Photography can simply be described as a method of capturing a moment in time. It is a way for the photographer to illustrate what they see with their own two eyes. It is a way to not only showcase an image or idea, but also a way to freeze time. Below is a brief on how a camera actually works.
A camera is still basically what it has been since the invention’s inception: a light-proof box. The purpose of the shell of the camera is to keep all light out until the time you are using it. When light is needed, the camera is designed to let a controlled amount of light in so that an image can be captured.
In a camera, it is the film which is light-sensitive and captures the images when light is allowed to penetrate the camera. That purpose is served by the imaging chip in a digital camera. The word “photography” literally means “writing with light.” The film or digital imaging chip is inside the camera, behind the shutter. The shutter is behind the lens.
When you depress the shutter button on your camera, the shutter–or “shell” behind the lens–opens for a length of time to let in the light, and it then quickly closes. How long the shutter remains opens is vital to how the picture turns out. If too much light is allowed, your image is over-exposed and will be too light. If too little light is allowed, your image will be dark and lose details. How fast the shutter opens and closes is called the “shutter speed,” and the amount of time it remains open is called the “exposure,” meaning how long the film or chip is exposed to light.
Controlling the Light
The shutter speed can be set for some cameras as long as one full second to 1/8000 of a second (or higher on very good equipment). Depending on the light in the environment, the exposure requirements will vary. Another way to control light in the camera is with the lens. The aperture (F-stops) is the opening that allows light through the lens, which can be manipulated on a good camera. It acts much like the iris of the human eye– opening it wider allows more light to be let in; opening it smaller allows less light to be let in. Different combinations of shutter speed and aperture give a photographer varying results.
The Resulting Image
When the shutter button is depressed for an instant, the shutter opens up, allowing light to flow through the lens aperture. The image is then captured on film or an imaging chip behind it. The light sensitivity of the film or that the imaging chip is set for–and the existing light in the environment–can further help a photographer control the light that is writing the image for them. By learning to control all of these factors with a camera, the photographer is able to capture the desired image.
Now that we have established how a photograph is taken, let’s move on to the purpose. Here is a great quote that best describes, in my humble opinion, what a photograph really is and how it should be treated: “You don’t take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it.” The author is unknown. The reason I think this is such an important idea is because of the recent surge of amateur photographers. They seem to be everywhere and they also seem to be making a complete mockery of the simplicity and wholesomeness of the art of photography. When behind the lens of a camera, yes the photographer is in some form of control. They have the power to choose what they would like to capture, however, as a dedicated advocate for ethics, I feel this group of amateurs need to be reminded of a few ethical guidelines when taking photos.
- Never manipulate the source you are capturing. For instance, if an undesired object is in the way of your shot, try not to move it, but rather move around it. To truly capture an image means to leave it in its most raw form.
- When photographing a person, try to avoid asking them to do something. In some cases, such as a wedding photo shoot, you must instruct the parties involved to line up in certain ways or to place their hands specific ways. This is acceptable, however, if shooting “candid” photos of a person, never ask them to “move a little to the left.” It ruins the purity of the photo.
- Photoshop can ruin the photo. I don’t care who you are, if you photoshop an image, you have damaged the purity of it. In some cases, cropping or tightening a photo can be acceptable, but when the alteration of the lighting, physical features of the subject, or color distortion are implemented, the photo is ruined. The entire reasoning behind this goes back to the manipulation rule above. When you alter the light in an image to make it appear more “dreamy”, you are manipulating it. This is why if you do crop or tighten a photo, you must be certain that this alteration does not change the idea of the photo. For instance, if you crop out your grandmother in a family picture, you have altered the idea of it. The same goes for the lighting effect. Many amateur photographers do this to add depth to their photos, attempting to make them look more professional or creative, however this is not only tacky, but is disrespectful to the subject in the photo and the entire idea behind it.
I realize that these rules may seem a bit severe, but think of it this way: If you are a surgeon, and you decide after removing someone’s kidney that perhaps placing some other organ in its place would make it more interesting, would this not destroy the entire subject? (Figuratively and literally!) By doing this, the surgeon would not only alter the subject entirely, but would also destroy the entire reason for the procedure in the first place. Try to avoid photoshop and focus on making the photos you do take more interesting in their own way. Practice with different lighting techniques rather than adding artificial light effects later. Trust me you will feel much more like a real photographer and less like an amateur snapping blurring pictures only to “fix” them later.
…And always remember: “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” ~Ansel Adams