3 Most Important basics every photographer must know ISO, FSTOP, SHUTTER

Let’s talk about the essentials of photography ! In today quick article I want to explain amateur and beginner photographers what are 3 most important basics they must know. I am going to go straight to business and skip the unnecessary introduction.

So you decided to become a photographer…Good for you. First of all you must always shoot in manual mode, some “pros” may argue about shutter priority and other nonsense options…Manual mode is the mode you completely control yourself. You in charge of all the settings. Shutter priority, aperture priority its all semi automatic options for lazy people. Most cameras now days have a manual mode, assuming you want to be a “pro” you camera must have that option. In manual mode there are 3 very important settings you can control. Let’s take a look what they are and what they do. I am simplifying all the definitions as much as possible.

FSTOP and Aperture

A smaller f-stop means a larger aperture, while a larger f-stop means a smaller aperture. Wait, what? I know it’s a little confusing, but here is explanation what that means.  A smaller FSTOP means F1.8 for example, has larger aperture. That means at F1.8 aperture is wide open. More light can reach the sensor of the camera. See example below.

fstop and aperture example

Did it help a little ? Maybe ? Think if the lens as a funnel you use to put oil in your car . It has one end that is very large, and another pretty small. Preferably you always want to have a lens with smallest aperture, so you can shoot in the darkest conditions, so more light can pass through.

Besides the light, fstop and aperture also control Depth of the Field. Larger the aperture (small fstop 1.8 for example) more blur also know as “bokeh” you going to have. The depth of the field is an exclusively artist choice where you want to have washed out “blurry” background. Many photographers and cinematographer’s only trying to shoot with a larger aperture, but this is a very wrong practice and should not be endorsed. Aperture selected based on the creativity and visual composition, not because you have to shoot it just because everyone else doing it. I know tons of cinematographers and photographers who shoot with large aperture in the broad daylight and slaps Neutral density filter (aka sunglasses for lenses). That absolutely doesn’t make any sense. I am not saying you should close the lens, it is always nice to have some depth if your shots, but don’t shoot it just because. Make sure composition and your subject are flowing with the aperture selection.

ISO Sensitivity or ASA in Film

Iso sensitivity or ASA in Film it is basically Noise to Signal ration, just like in electricity or audio. Most professional DSLR and Medium format cameras have basic ISO of 50-64. That means at this ISO, you get the least amount of digital noise, or “grain” how some may call it. Increasing ISO sensitivity of the sensor will also increase digital noise. Most modern digital cameras can easily handle iso of 400-1200 without a significant amount of noise in the image. However the rule of thumb for professional is to keep iso as low as possible to get cleanest possible image. Some DSLR sensor produces a better dynamic range (difference between darkest and brightest) values at lowest iso. Most modern digital film cameras, come with the standard ISO if 800. Manipulating iso, can also be used in a creative way. Shooting the milky way galaxy, for example, which I am going to cover in the future articles.

SHUTTER SPEED or Angle in Film

Shutter speed or angle in film, is how quickly camera exposes sensor or film to the light. In Digital cameras shutter looks in the form of curtain, in old school film cameras it was a rotating disk exposing light to film. Slower the shutter, more light will pass to the sensor, which also going to produce more motion blur if subject is moving. Faster shutter is will pass less light to the sensor, but will “freeze” all the fast moving object. A lot of sport photographers use fast shutter of 2000 and above to photograph fast moving athletes. Setting shutter speed for 10 seconds ,for example in the dark environment, aka late evening, will make water look like silk. Shutter angle can be used in many ways for creative purposes. Golden rule of thumb, is to have a shutter speed twice as much as your focal lengh of your lens. So if you are shooting with 50mm lens, you should have shutter to set to at least 100 to avoid jerkiness when taking a photo.


I hope this information was useful to you. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop a comment below.

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Aram K

Photographer, Cinematographer, DI Colorist at FILM LUT
Fashion, Portrait and Commercial Photographer.
DI Freelance Film Colorist.
San Diego - Los Angeles - WorldWide