Aperture and shutter speed, along with to a lesser extent, their little brother, ISO, rule my world.
Aperture and shutter speed have more to do with the decisions I make when shooting than virtually anything else. Because the shutter speed that you select, and the depth of field that you want (read aperture) do more to affect your results than any other choices you make.
I think this aspect of photography was all much easier to grasp back when we all shot with completely mechanical film cameras: you had a shutter speed dial on top of your camera. You had physical, mechanical aperture rings on all of your lenses. There was an ISO dial that you turned to change the light meter readings inside your camera (or your camera didn’t have such an advanced device, and you used an external light meter). You developed a visceral understanding of this all-important set of camera functions and how they interacted with each other.
This is harder now for young photographers. While most cameras now have some type of ‘wheel’ that you turn or spin to change shutter speed, the aperture rings on lenses are gone. Physical aperture changing is harder—‘don’t you just want to use ‘Program’ mode?’—and really learning to manipulate this aperture/shutter speed dance requires more thought and work.
The featured photograph in today’s post got me thinking about all of this. I was shooting at the water’s edge on Lake Pontchartrain’s north shore as a cold front was starting to blow in, creating a lot of interesting wave action. I was experimenting with different shutter speeds, trying to find the one that created the look and feel that I wanted: too long a shutter speed and the wave action all blended into boring; too short (fast/high) a shutter speed and the sense of motion and mystery was lost. In this case, 1/2th of a second @f18, ISO 50, turned out to be the shutter speed/aperture combination that gave me what I wanted.
So if aperture and shutter speed don’t play a big role in your photography, they should. If you don’t shoot at least some of your photography on manual mode, give it a try. I promise you’ll learn some things about yourself and your own shooting that will be useful in your shooting, and maybe even change how your approach what you do.
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog