Thursday, August 26, 2010


Hello Classmates! I know some of you don’t have a DSLR yet. So you can’t really appreciate the lessons the way DSLR users appreciate them. So this lesson is for you! Anyone can practice this week’s lesson whether you have a point and shoot or a DSLR.

This week’s lesson is all about the rules of composition. What is composition? According to Wikipedia:

COMPOSITION is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject of a work. It can also be thought of as the organization of the elements of art according to the principles of art. 

Did you get it? I didn’t. But you can memorize that so you can say that to your friend so he/she will think that you are a very smart, knowledgeable yet pretentious douche.

COMPOSITION is simply how you put together whatever is in your photo. Yes. It’s that simple. This lesson is very important because composition is what separates a photographer from an ARTIST.


For example, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures taken by paparazzi (quick trivia: paparazzi = plural; paparazzo = singular). Are they pretty? From an artistic point of view, NO, but they are sometimes “pretty” especially if the picture is a sexy star caught naked or something; but still, they can’t be called art. Everyone can do that, well, technically not everyone. You have to have balls of steel first. What I meant was that if you give a camera to anybody and ask them to shoot something, they’ll probably look the same as with the paparazzi’s photograph. But if you look at an artist’s photo, it’s very different. It has an X Factor... It has emotion... It has depth... It has ... ART. Basically, all of that is because of the RULES OF COMPOSITION.

Rules of composition will make your photographs artistic. But breaking them can also look good too. But the rule is, YOU MUST KNOW THE RULE FIRST BEFORE YOU BREAK THEM. So here are some of the most popular Rules of Composition:

1.Rule of thirds. It is the most commonly used rule. Have you played tic tac toe when you were a kid? Imagine the lines. Then put that line into your photo. Done? Okay. The rule states that the subject of your photo should be on one of the intersecting lines. To make it easy, I put a black circle at the intersections. For example:

Look at the plant. It’s just a plant. Period. But it looks good. Why? It is in the intersection of lines at the bottom left of the screen. If it was in the middle, it would’ve been ordinary. And also, you won’t see the beautiful clouds at the background. Now here's the photograph without the distracting lines and circles:

2. Leading lines. Eyes are naturally drawn to lines. I guess we can compare it to a sexy woman. I’ll use woman as an example because even women can appreciate other women’s bodies. Unlike men. Men don’t appreciate other men’s bodies because that’s just gay. Anyway, let’s go back to leading lines. If the girl is fully clothed, and her blouse is full of ruffles and her radioactive-polka-dot skirt is so long it reaches the floor, she’s interesting, let’s give her that. But she’s not pretty. If I ask you to look at her “assets” it’ll be a bit hard because there are too many lines on her body. But Imagine her naked. As in real naked. Your eyes will go from her head down to her bosoms, then down to her you know what, then down to her feet and back up again. We could’ve just targeted the erogenous zones but we didn’t. Our eyes followed the curves or lines of her body first. So basically, that’s the function of leading lines. They help us to appreciate all the parts of the photograph while helping us go back to what is important. The subject. Here’s an example. And NO. It’s not a naked lady. It’s just a bowl on a windowsill.

Your eyes saw the line first before going to the subject didn’t it? In this example, the subject is “in” the line. But you can also put subjects at the end or the start of the line. The line will then act as an “arrow” and point to the subject.

3. Framing. No. We’re not talking about photo frames. But the principle is like that. Question: Why do people put photographs inside frames? Answer: So you’ll have a hook or a stand at the back to display your photo! Duh! But seriously, you put it inside a frame to highlight the photo. It gives it emphasis. Framing in photography gives the subject more emphasis. It can also make you feel as if you are in there at that exact moment. Here’s an example:

When you look at the photo, it highlights the bride because she’s framed by silhouettes of people looking at her. And also, you get this feeling that you are inside the church too, looking through people’s heads to see the bride.

4. Simplicity. A simple photograph with a simple background and a simple subject looks good because of its simplicity. It’s that simple. Here’s an example:

In the photo, the subject is the tip of the fork and knife. Due to the simplicity of the background, your eyes are immediately drawn to the subject.

5. Point of view. Shooting at eye level is okay. But soon you’ll realize that some of your pictures are boring. Why? Because you’re capturing them like the way you’ll see them in person. It’s typical. What to do? Try to vary your point of view. Shoot upward. Shoot downward. Shoot sideward. Shoot upside down-ward. Wait, don’t do the last one. That’s just stupid. I forgot that there is this thing called rotate. Besides, I don’t think upside down-ward is an actual word. Anyway, here’s an example:

The subject is simple and beautiful. Shooting this at eye level will make it boring. For this photo, I had to squat and take a picture from below. This way, you can see a side of the subject that won’t be typically seen by the naked eye. Remember: photos look better if you had to position yourself in very uncomfortable positions.

