Film School

THE BIG THREE: APERTURE, SHUTTER SPEED, & ISO

This monthly article will feature a variety of videography or photography vocabulary, skills, concepts, and activities that readers will be able to apply at their leisure. It's presented by Carla Cipro, a local high school teacher that specializes in video production and photography editing.

In today's Film School article, we'll be discussing the big three: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You'll learn the definitions, how they affect the clarity of a photo, and then you'll perform an activity.


All of these concepts have a direct correlation with lighting. Lighting is one of the most important pieces of taking a photography - probably more than composition and perspective - because you have to see them image to have the chance to appreciate it.


First up, we'll discuss aperture. Aperture represents the amount of light let into the lens - basically how big the opening is of the lens. It is measured in f-stops. The higher the f-stop, the smaller the opening is to the lens. The lower the f-stop, the bigger the opening is to the lens. You can see this in the diagram above. A higher f-stop will let in more light and it focuses on the subject with a blurred background. This is what is considered "portrait mode" on your phone's camera. The lower f-stop has the smaller opening, which lets in less light and both the subject and background are clear in the frame.

Shutter speed is next. This references aperture because it is how fast the lens cover closes. The higher the shutter speed, the faster the lens closes and vice versa - the lower the shutter speed, the slower the lens closes. A faster shutter speed can capture motion without much of a risk for blurring. However, due to the fast shutter, there is less light let into the lens. On the flip side, a slow shutter will let in a lot of light and the image is a great risk for blur - as shown in the example above. Fast shutter speeds are essential for capturing objects in motion, such as an athlete or dancer. When using a slow shutter speed, the camera is generally placed on a tripod and capturing a time-lapse or smoothing out the object in motion.

Lastly, we have ISO. ISO is the sensitivity of light to the lens. The more light let into the lens will result in a brighter image but will also add more noise to clarity of the image. A higher ISO is used when there is not as much natural light, for instance when pictures are taken indoors. A lower ISO will let in less light, which will result in a darker image but with less photographic noise. When photos are taken outside, the natural light is brighter, and a lower ISO is generally used, due to needing less light for the lens. See the above image as an example of ISO.


Unless using a manual camera, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO might not be something that you will ever need to do anything with. However, having a general understanding of these concepts will help with taking a more clear and bright photographic image. If you have the chance to take pictures with a camera that allows you to change some of these options, try changing shutter speeds and f-stops to see what results you can come up with. The more you practice, the better you will become.


Below is the activity for this month that can be done using any type of camera. It focuses on light and movement. I hope you get a chance to try it out!

ACTIVITY SEGMENT:

The classes that I teach are all about doing. I have found value in learning with active engagement, especially in the creatives department. Therefore, each month readers will be provided an activity to try. It's one thing to read about the skills, and another to try it out yourself. And the more you practice, the better your skills will become!


June's Activity is as follows:


Lighting and Movement Activity :

Use your cell phone or a regular camera. You can also select one object or use multiple different subjects:


  1. Take your subject, and take pictures of it at different times in the day and during different lighting. How does the clarity change on your screen? What does your phone/camera do automatically to try and make it the best possible picture? What lighting created the best image?

  2. You can do this same activity for movement. Take pictures of a moving object. How well does your camera capture that moving object in its automatic mode? Does the lighting in the picture help or hinder the clarity of the photo?


When you are finished, review and reflect on your work and the process. What lighting seemed to work best for your camera? What type of movement or still of the object, created the best photo for you? Are the outcomes what you thought they might be? Why or why not?


Lastly, share your results with me! You can either tag the Bellefonte Zine at @bellefontezine or Federalist Studios at @federaliststudiosphotography or just send me a message. I can't wait to see what you do!

Carla Cipro owns Federalist Studios and the Bellefonte Zine. She is a local high school teacher that concentrates in video production and photography editing courses. Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Photoshop are her preferred choices of editing software to use with her students and her own work. Carla believes that creativity is important in life because those developing skills help individuals grow and better relationships within themselves, others, and the world around them.

Carla specializes in landscape photography. Follow her work at @federaliststudiosphotography on Instagram.