This Article is About
proper exposure
limiting factors
gullet
digital photography
length of time
amount of time
Title – Exposure, Part Deux
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Proper exposure has two parts. Tthese two parts can be likened to filling a cup or a cooking vessel from a tap or a drinking straw. A small cup can be filled quickly from a slow tap or even a drinking straw due to the fact that it doesn't take much water to fill it. Likewise, a large cooking vessel, say a large stew pot, can be rapidly filled under a fast flowing faucet, because the flow is greater under the faucet. Would you want to fill a cup under a waterfall? No! No more than you would want to fill a large stew pot thru a drinking straw. But, in both instances, it could be done!

A properly exposed picture can be thought of in much the same way, using light instead of wter. Some films are "small" and don't need much light to be correctly exposed; others need loads of light to do the same thing. Literally, the limiting factors in photography are the aperture (how much is getting thru) and the shutterspeed (how fast it gets thru).

Shutter speed refers to the amount of time the light can reach the film ( or sensor, in digital photography). Aperture refers to the amount of light coming thru the lens, whether thru a drinking straw or Niagara Falls.

The easiest to see of these 'limiters' is the aperture.

Have you ever looked down the gullet of a camera's lens close up, when it's taking a picture? Let's try it now. Make sure there is no film in the camera ( so you don't take several unfocused shots of your eyes and nose), and set the numbers on the ring around the lens to something BIG, like 16 or 22. This number refers to the size of the hole the light is going to go thru in the lens. Think of it as a fraction, where the number you are setting - in this case 16 or 22 - is the number on the bottom. This means that as the numbers get larger, the hole gts smaller, limiting the amount of light getting thru the lens. You took out the film, right? OK, now set the shutter speed to something small, like one or one half. This number refers to the length of time, in seconds, that the light will be allowed to go thru the hole in the lens. Wind the camera, and watch down the lens as you take the picture. Click!

Did you see the small hole within the lens? If not, do it again, until you see what's going on. If you have a film camera, open the camera, and point the back at a light colored background, like a sheet of notebook paper, or a light colored wall, just to see things better, and do it again.

Once you see the aperture, set the shutter speed to a large number, like 500 or 1,000, turn the camera around and look in the back of the camera. Now wind and shoot as before. Chances are, the shutter speed is so fast you won't even see it move. Try slowing the shutter speed down one number at a time unti you can see it move. (you may see a flash of light, but I want you to see how slow things have to get before you see things moving at the film plane.)

So? What's this all about? How do these things combine to help create a photograph? Good questions!

A good photograph needs a certain amount of light to be properly exposed. Too much, and it's called over exposed; too little, and it is under exposed. (We're not talking about aesthetics here, just exposure.) And that amount of light can get there fast or slow. The amount of light necessary can be a lot, or a little.

And, how the light arrives at the film/sensor can make a big difference on how the final photograph looks. . . .


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