So what are you waiting for? Shoot shoot shoot!!! =)

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Hi classmates! I've got a treat for you. As you know, I try my best to make every entry in this blog entertaining. And lucky for you, I found this very entertaining AND very disturbing video from DigitalRev. This video is a durability test for the NIKON D70 and the CANON 400D. Now I have to warn you, this video is not for the faint of heart...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The lesson last week was the manipulation of the exposure triangle. Now, some of you might still be confused. It’s okay! Relax! Going manual on a DSLR is like becoming a vegetarian. It’s normal to have a hard time at first. That’s why there are PRIORITY MODES in a camera. Basically they are like the “VEGE-MEATS” of the photography world. They are the bridges that help you in your transition from auto to manual. But don’t get me wrong. Priority modes are not only for newbies okay? Even professional photographers use them for pictorials where they don’t have too much time to think (e.g. events)

“Okay! Sounds good to me! What are they exactly?”

Priority modes are actually semi automatic since the camera still does a bit of thinking for you. There are 2 types of priority modes: APERTURE AND SHUTTER PRIORITY MODES.

Aperture Priority is a mode in the camera where you control the aperture and the camera selects the shutter speed based on the aperture of your choice and the lighting on the scene to achieve a well balanced exposure. So for example, you’re at a party and you want to have a shallow depth of field. If you’ll do it in manual, it’s fine. But you have to do a test shot first to test if the combination of your exposure triangle is okay. But if you change rooms and the lighting in the room is different from the first one, then you’ll have a hard time adjusting your cam. It’s too much hassle and can result in a lost “moment”. But if you put it in aperture priority mode, just select the aperture that you want, and VOILA! You don’t have to think of the shutter speed anymore.

Shutter Speed Priority is the opposite of Aperture Priority. You set the shutter speed that you want and the camera sets the aperture to help balance the exposure of the scene you want to take. So if you want to take a picture of a dog running, you set your desired shutter speed and the camera will choose a fitting aperture for you.

Easy right? Yes. It’ll help you tremendously. But if you think about it, we still have a missing component of the exposure triangle. The ISO. You can set it on auto but you can also control the ISO if you want to. I personally set mine manually so I can control the noise in the photo.

Here’s how I do it:

1. What I do first is set my ISO based on the ambient light. I won’t give you my formula here so you’ll be forced to read back on my previous blogs. Hehehe. 

2. Choose the priority mode that you want and set it accordingly.

3. Take a picture. Review your photo. If it’s underexposed or over exposed, I usually adjust the ISO.


Because the only concern of the camera is the aperture and the shutter speed.

For example: You are in aperture priority and you noticed that the shutter speed is too slow. All you pictures are a bit blurred due to camera shake. The aperture is already wide open to let in more light to the sensor but it isn’t enough. What to do? Increase the ISO to help the camera adjust to a higher shutter speed. Remember, you can’t adjust the aperture since it is wide open already but if you increase ISO, you increase the sensitivity of the sensor. And if we all know that the more sensitive the sensor is, the faster the shutter speed is right?

I guess I can talk on and on about exposures but you won’t learn them until you do it yourself. So try it! I know it’s confusing at first but once you get used to it, you’ll get it immediately. Little puzzles like this will help you a lot and using priority modes surely won’t overwhelm you. And remember, when shooting using the priority modes, try to observe the settings that the camera used so that next time, you’ll have an idea on how to work those settings in manual.  See you later classmate! =)

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Are you done reading all the three components of the exposure triangle? If the answer is a big, loud scream of “YYYEEEESSS!!!!!!!”, then here it is! The blog that you’ve been waiting for! (I hope...)

To make it easy for you, I made you this CHEAT SHEET:

-high number = more sensitive to light
-low number = less sensitive to light
*Special characteristic:
-higher number causes NOISE

-high denominator = faster, therefore, less light hits the lens
-low denominator = slower, therefore, more light hits the lens
*Special characteristic:
-high shutter speed freezes movement
-low shutter speed blurs movement

-big aperture = lets in more light
-small aperture = lets in less light
*Special characteristic:
- big apertures cause shallow DOF

Okay. If get confused during the tutorial, simply look up at the CHEAT SHEET above okay? Okay. Let’s start.

Whenever I’m about to shoot something, I do these:

1. I set my ISO based on ambient light (again, ambient light is the available light).

-use this formula:
SUNNY = 200

Again, the formula above isn’t perfect. You have to adjust it based on the location. But at least you have a ballpark figure of where to start.

2. I try to look at what I am shooting. Is it moving or is it still?
-I do this simply because if the subject is moving, you probably want to freeze the moment. You use a fast shutter speed. If the subject is still, you may want to blur the background to make it stand out. If so, you use bigger aperture.

3. You now do some brain squeezing!

Please “listen” to my brain and how it thinks to give you an idea of how to manipulate all of the components.


“Damn, I hate this party... It’s so boring! Ugh! I should’ve stayed at home and watched Spongebob Squarepants... Well, at least I have my camera to keep me busy. Hmmm... This hors d’ oeuvre is disgusting as hell but it certainly looks good! Interesting enough. Okay. I’ll take a beautiful, artistic picture that totally negates the disgustingly, gut-wrenching, awful taste.

Okay. We’re indoors. ISO = 800. Done. I think this food will look good if the background is blurred. I’ll set my aperture to the biggest. (by the way, the lower the number, the bigger the aperture gets. Again, I know, it’s confusing...) Shutter speed. I’ll start at 1/60th of a second.”

*presses the shutter release button*

“Damn that’s dark! I guess even at the widest aperture, the light is still not enough... Okay. I’ll make my shutter speed slower so I’ll let in more light. I’ll set it to 1/20th of a second.”

*presses the shutter release button*

“Hmmmm... Better. But it is still underexposed (dark image) a bit... I think I’ll set it to 1/10th of a second.”

*presses the shutter release button*

“Whoa! It’s blurry! Oh yeah... Camera shake... The shutter speed is too slow that’s why it registered even the slight movement of my hands. Okay. Since my shot earlier was 1/20 of a second and it’s not blurry, I’ll stick to that. But wait, my shot earlier was dark... And I can’t make my aperture larger anymore because it already reached its limit... Hmmm... Aha ! I know what to do! I’ll set my ISO to 1000! Bigger number means more sensitivity to light! It’ll make my shot look brighter!"

*presses the shutter release button*

“Okay. Needs more light. I’ll set my ISO to 1250.”

*presses the shutter release button*

“There we go! Just right! Now all I have to do is to post this on Flickr... I think the title: YUMMY YET YUCKY is apt. Hehehehe.”


“Hey what’s that noise? My friend’s son is playing with their dog by the swing! That’s so cute!” Eric goes outside. “Okay. Since it’s 5pm already and the sky is not bright and not yet dim, I think I’ll go with 600 on my ISO. Okay. Done. I want to capture the movement of the kid tickling the dog on the tummy. Hmmm. I think I’ll start with the shutter speed of 1/100. As for the aperture, I think I’ll go for the widest to let in more light since the sun is already starting to set."

*presses the shutter release button*

“Hmmm... It’s dark and blurry. Well, I can’t adjust the aperture anymore so it’s up to the shutter speed and the ISO. Okay. First things first. The blur. I think I need to adjust it to around 1/160. But it will only make my picture darker... Okay. I’ll set my ISO to 1600 to make it more sensitive to the light. To hell with the noise. I’ll just try to remove it in Photoshop or Lightroom.”

*presses the shutter release button*

“Hmmm... It’s a bit overexposed(the image is bright). And the image is still blurry... Okay. I got it now! If I make my shutter speed faster, it will make the image a bit darker because the light has less time to hit the sensor and at the same time, it will fix the blur because the faster the shutter, the more it freezes the action in the photograph! Nice! Okay. I’ll set it to 1/200.”

*presses the shutter release button*

“Awesome! Just right!”

I hope my example above didn’t confuse you. If I were you, I wouldn’t memorize the functions and the special characteristics of each of the component of the exposure triangle because everything you memorize can easily be forgotten. Instead, I suggest you analyze it, and understand the principle so you’ll know it by heart because you don’t forget the things that you understand. Imagination is the key.

That’s why you forget the name of your friend whom you haven’t seen for years even though you recognize him/her. It’s because humans memorize names. You don’t forget the face because you can still imagine the fun (or awful) things that you did when you were still together.

Now if you're still confused, don't worry. Next time I'm going to teach you about Priority Modes. It's a lot easier than manual but you still have control over your pictures. Class dismissed! =)

Saturday, August 7, 2010


So, we’re now unto our last component of the exposure triangle: APERTURE. I saved this for last because this is the easiest of the three (in my opinion). So, without further ado, let’s discuss Aperture!

Aperture is the only component of the exposure triangle that is dependent on the lens. The ISO and shutter speed is in your camera. Your aperture is located in your lens. So basically, your aperture depends on the lens that is currently mounted on your camera.

So what is Aperture? Aperture is a mechanism that can be likened to the iris in your eyes. It opens and closes to increase or decrease the light that passes through to the sensor. The larger the opening, the more light it allows to pass through. The smaller the opening, the less light it allows to past through. It’s that simple!

Aperture is expressed as F –STOPSRemember: the lower the F stop, the larger the opening. The higher the F stop, the smaller the opening. It’s a bit confusing at first but I’m sure you’ll get it in time. Normal zoom lens doesn’t have fixed apertures. For example, in the kit lens, in 18mm the aperture is at 3.5 while in 55mm, the aperture is at 5.6. That’s why it is 3.5-5.6. There are lenses that have fixed apertures even if you change focal lengths. They are a bit expensive because they are for pros. They are used for events where there is a very low ambient light. (btw, ambient light is another name for available light. Why use “ambient light” if we could just say “available light”? Because it sounds more professional, that’s why.) They use it because it allows more light into the camera. If you allow more light in, then it will fill up the sensor fast with light so it can help you reduce the shutter speed. 

“Wait what?!”

So to make it easier, let’s imagine these:

LIGHT = big, fatty, thick, juicy burger
SENSOR = lazy, fat, infinitely hungry kid who is in denial of his size so he sees himself as a kid who has big bones rather than a glutton who can eat as much as a hungry crocodile
SHUTTER SPEED = time it takes for the aforementioned kid to eat the burger
APERTURE = drooling mouth of the “el fatso” kid

Let’s imagine the ginormous fat kid with a big, fatty, thick, juicy burger. Unfortunately, his mouth is too small. (Actually, he got so fat, everything got bigger except for his mouth. Talk about irony!) If he eats that big burger using that small mouth (as if he has a choice), it will take him around 45mins to finish it all. But if he has a bigger mouth, then he could finish it probably within 10 minutes. So as you can see, aperture has a direct effect on shutter speed! But I am getting way ahead of myself. It’s actually supposed to be discussed on our next lesson, how each component interacts with each other. So I’ll explain it in detail then.

Now before I tell you the “special characteristics" of Aperture, I’ll explain first two new terms: Depth of field and Bokeh.

Depth of field or DOF is basically the part where the image is at it’s sharpest. It refers to what is in focus. There are two kinds: Deep and Shallow. Deep depth of field is where everything is in focus. Shallow depth of field is where only a small portion of an image is in focus. Everybody loves shallow depth of field mainly because it separates the subject from the background or foreground. I think you'll understand it better if you see it on a series of pictures. So here are the examples:

As you can see, everything is in focus.

In this shot, if you look closely, the background (laptop keyboard) is blurred. That's because the cellphone is the subject in the photo. But if the subject is the laptop keyboard, you can focus on the laptop and make the foreground (cellphone) blurred like in the photo below:

Bokeh is the quality of the blurred part of a photo. It is very subjective. Most people think of Bokeh as the little colored dots in the background of a photo. But technically, anything blurred is called bokeh. Bokeh came from the Japanese term “boke’ which means blur. The spelling was later changed to help the people pronounce it properly. It is pronounced with the “bo” as in boulder and the “keh” is pronounced as kettle.

Here's a picture with a "creamy" bokeh:

Anyway, the special characteristic of aperture is this: the bigger the aperture, the more Shallow the Depth of field and the better the Bokeh. It’s that simple. So if you like those kinds of pictures where the background or the foreground is blurred, then you just use the biggest aperture that your lens has (again, the bigger the aperture, the lower the number).

Easy right? Next time, I’ll teach you how each of the components of the exposure triangle interacts with each other. You'll be saying goodbye to auto in no time! =)

Monday, August 2, 2010


Today's lesson: SHUTTER SPEED. Shutter speed is basically the speed of your shutter. That is all. Bye.

I’m kidding! First, I’ll explain what Shutter is. The Shutter is a mechanical part in the camera that opens and closes to expose the sensor. Their relationship can be likened to the eye and its eyelid. When you open the shutter (eyelid), light goes through and hits the sensor (eye). The sensor then “sees” the image. When you close the shutter, the sensor stops “seeing”. So it stops recording the image.

