Wednesday 9 September 2015

Photography has developed my sense of colour balancing

Mridul Upadhyay, Gold Award participant from the Open Award Centre is sharing his experience as he learns photography for his Skills section

I was introduced to the Award programme during my visit to Sri Lanka to cover the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. I applied as Open Award Participants for Gold Level and set my goals, which I have completed now. 

Photography was my goal for the Skill section. I was interested in photography because of my artist friends, who helped me develop a sense of colour balancing and framing. Previously, I was able to take average frames from a point-and-shoot camera but DSLR camera opened more opportunities with 'Manual' mode.

When I first started photography, I was very puzzled about aperture (A), shutter speed (S) and ISO. I call this the "Illuminati triangle of confusion" because they're all linked to each other and I couldn't differentiate the effects between them by reading.
But one thing made it easy for me. Eyes! Our eyes pretty much work the same way as a camera. The light passes through our pupil, via the hole of the iris, and focuses it on the retina.

The pupillary light reflex is the reflex that controls the diameter of the pupil, in response to the intensity of light that falls on the retina of the eye. In other words, when you stare at something bright, our iris shrinks and the pupil becomes smaller, so less light penetrates through. 

"So shutter speed is the time for which you want to keep your stutter open to allow the light to pass through to the camera sensor." The higher the shutter speed, the more light is allowed through. When you are taking a picture in a place that's terribly bright (like directly under the Sun), then your picture would be overexposed (way too bright). So don't forget to reduce your shutter speed.

Stare at the room around you for a while. Slowly focus on an object in front of you. Keep doing it. Now, do you realize how everything around the object is blurred (the object becomes more prominent). But when you want to see a group/crowd/landscape, the same eye allows you to see everything clearly. That's exactly how aperture works.

Basically, aperture controls the depth of field in focus. When the aperture is greater, the depth of field of an image is shorter. In other words, the object in front of you is clear and the background is blurred out.

Aperture also controls the amount of light that reaches the image plane because aperture acts as the entrance of our eyes. Like our eyes, the pupil is the hole that allows light through in our eyes. 

"So aperture is the shutter size which you want to keep open for a particular time (shutter speed)." 

Aperture is calculated in stops (the size of the hole that allows light in). Same as the pupil of our eyes, the bigger the hole, greater the aperture, and more the light that passes. But here's the confusing part: aperture is measured with f/numbers on the camera. The smaller the f/number on your camera, greater the aperture: the more light that reaches the image plane, making the image brighter and more blurred background (less depth of field).

It is the measure of how sensitive your camera is to light. Basically, the image sensor, the one that controls the ISO, is the component that changes the camera's sensitivity and transforms the light into an image.

The higher the ISO, the more sensitive it is to light. Therefore, the camera sensor can capture images in a low-light surrounding without a flash when using a higher ISO number. But you need to give something if you want something. Higher sensitivity adds "noise" (grain) to your picture. The fine dots that make the picture look pretty bad.

So, my advice is to always stick to the lowest ISO number of your sensor. Basically, it produces an image with the highest quality and minimal noise! It also retains the most details of an image.

Also there are a set of rules for composition like rule of third, golden triangles and spirals, leading lines and leaving space etc. But photography is also more than rules.

So in a nutshell, shutter speed controls the amount of light; aperture controls the depth of field, and amount of light; ISO allows you to take pictures in dark areas without a flash, but it creates noise. Photography is all about balance of these three.

Don't worry if you still haven't gotten the hang of these three. Play around with your camera and you'll soon see how easy it is. It worked for me!  Click for few more pictures

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