Camera Settings 101

Forever, I struggled so with my camera. Not fully understanding the manual settings was a huge disadvantage to being able to use my camera to the fullest of it's abilities. However, thanks to Terry Adams from Electric Ocean, I was able to make some astounding leaps in photography, using nothing more than my 2.0 megapixel Canon A40 Powershot. Essentially, this is the text as he told me, in plain english that is easy to understand:

"First, a tripod is like the wet-pallet of still photography. It will have the biggest impact after having enough light. Actually, I think that the macro mode sometimes focuses too tightly. A fig with a big banner for example makes it hard for a macro to focus on the whole mini. I have found that being about 12 inches away, and zooming in a little till the mini fills the frame is the best approach. When people talk about the digital zoom, they are talking about the zoom beyond the 2x zoom. Regular zoom is fine, as it is all handled by the lenses.

ISO

The lower the ISO in general, the smaller the focus range. I would try it an ISO 100. A typical pro will shoot ISO 64. I get confused how the ISO stuff works with digital anyway, because there is no actual film that is being exposed. It is just being fudged by the hardware to resemble terminology that people are familiar with. Lets say for example you had a horse mounted fig. A real low ISO would mean it would be hard to keep the focus on the head and the butt and the banner.

Exposure

This is what in reality is letting the light into the camera. So outside in sunlight you would want a fast exposure or shutter speed. 1/5000 say to capture moving stuff. With minis, on a tripod, and your lighting, just decrease the shutter speed till your images are the brightness you want. Probably in the zone of 1/15 or 1/30. (Which is one quarter a second).

F Stops


The F stops is the aperture stuff. That says how big to open the lens to let light in. The bigger the number, the smaller the focus range. I pin hole camera for instance has everything in the same focus. A big number and you can focus on the tip of a sword, and the face could be out of focus. Or soft focus if you will. But the smaller the aperture, the longer the exposure needs to be.

So how to fine tune all this stupid crap?

10 inches or so away. On a tripod. Get a little mini sized one for like 10 bucks. Zoom till you fill the frame with the subject. Set the F stop small. Increase the exposure till you get the brightness you want. Pick some ISO and repeat always. I would say 100."

So from this picture, you can see that my little tripod is about 10 inches from the miniature. The cross light is a cool neon light, so I set the camera to that style of lighting. I found that Auto lighting was really buggering up the color balance.

The top light is adaylight bulb that I use mainly for ambient lighting and a little back light. The white paper is nice to illuminate the back as well.

So here we have a WIP as shown in the first two pics, with the settings I used. I like an Exposure of 1/60 for the light setup I have.

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