds.

Focal Length before stars start to blur

14mm = 35 seconds

20mm = 25 seconds

24mm = 20 seconds

28mm = 18 seconds

35mm = 14 seconds

My base settings would be ISO 1600, 20 sec, f/2.8, and work from that.

This image ISO 6400, f/2.8, 20 secs, 14mm

Star Trails

Use a Tripod

Manual Mode

Remote / Self-timer or use an intervalometer (this is a device that counts intervals of time), some cameras have it built into their menus

Turn off any Image Stabilisation

Switch off Long Exposure and Noise Reduction

Turn off Auto Focus

Use RAW if possible

Set Focus to Infinity, (tape the focus ring to stop it moving)

Do all of the above in daylight if possible

ISO Setting:

ISO 800-1600



Shutter Speed:

15-25 secs

Make a test shot

100+ images are needed, aim for 200 to 300 images

Make sure there is no delay between shots (ideally less than 1 second)

Set up the intervalometer in your camera or an external intervalometer

If you want an image of circular star trails, you will need to locate the Polaris-the North Star, (Northern Hemisphere)


Sky View Lite or Star Walk 2

Post Process:

Images are then stacked together to create one image of Star Trails using Photoshop or other software like StarStax

Image settings of the Black House are, ISO 800, f/2.8, 10 secs x 40 images (cloud cover came in preventing any more images)

Post process using LR & PS

Adjust the 1st image in Lightroom, once happy with your image, select Sync Settings

Right-hand click and Edit open in PS Layers, this can take a while

Once loaded in PS, hold down the SHIFT key and click the first and last layer in the stack to select all the layers

Go to the drop down menu at the top of the layers palette and select ‘lighten’

Images are now stacked but you may have some unwanted trails from planes flying through

To remove these we need to go through the layers one at a time and paint over them using a small black brush

Holding ALT and clicking the eye icon next to the top layer, this will show that layer and hide all the other layers

Make the brush size just big enough to cover the trail, then paint over it (Black)

Flatten and save the image

Photographing with a Sphere (Crystal Ball)

It is all about Refraction, this happens when light passes through a glass sphere. The light is bent, and there is a distortion, an inverted image of the scene behind the ball is seen

Try not to touch the sphere with your bare hands, fingerprints will show, keep the sphere in the shade if you can to avoid distracting reflections from the sun or the sky

Macro lens or zoom lens, a shallow depth of field, making the background out of focus, the image within the sphere should be the main subject

Remember the image in the sphere is upside down

Stands for your sphere, curtain rings and silicone eggcup, napkin holder can make useful supports

The distance between your camera and sphere is critical to your image. Move your camera away from the sphere for a crisper image and closer to it for a more distorted look

"Nifty Fifty” 50mm Lens


Prime or fixed focal length lenses are normally sharper than zoom lenses, there being fewer moving parts inside the lens

Using a prime lens makes you think more about composition

Off-Center focusing

Manually select the focusing points and choose the ones in the outer areas of the image, or switch the auto focus off and just manually focus the lens

Off-Center focusing


Shallow Depth of Field

Shallow depth of field begins around f/2.8, which is great for Bokeh.

Bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke (ボケ), which means "blur" which is the out-of-focus parts of the image made by the camera lens

Bokeh shapes

The shape of the reflected light in out of focus areas depends on the lens diaphragm. Many older lenses have 7 straight blades in their diaphragms, which results in heptagon-shaped bokeh

Most new lenses now have with 9 rounded blades, which will show round bokeh

Camera Settings

Aperture mode or manual mode, lowest f/ number, ideally at least f/2.8 or lower

Do not worry if your lens is not a very fast lens, you can increase the distance between the background and your subject

You can even see Bokeh in images that are shot at apertures like f/8

Achieving Bokeh

Focus on the object from a very close distance, get as close as the lens will allow, keeping the subject in focus, make sure that there are no objects within 4-5 feet behind the subject

The circular reflections should be round and soft, with no hard edges

Photographing Landscapes

Camera Settings

  • Camera Mode: Aperture Priority or Manual
  • Metering mode: Matrix (Nikon) Evaluative (Canon)
  • ISO 50 to 200
  • Aperture: f/11 to f/16
  • Shutter Speed: Does not matter if using a tripod
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Long Exposure Noise Reduction: Your call I have it set to off, remember this setting affects the actual RAW file
  • Vignette Reduction/Lens Corrections: Off, do it in it in post-production
  • Autofocus: Your call, I have it switch off
  • Focus mode: Manual or Back Button Focusing
  • Focal Length: 14mm to 200mm
  • Image Stabilization: Switch off when using a tripod

Start with the rule of thirds, look for patterns and leading lines, the s curve in rivers, roads or the land and a foreground of interest

Look for a Focal Point, especially when using a wide-angle lens

Capture the moment, take your time, and try different viewpoints and angles, think about the foreground look for points of interest

Capturing the movement of clouds, water will mean a longer shutter speed

Work with the Golden Hours, around dawn and dusk that is when the light is at its best


Is it straight?