Back to shutter speed. Shutter speed is simply the time that the shutter is open. Shutter speed’s unit of measurement are seconds (or fractions of it).

For example:
1” = one second
1/60 = one sixtieth of a second,
1/200 = one two hundredth of a second,
5” = 5 seconds, and so on.

I hope you got that because I won’t list all the ranges of shutter speeds here. I’m lazy. Anyway, if you’re confused with the fractions, just remember, the higher the denominator (the number below the one) the faster it is. So 1/200 is faster than 1/60.

So, you’re probably saying: “Okay, okay I got it!! Get to the juicy part! What is the shutter speed for?!”
So I’ll say: “Okay, okay! Relax! I’m getting to that!”
And you’ll say: “Okay. Go get to it.”
And I’ll say: “Okay. Here it goes...”

Okay. Here it goes. Shutter speed affects how much light enters the sensor. If the shutter speed is too fast, it will produce a dark image because there wasn’t too much time for the light to enter and register unto the sensor. The opposite happens when your shutter speed is too slow. It will produce a bright image because there was too much time and the light “overflowed” unto the sensor. It has to be just right.

Confused? Think of this metaphor:




Frightening, I know.

Let’s imagine. You saw this man on the street. If you close your eyes too fast, your eyes, won’t recognize what it was. It’ll be like: “Dude! What was that?!” = You can’t appreciate the scene because the shutter speed is too fast and it produced an image that’s too dark. 

Let’s imagine that you closed you eyes at just right time. You saw the guy, you recognized what the hell he’s doing, and then you closed your eyes right away. Your eyes will say “HAHAHAHA! That’s interesting!” = The scene is perfect because the shutter speed is just right.

BUT, if you saw the guy, and you decided to stare for I don’t know, 1 minute or for some unknown reason, you decided to wait for the guy to finish the song, your eyes are now vomiting. It’s probably saying: “What did I do to deserve this??!!!! Why?! Why??!!” And you’re traumatized for life. = The scene is too bright. It’s because too much light entered the sensor.

I hope you understood my metaphor. And please, if what you’re planning to take pictures of are like the one I described above, then please, for the sake of humanity, don’t pursue photography. Please have mercy on the poor souls who will lay their unfortunate eyes on your pictures...

Okay. Back to less disgusting things. Shutter speed, just like ISO has its “special ability” of course. It controls the movement of your subject. 

Just remember:
Slow shutter speed = blurry.
Fast shutter speed = sharp. 

Here’s the explanation for that. This won’t be disgusting, don’t worry. Imagine a man running in front of you from left to right. If the shutter speed is slow and it’s open for let’s say, 1 second, the image will be blurred because the sensor recorded the guy running from left to right. But if the shutter speed is like 1/200, the sensor didn’t see the guy run from left to right because it was only open for a very short time. It only saw the guy at the start and then the shutter closed already. So the image you’ll see is a man running at the left of the frame.

What’s the practical use for this? If you’re on a basketball game and you want to take a picture of a player in the air, you have to use FAST SHUTTER SPEED. Because if you didn’t, your image will be a blurred image of a basketball player jumping. Remember, you only want to take a picture of him in the air.

Here's an  example:

Well, she's not a basketball player but she's still jumping right? So this will do. The giddy woman on the photo is my lovely fiancee jumping for joy when we arrived at Boracay last year. This was taken using a point and shoot camera. In point and shoots, you can't change the shutter speed. It is always on AUTO. So again, learn how to use your DSLR so you can avoid pictures like these.

Another good effect that you can get with your shutter speed is making things move while others still.

An example of that shutter speed effect is this photo.

As you can see, the girls on the left are sharp but the two girls on the right are blurred. (the image isn't super sharp because I blurred it a bit in post processing to make it a bit more interesting) That's because the girls on the left are steady. The girls on the right are just moving into the scene when I took the picture. If my shutter speed is too fast, you won't see this effect. All of the girls would be sharp. The photo won't be as interesting.

And last thing. If you use SLOW SHUTTER SPEED, your hands have to be steady. If it’s too slow like 1/50 and slower (it depends on your hands), you’ll have to use a tripod. Why? Because if not, the camera will not only capture the movement of your subject but will also capture the movement of your hands.

So that’s it! Easy, right? Next time, I’ll teach you Aperture. And after that, we’ll put them all together. You’ll be snapping pictures in no time! =) Class dismissed!