This page is designed to include areas of interest that the Club's specialist group/s will find useful and relevant to the projects that they are working on.

The Foundation Group aims to help people who need to get their camera off auto settings.

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Further help in more detail

Photography, by definition, is the process of capturing images with light

It does not matter if you're using film or digital media; the concept is the same. Light is what makes a photograph work and a proper exposure is required to make a good photograph.

Correct Exposure 

A properly exposed photograph is one that is neither too light nor too dark. A good exposure will include highlights and shadows and a varying degree of contrast in between and it doesn't matter if the photo is in colour or black and white.

If a photo is too dark, it is under-exposed. Details will be lost in the shadows and darkest areas of the image.

If a photo is too light, it is over-exposed. Details will be lost in the highlights and brightest parts of the image.

It is always best to correct an under or over-exposed photograph in the camera. Even with digital photography, the best software available will not be able to pull out details in the shadows and highlights, if those details were not recorded in the first place.

Under-exposure Defined

Under-exposure in photography refers to an image where too little light was recorded. The degree of under-exposure will determine how dark a photo is.

A slight under-exposure can lead to a deepening of the colour saturation and this may be a nice effect. For instance, the colours of a sunset can become more dramatic if you stop down from f/8 to f/11.

A more pronounced under-exposure makes an image too dark for the subjects to be seen clearly. This often happens at night, just think of a street scene in which everything is dimly lit. With a bad exposure, you may not be able to see a separation between a person and the wall they're standing against.

Correcting an under-exposed photo is very easy to do in the camera. The only requirement is to let more light onto the film plane or digital sensor.

Add more light to the scene

Do so by using a flash or another lighting source such as a reflector.

Change your f/stop. Open up one stop (or more if needed) to capture more light. For instance, change the exposure from f/8 to f/5.6 and keep the same shutter speed.

Slow down your shutter speed. If your subject is not moving and you have a tripod, don't be afraid of slow ​shutter speeds. Switching from 1/60 of a second to 1/30 and using the same f/stop can make a significant impact.

Over-exposure Defined

Exactly the opposite of under-exposure, you have over-exposed a photograph when too much light is recorded. You will notice this in the highlights where no details are captured and they become what photographers call 'blown out.'

Over-exposure can be used to your advantage when photographing dark scenes and objects. By slightly over exposing (no more than one full stop), you can bring out details in, for instance, a dark brick wall.

If you over-expose by too much, you will lose details in your highlights and your shadows will have a 'muddy' or blah-looking contrast. For example, an overexposed photo of a person wearing a black shirt will make their skin too pasty and white rather than tan. The shirt will become an unnatural grey with little to no contrast.

To correct an over-exposed photograph, do just the opposite of an under-exposed image. The goal here is to reduce the amount of light that's captured.

Take light away from the scene. Move to the shade or use a reflector or cloth to block direct, harsh light.

Change your f/stop. In this case, you will close down and that means moving your meter reading to f/11 instead of f/8 while retaining the same shutter speed.

Increase your shutter speed. Again, keep the same f/stop but change the shutter speed from, say, 1/60 to 1/125 to allow less light to hit the film plane or digital sensor.

Easy Exposure Adjustments

Many modern cameras have a built-in control that lets you quickly over and under-expose a photo. This often looks like a scale with a '0' in the middle and increments stretching from '+1, +2' on the right and '-1, -2' on the left.

Correct point of focus

What is an Autofocus Point?

When using your camera in auto-focus mode, the auto-focus points will help you direct the focus to a particular location in the frame.

This is extremely convenient because the focus of your photo may not always be in the very centre where the camera traditionally likes to focus and meter.

Auto-focus points were introduced in film SLR cameras when the Canon and Nikon models were very popular. Since that time, the technology has moved into digital photography and is included in almost every DSLR as well as many point and shoot cameras.

The introduction of AF points, gave photographers greater freedom in focusing on certain subjects in the photograph. It mimics the freedom of manual focus while giving you the smooth, quick operation of auto-focus.

Auto-focus points can also be connected to the camera's metering system in many models. This means that the camera will determine the appropriate exposure based on the chosen auto-focus point, which is typically the photo's main subject.

The number of possible auto-focus points depends on the camera.

Some cameras have a 9 point system, while other cameras have 11 points or even 51 points. The more AF points a camera has, the more options you have to fine-tune the focus.

What Do Auto-focus Points Look Like?

Auto-focus points are generally shown as small squares when you look through a camera's viewfinder or on the LCD screen.

Many models also include a set of brackets or a circle around the middle point.

When you press the camera shutter button halfway down to focus, the AF point(s) in use will light up. Red is a favourite colour for camera manufacturers to use but some cameras have AF points that are green or another colour.

How to Use the AF Points

There are a few ways to use your camera's AF points while taking a picture.