A natural spot for the horizon is on one of the thirds lines in an image

Try to avoid the horizon being completely in the middle of the image, but you can always break the rules

Hyperfocal Distance

Hyperfocal distance is the focusing distance that gives image the greatest depth of field When

You can use hyperfocal distance charts to set your lens to the correct setting. I am not in favour of using hyperfocal distance charts, look at the landscape scene and think what do you want in focus, how much depth of field do I have in the shot

Here is an article about hyperfocal and why the distance charts are wrong

Filters for Landscape Photography

Circular Polarizing

Graduated Neutral Density

Neutral Density

Macro Photography

Macro photography is close-up photography of small subjects. You can take macro images in a studio set-up or outdoor environment.

Macro photography is all about enough depth of field and focusing on the most important part of the subject.

Camera Settings (for non-moving subjects)

Manual is the best giving you full control, you could use Aperture Priority because you will need full control on the DoF. Manual focus so turn off auto focus, live View is useful in macro photography


50, 100 keep it low (outdoors you may need to increase it)


f/5.6 - f/16 I normally shoot at f/16

Shutter Speed

1/100th (outdoors shooting moving insects the shutter speed would be increased) Shutter release cable or remote, you can use the self-timer




This is a must have and a small Reflector is very useful both indoors and outdoors


For best results us a dedicated micro/macro lens


Lighting the Background

Flash units or LED continuous lighting

The subject may be well lit, but the background can be dark. This will to happen when you have the lights much closer to the subject than the background.

The best fix for this is to add an additional light or lights pointing at the background.

When using semi-transparent background, try putting the light source behind the background to light it.

Light Box can be useful for macro, (lightbox is usually used for tracing patterns or examining slides), Ipad or similar make good lightbox, there are several Apps you can use choosing different colours and light intensity.

Holding items that won't stand up

Tacky Wax Adhesive

The Plamp. (It is a clamp, for plants)

The Plamp

Small lab stand

Other items

Extension Tubes

Focus Rails

Street Photography

Street photography is candid photography of life, of what is going on around you.

You do not always need people in your shot, street furniture, shadows etc. can make very interesting image.

Try shooting from the hip.

If you are challenged for taking a photograph, be polite explain what you are doing, be prepared to delete the image. There will be plenty more opportunities.

Camera Settings

Set your camera up before hand, being quick and using very little camera and lens adjustment is the key.

Prime lens give you an advantage of sharpness and lightness.

Shutter minimum 1/250th there will be a lot of movement from your subjects

Aperture f/8+ use a small aperture lots of depth field (DoF) will help with focusing

ISO set this to Auto

I turn Auto focus off and pre focus my lens

If using a 35mm or less lens you can try Zone focusing

Zone Focusing

Zone focusing is achieved by setting your camera/lens to manual focus mode.

Going Back to Film Days Without Film

Just for fun

Back-to-Basics Photography Exercise

The digital age has made photography easier, cheaper, and more accessible than ever before. Even people who wouldn’t call themselves “photographers” now carry a camera in their pocket in the form of their phone. So we are going back to film days without film.

To chimp or not to chimp?

You have heard the term “chimping” from the “Lets Step Away From Auto”. This refers to the practice of some digital photographers who look at the playback on their LCD screen after each shot. Some people pooh-pooh the practice. Others, (count me in), think the ability to immediately review a shot, check the Histogram, make adjustments and re-shoot is the best thing to ever happen to photography. Instant feedback, rather than waiting days, weeks, months, whatever it was to get back the photos and only then discover your mistake – what a concept!

I still think of the weddings I have done on film, you had to get it right, you had no way of checking if the image was okay

When more isn’t better

Another great thing about digital photography is how many images you can fit on a storage card. Depending on the camera and the card size that can easily be hundreds, even thousands in some cases. You also don’t have to worry about each shot costing you more money. If you don’t like what you see, that’s what the delete button is for. Cards are reusable. Once you buy one, you can use it over and over. As the saying goes, “digital film is cheap.”

Shooting film wasn’t cheap, there was the cost of the film, the cost of film processing, and the cost of printing. Nothing was reusable, and so all the shots, both the keepers and the junk, cost money. With digital, there is no need to print if we don’t like a shot. It was hard to view a film negative and judge what you had, so unless you were printing your own images you would almost always print everything, and prints cost money.

I use to shoot transparencies (slides). Kodachrome 64. However, you had to get it right in camera as there was no editing a slide.

Novice film photographers could spend lots of money learning with little to show for it.

The downsides were making fewer images, (and thus reducing the odds of getting a keeper), less experimentation with new techniques, and a longer learning curve for a new photographer who would be making fewer photos. The upside, however, (and this is a big factor), was that photographers took more time to do it right – more time to think before pressing the shutter button.

Created By
David Boardman


David Boardman