Allow the camera to choose the AF point for you. This is an option on many DSLR cameras and may be the only option for some point and shoot cameras. On DSLRs, you may have to enable (or disable) this setting if you do or do not want to use it (check your manual for instructions).

In this mode, when you press the shutter button to focus, the camera will automatically determine what your main subject is. This may be the largest object in the frame or the fastest moving, the camera's computer attempts to find the most important thing and will assume that this is where you want the focus.

Obviously, with all things automatic, this may not be exactly what you intended. For example, the camera may think you want to focus on the tree in the foreground when you really want the barn off to the side to be the sharpest object in the photo.

The camera cannot read your mind and that is why it's good to know how to change the AF point manually.

Choose the AF point yourself. If your camera allows it, you will find that this option is a far better use of the AF points because it gives you, the photographer, control over your images. You may be able to trust exposure to the camera, but the focus should be in your control.

Consult your camera manual to determine if you can manually select AF points and familiarize yourself with the button to initiate it. On Canon and Nikon DSLRs this is often a button on the back right of the camera (a task for the thumb on your right hand). When active, you can then toggle between AF points using the camera's arrow keys or one of the wheels (again, every model is slightly different).

Familiarizing yourself with this feature will improve your photographs tremendously.

You can choose to focus on a subject in the extreme foreground or background, to the far side or way up at the top (or bottom). The point is that you have control over the focus.

What Happens When the Camera Can't Focus?

No matter which method you use, if the camera cannot properly focus on the object behind the AF point, it will not allow you to take the picture.

The cause could be:

The subject is too close and out of your lens' minimum focal range.
The subject is too dark for the auto-focus to work.

If you run into any of these issues, the camera will use an indicator to tell you that it cannot focus. Some models use a flashing light inside the viewfinder or on the LCD screen. Be sure to look in your manual so you aren't surprised when this happens (and you can't take a photo!).

When the camera cannot focus:

Try selecting a different AF point that is close to your intended subject.

Use the same AF point and move the camera slightly to the side until it does focus, then reframe your photo without lifting your finger off the shutter. (This trick can affect focus and exposure, so check the photo to see if it worked.)

If you're focusing on a close subject, back up until you are behind the minimum focusing distance of the lens (this is often less than a foot). Zoom in or reframe the image to make the composition work again.

Switch to manual focus, if available, and rely on your own eyes to get the image sharp.

AF Points and Moving Subjects

Many camera models have intuitive programs that sense motion and these can aid you when taking pictures of fast-moving objects like sports, kids, pets, and cars. Every camera is different, so play around with the settings until you become comfortable with them.

In some cases, the camera may allow you to choose a set of AF points and it will then choose the best one to use when the shutter is actually pressed. This is very convenient if you can predict where the motion is going in the frame.

For example, let's pretend that you're on the sidelines of your kid's soccer game and the players are coming down the field.

You can choose an AF point (or series of points) on the far side of the frame (where the kids will run out of the photo). As soon as the first kids are in this spot, click the shutter button and the camera (should) respond immediately by focusing the lens and snapping the picture.

Capturing motion with even the most advanced camera is tricky and takes practice. Take some time to figure out how best to do it with your camera and use the available AF point system to your advantage. You'll be stopping motion in no time.

Control of highlight/shadow detail

It’s important to know what shadows, mid-tones and highlights are in photographic terms when it comes to using Photoshop.  These three elements are present in every photograph, colour or black and white, so it’s important to understand how to improve and adjust these settings.   Even if it sounds daunting, read on to find out more about these factors.

Highlights are the lightest areas of an image, therefore the parts that have the most light hitting it.  If something has too many highlights, we may say that it is overexposed and the area is lacking in detail.  

Mid-tones show the middle tones of an image – the colours that are in-between.  For example, if we had a black and white image, the mid-tone would be grey – somewhere between the two.  You want a good amount of mid-tone in a balanced image, but at the same time, you don’t want everything to be ‘grey’ or flat. 

Shadows are the darkest areas of a photograph.  A shadow is also devoid of colour; it could be the black in a photograph or just the areas that carry little light.  An image with too many shadows may be underexposed, and will not show much detail, although this can normally be adjusted.

Correct Depth of Field

Aperture priority is used at varying degrees, to place either everything in the image into sharp focus, or to narrow the focus and hi-light a subject, allowing the other elements to be blurry. The closer you are to the focal point (the subject), the less depth of field is possible.

For a shallow depth of field - you need a large aperture eg. F2 to F5.6 (perhaps a person or a flower where the background needs to be blurry/less clear, so that the focus is on the main subject).

For a large depth of field - you need a small aperture eg. F11 to F22 (perhaps a landscape or building where you want to have the whole image in focus from front to back).